Sunday, February 28, 2010

Full Moon

A lazy day with just one plan – to be in Trellis Bay for the full moon beach party. In the last posting I put up a map with our GPS track and although it looks like we’ve been scrawling big M’s (perhaps for Mowzer) across the BVIs this is in fact because this is the joy of sailing; it is almost impossible to get to where you want to go in a straight line. Of course down here that could be just because you drank too much rum, but for us it is because the direction of the wind has been relatively unpredictable from day to day. So, once again we set off on a multi-tack course to our destination and thoroughly enjoyed the trip. For those sailors among you, we’ve always been told that you can’t point a cat as high as a mono-hull but Mowzer was making fabulous way on our second tack today close-hauled to 30 degrees on the wind. We’re hard pressed to get inside 45 degrees most days with Blue-By-You back home.

Arrival in Trellis Bay which is right off the end of the airport runway on Beef Island, found the anchorage jam-packed with cruisers with exactly the same full-moon plan as us. Amazingly, I think we managed to pick up the last mooring ball right off the end of the dock for ‘Da Loose Mongoose’ and are currently sharing the bay with 150-200 boats! Yikes! We found our way into the Mongoose where the bar was pretty evenly split between Americans and Canadians watching the men’s final hockey game. Needless to say we were cheering and celebrating after the overtime win.

Darkness arrived but was abruptly forestalled by the moon which proceeded to light up the bay clear as day. Driving around the anchorage in the dinghy you certainly didn’t need a flashlight to find your way. During the day we had watched a couple of locals stuffing cardboard, wood and newspaper inside a wire frame and a number of intricately worked iron boxes and globes supported above the water just off the beach.

This evening the band warmed up and soon enough the globes were blazing followed shortly by a tall ‘burning man’. We chose to watch from the boat as the place was swarming but it felt like we had front-row seats from the stern which had conveniently drifted round to face the party. We even had a pretty good view of the Moko Jumbies (stilt men mocking the spirits) as they danced in front of the fires. The band continues to play even as many of the folks who arrived by dinghy are heading home.

GPS track to North Sound

a quick note from Trellis Bay

Go Canada GOLD!!! just watched the hockey game at a bar on the beach  and getting ready for the full-moon party...

Off to Anegada tomorrow for a couple of days.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Caribbean Bath Tme

After a howler of a night with winds gusting to 25 knots, we awoke to a cloudy dull morning. As the winds were finally behaving as they should for this time of year, they were right on the nose for our destination this morning, The Baths.

Virgin Gorda makes up the most easterly island of the BVIs and in fact as we sailed up Drake Passage we could definitely see the profile of the recumbent woman and understood why Columbus named her the Fat Virgin. At the southern tip of the island the land is strewn with massive granite boulders right down to the ocean where the pounding waves have dumped little pockets of sand to make up beautiful little bay beaches and fascinating paths between the rocks, including this one that we rather thought was like Jim going through the spin cycle.

As the area is so heavily visited it has been turned into a national park and no beaching of dinghies is allowed. This is all well and good in theory but when the ocean swell is coming in from the north, it is not for the faint hearted. You tie up the big boat to a mooring ball and then dinghy in to tie up at a line secured about 100 yards from the beach. Now between you and the beach lies a passage lined with boulders and a huge surf. Here’s our list of things to remember for next time:
1. pick up a mooring ball off Devil’s Bay and dinghy in there – it’s much closer to the beach and less treacherous than Spring Bay and the Baths entrance,
2. don’t bother taking sandals/crocs ashore, you really don’t need them even on the rocks or the overland paths,
3. unless you want to eat in the restaurant at the end of the path, don’t bother taking a shirt to put on over your bathing suit – do take a few dollars in a Ziploc bag though if you want a drink at the Mad Dog café,
4. if the surf’s up and you find the swimming tough, take your flippers but don’t bother trying to prevent mother nature from pounding you into a pulp on the beach – it doesn’t help.

Providentially, the sun came out and it turned into a glorious day. We hiked all over the Baths and made our way up to the car park at the end where there is a very civilized little commercial area at the road entrance to the park. We sat on a veranda surrounded by flowering bougainvillea looking out at the landscape made up of boulders the size of small apartment buildings.

After lunch back on the boat we headed up the west side of Virgin Gorda, around the Seal Dogs and on into North Sound and Leverick Bay. The winds were about 18 knots from the NE and Mowzer sailed nicely balanced with one reef in the main at 6.5 – 7 knots. What a glorious afternoon of sailing with a gentle swell coming in from the Atlantic, it was hard to turn our nose towards our home for the evening.

The North Sound marinas have a nice feature in that if you pick up a $25 mooring for the night, they will fill your water tanks and give you a bag of ice in the morning. We took advantage of the opportunity to clean up ourselves and boat. I am wondering if we might be able to hire Jim out as a deck-swab??

Friday, February 26, 2010

CIBC gets a whole new meaning

The morning dawned hot and humid and somehow plans to hike up the hill from Pirate’s Beach evaporated as the sun climbed. Westerlies at 8-10 knots beckoned however and we set sail around the south side of Norman Island heading for Cooper Island.

Truly out in the Caribbean on a broad reach, Mowzer easily made 6-7 knots in 10-12 knots of wind… amazing! Heading back in to the western rocky shore of Salt Island we visited the wreck of the British Mail Ship, The Rhone where we snorkled above the wreck and a number of divers below.

Just around the corner on Salt Island we dropped the anchor in the bay and dinghied ashore to make up for missing the hill-climbing expedition in the morning. The island’s salt ponds used to provide the whole of the BVI with the salt they used for preserving their food. All the inhabitants have since moved away and the island is now only home to a number of goats. Up the hill at the end of the beach gave us great views up to Virgin Gorda at the eastern end and Thatch Island at the western end of the Sir Francis Drake Passage.

Other than the usual mess of an abandoned settlement and remnants of party night bonfires, at the eastern end of the beach was a carefully tended garden, fenced against marauding goats and a small stone-walled cemetery with nine graves. It’s interesting how in times past coral seems to have been considered a major building component. We noticed at the sugar mill how large pieces of it had been built into the walls; in fact all the windows were artistically framed with large chunks of brain coral and then carved square. Much of the ‘stone’ piled on the graves on Salt Island was also made up of coral. Now, we wouldn’t dare drop an anchor on the coral or even pick it up off the beach.

All this hard exertion pointed us in the direction of Cooper Island’s Manchioneel Bay and the Cooper Island Beach Club (CIBC). Jim headed off for more snorkling on the reef at the end of the beach where he reported there had been an ‘urchin invasion’; I believe he meant the sea creature and not annoying little kids. At the other end of the beach we wandered out to Quart-A-Nancy Point where other snorkelers reported seeing rays and eels. We finally came to rest at the CIBC bar for happy hour where we sipped on half-price painkillers, watched the US semi-final hockey game compete with the sunset, and Jim engineered marvels on the beach – give a boy a bucket…!

This evening the clouds have come in and the increasing winds have moved back around to the NE so the anchorage is a little exposed and bumpy, so we are glad to be on a mooring ball for a little added security through the night.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Entering BVI Waters

Since the H1N1 scare the customs office at Jost Van Dyke has been shut down as an entry point. I’m not quite sure how this makes sense but I’m sure some poor BVI native lost his job over a bureaucratic decision made far away.

Nothing daunted we’ve decided to sail up the southern Islands and so we checked into BVI customs at West End, also known as Soper’s Hole. The shopping in West End is made up of little gift shops, clothing stores, the ubiquitous Pusser’s and a market. Mixed in with this are dive and excursion outfitters and a jewellery/internet café shop. We were actually able to access the internet for free (a good thing) sitting on a bench outside a little clothing boutique, the only issue being that the sun was so bright it made seeing the screen rather difficult (oh what a bother!)

There are loads of boats down here showing their Canadian colours, this one was the most unique.

Sailing close-hauled out into the south western end of the Francis Drake Channel, Mowzer felt wonderfully light and easy to handle. Unfortunately, with winds of only 8-10 knots and a current of 3 knots against us, we were making little headway so we decided for the sake of time, to motor up into the channel. Unlike last year when we had 3-5’ swells, the waters were flat today with just a small chop which made for easy passage.

This afternoon we picked up a mooring in The Bight, right off Pirate’s beach, and then headed over The Caves by dinghy. There is good reason why this is one of the most popular snorkling spots in the area! I think Henry has now found a good justification for getting laser eye surgery. Either that or a prescription mask… I think the surgery will win out for all the other benefits.

Once again, a surreal Olympic moment watching cross-country skiing from a picnic table on the beach at Pirate’s. The Wifi here is free (again a good thing) and reaches out to the boat, so I am currently sitting here at 8pm catching up the blog and listening to the party getting started on the beach (really, I’m not a loser!)

Our rough itinerary is to head up the islands and make our way to Trellis Bay for the full-moon party. After that we’ll make the big jump to Anegada; this will be the first time we’ll sail over the horizon to our destination. Two days planned on Anegada before we head back across the north shore of Tortola to Jost Van Dyke and then back into the USVI and home (but we’re not talking about that right now.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

St. Thomas to St. John

Tuesday was provisioning and check-out day; what a joy to have a fridge and freezer onboard. No more soggy lettuce floating around in the bottom of the ice-box! Nancy did a check-out briefing with us and then Jay went out for a rounding of Hassle Island to give Henry a tutorial on the twin screws and all of us a quick overview of the sailing ropes, so to speak.

Passing Crown Bay, we couldn’t help but notice Oasis of the Seas, the largest cruising ship in the world. It was awe-inspiring but trying not to be too smug, made us question the environmental impact of these monoliths.

Winds had clocked round to the south to about 18-20 knots but most annoyingly a lumpy 5’ swell was coming out of the SE and as the afternoon was wearing on we decided to head to Brewer’s Bay, protected by a breakwall that is essentially the airport runway. We watched a number of the big planes come in and land until dark.

Wednesday, we awoke to much calmer winds of 8-12 knots but surprisingly out of the west. Deciding to take advantage of these favourable winds we upped anchor right after breakfast and enjoyed a fabulous sail along the south coast of St. Thomas. As we made our way through the cut between St. Thomas and Great St. James Island we were passed by Resilience, and hailed on the VHF by the captain we met in the restaurant last night. He’s right, it’s a big boat, but not the biggest we’ve seen down here.

As they headed into Francis Bay, we continued on through the Windward Passage and around Mary Point to Leinster Bay. It was getting on for lunch-time but all the mooring balls were snagged so we headed to the western end of the bay which was wide open and dropped the hook. Looks like we picked an idyllic spot, right off a beautiful snorkling reef and no fees to pay for a ball for the night.

Although we were out off the dock last night, today it finally feels like we’ve arrived in the Caribbean. The turquoise waters sparkle and as I snorkled the anchor to check the set, I watched a ray gently wing its way across the white sands below. A huge school of blue angelfish lazily eased away over the sea fans and brain coral.

This was also the first opportunity for us to get out in the dinghy. Jim and I headed out for a test run and to visit the ruins of the sugar-mill on the hillside. Built in the late 1700s, Annaberg sugarmill was operated by slaves under Danish domination; the windmill and horsemill crushed cane to produce syrup, molasses and rum.

Monday, February 22, 2010

First Meeting

Has anyone seen a missing US Air plane?  Apparently they've misplaced one.

About two hours after our intended departure from Philadelphia, it was decided to pull  one out of the maintenance hangar and get us on our way.  They did reassure us that it was a good plane and it did hold together through some fairly rough turbulence, but I am still left wondering whatever happened to the plane that was intended for this flight? I do believe the pilot was determined to make up some of the lost time as our max speed on our GPS during the flight was 1137 km/hr.

What a wonderful reception we received at CYOA! Joanne met us at the airport, it seemed the whole crew turned out to welcome us and there was Mowzer decked out with ribbons and flowers and looking absolutely beautiful. Congrats to all the folks at CYOA who made her look so pretty! Nancy gave us a quick briefing to see us through the night and then we set to, to make her our home for the next two weeks.

Sitting in the dock-side bar, “Hook, Line & Sinker” for dinner in the evening, it was a little strange watching the Canadian women’s curling team defeat Sweden. It amazed the fellow sitting at the bar next to us when I told him we’d been curling just yesterday. Turns out, he’s the hired captain of a ‘little private motor yacht’ (only 112 ft long) and he gave us all sorts of pointers on where to go for some nice off-the-beaten-path experiences. He actually referred to his boat as a ‘dinghy’ in these waters. What does that make us? A flea on the dinghy to the dinghy?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

At Home in St. Thomas

For the next few years Mowzer will call the CYOA docks at St. Thomas home.  Arrival happened earlier this week and we were thrilled to receive the first pics from Kirsten of Mowzer as she settles in.

Like the passing of the Olympic torch, Laurent and crew have delivered Mowzer safely across the ocean and left us with this passing shot.

Now the fun begins as it is just a week before we will be able to put our own feet aboard, but in the meantime, there is much to be done.  Electrical system updates, canvas installation, all the onboard supplies for linen and galley, etc - the To-Do List is quite lengthy!  Mowzer has been installed at the docks, just next to Arcola - the Athena 38 we sailed last March with John, Eleanor and Carl.

 I guess squeezing into tight places becomes a necessity on a boat - glad to see the hat is safely stowed!  With the sun beaming down out in the cockpit, the canvas has all been installed and looks great.  The davits are on and work in the engine compartments is underway.
Back home in Ottawa, we haven't had much snow this winter but there is still a foot of the white stuff on the ground.  Talking to Nancy, she said it's been a strange winter down there as well with lighter than usual winds from the S/SE - sounds delightful and we're eagerly anticipating our visit.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Registration Decision

Had a long chat with John the other day and we've now decided that while we want to eventually persue the Canadian registration, especially as we get to the end of our charter period, it is not urgent to do so and certainly not to the tune of $1000 for a haul-out and tonnage measurement.  We've decided to put this off until annual haul-out in August in Puerto Rico and we will hopefully find a measurer who can get the job done once the boat is up on the hard.  For the short term, Mowzer can sail under her USVI registration which is required for the chartering business anyway.

In the meantime, Mowzer has arrived in St. Thomas and according to Kirsten she is beautiful, but could be prettier with a stylized logo and hailing port.  Even though we haven't finalized the Canadian registration we still want to identify Ottawa as the hailing port, so we're going with it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Delivery Update #6 - arrival in St. Martin

They've done it!  Mowzer and crew arrived in Marigot on the island of St. Martin last night.  French crew - French Island (or at least half of it) - sounds like they knew where they were heading!  We were in Marigot in 2008 and the food is fabulous so I can bet the crew had a great meal off the boat last night.

The plan is now to sail to Tortola, BVI and then the crew will have to ferry into the USVI on the commercial boat to obtain their visas, ferry back to Tortola and then bring Mowzer into the USVI.  Apparently, foreign nationals cannot arrive by private yacht in US waters without visas with the exception of US citizens (d'uh) and Canadians.  Too bad we're not on board.

Here's the last log track (for this voyage) ... and below are a couple of pictures from our previous visit to Marigot.

In Marigot - notice the proximity of the restaurant table to boats in the Marina!

Sunset over Marigot, Simpson Bay Lagoon and Sandy Ground (view from Pic Paradis).

Monday, February 1, 2010

Delivery Update #5 - 478 nautical miles to go!

One month since departing La Rochelle, Mowzer and the crew are within a couple of days of St. Thomas.

January 31 18:42 GMT N19 26.733 W56 35.083 (591 nm since Jan 27)