Thursday, December 28, 2006

Visitors!! Theo, Teresa, Lauren and Kristin are here.

December 26-28, 2006
Christmas Cove

These three days have been spent doing what cruisers are supposed to do: routine boat chores, reading, snorkeling, and just enjoying the peaceful beauty of the clear waters. 

The roller-furler for the genoa had started making a bumping noise when being rolled in and obviously was getting jammed at the top of the forestay.  This was caused because the sail was not properly re-installed when the genoa solar shield panel was replaced late last year.  The marina where the boat was berthed at the time had handled this work with the sail loft (since we weren’t available to handle it ourselves); we don’t know which party was responsible for re-installing the genoa.  But, whoever it was, they didn’t get the sail into the track properly at the lower end of the forestay.  Bill had noticed this months ago, but it had never caused any problems so we had left it alone; figuring that we would install it correctly when we find someone to clean and inspect the sail for any normal wear and tear.  Unfortunately, the sail wouldn’t wait that long and began to jam.  We had tried to remedy this problem when in The Bight last week but were unable to budge the sail down at all.  We continued to use the sail but decided on our most recent downwind sail back to Christmas Cove that we would not attempt to unfurl this sail again, afraid that it might not roll up if used again.  We contacted Richardson’s Rigging to do this job but they were closed until January 4.

So early on a very calm morning before the wind had started to build with the heat of the day, we decided to try again ourselves to get the genoa unjammed.  We released the halyard that is used to raise the genoa and put a couple of meters slack in the line and cleated off that halyard (wouldn’t want the sail to fall all the way down when the jam comes loose).  Then we unfurled the genoa and cleated the starboard sheet at the bow to keep wind from blowing it out fully.  Then we took the remaining port side genoa sheet and ran it through a shackle that would normally be used to fly a spinnaker; then ran the sheet to a winch on the mast.  Bill cranked the winch until eventually the jammed genoa sail released from the top of the forestay. 

At this time the wind decided to suddenly start to build, of course; you know something always has to happen to make a simple job more difficult.   But since we had cleated off the halyard with only a couple meters slack, this saved the genoa from falling completely down.  As it was, the sail barely missed hitting the water off the starboard side of the bow before we were able to raise it in the track correctly, this time stopping at the proper height and not jamming all the way into the top of the forestay.  All’s well that ends well.  The sail is now installed correctly; works smoothly again.  And we gained a little maintenance experience.  So glad to get the sail working correctly again since we have guests arriving next week.  Would hate to not be able to use a foresail all week when Theo and his family are visiting us.

Another day Judy was snorkeling and tried the underwater camera for the first time.  She saw a large spotted eagle ray; the tail on that thing was longer than Bill is tall; it was well over six feet long.  And it can move really fast!  A little later she saw the spotted eagle ray being followed by a Southern stingray, and they were both being followed by a Yellow stingray.  It was fun to watch them chasing each other around; biggest first, followed by the medium sized ray, followed by the smallest ray.   Judy tried taking pictures of them, but they were too far down and much too fast.   She also saw some Bluehead wrasse, Creole wrasse, Dusky squirrelfish, Rock beauties, Blue hamlets and Harlequin bass.  And Butter hamlets or juvenile Tangs; can’t tell those apart from one another.  Didn’t see any parrotfish, which is a little surprising because they seem to be the most common fish in the Virgins.  Did see a large group of some type of unidentified fish; they are not shown on our Fishwatcher’s Field Guide.  They had a long spike on their little noses, like tiny swordfish; but they were only about 8-10 inches in body length with about 3-4-inch spike or needle sticking straight out front, light gray in body color, with a very thin yellow line down their sides.  Interesting little fish; never seen them before. 

Buying the fancy-dancy camera was probably a mistake.  It is impossible to focus that camera on anything underwater.  The fish move too quickly and the swell of the ocean moves the person and camera too much.  Plus looking at the camera display screen underwater through a snorkel mask is next to impossible, especially with all the movement.  Maybe it would work better if one were diving rather than snorkeling.  We deleted all but 3 of the 89 pictures she tried to take underwater.  And these 3 that we kept are not very good; just some black urchins (which are in Christmas Cove by the hundreds of thousands) and some brain coral.

December 29, 2006  Friday
Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke, BVI
18.26.491N; 64.45.053W

Raised anchor this morning and motored over to St. John.  Five of the eight packages we are expecting had arrived at the mailing service.  They have very limited storage space and don’t like to hold packages, so we decided to go get the five now rather than wait for the remaining three. 

We have been so lucky getting mooring balls when we go to St. John.  There are only 3 mooring balls near the end of the point around the corner from Cruz Bay. Each time we have arrived at the mooring ball field east of Caneel Bay, someone was leaving just as we arrived.  So each time we have been able to snag one of the first three mooring balls closest to the point.  Makes the dinghy ride into Cruz Bay shorter.  Then we sailed over to Jost Van Dyke.  (and now we are sort of legal again, as we were still checked into the BVI).

When we were about 2/3 of the way to Jost, a large rainstorm advanced from the east.  Now, we know that most sailors aren’t this cautious; but when we see a dark rainstorm approaching, we douse the sails.  Sometimes we will just triple reef the genoa and mainsail, but usually we douse all sails.  So, following our normal practice we took in all the sails.  Noticed that the boat sailing under full sail off to our port side did not follow suit;  he remained under full sail.  A few minutes later we bet he was wishing that he had followed our lead and doused the sails because the winds were suddenly solid 30 knots and he was laid over much too far for comfort.  The storm only lasted about five minutes and blew over. 

We rev’d the engine higher and got our butts over into Great Harbor before the next rainstorm arrived.   It began to rain again as we were setting our anchor.   But we can set the anchor from the cockpit, lucky dogs that we are.  Bill waited until the rain had stopped and then snubbed the anchor, and we went ashore to Foxy’s for lunch.  Great grouper sandwiches, again.  No entertainment this afternoon however. 

Great Harbor is already beginning to fill up with boats – all here to celebrate New Year’s Eve.  We had planned to stop here only for lunch and then to sail on eastward to Marina Cay, because we plan to spend New Year’s Eve at Trellis Bay.  Probably anchor at Marina Cay and take the dinghy over to Trellis Bay, depending on the weather.  Anyway, now that we are anchored in Great Harbor, it looks like we will just spend the night here and go on eastward tomorrow.   Another boat has anchored and fallen back to lie directly over where our anchor is set.  So, we will just deal with that situation tomorrow morning. 

Looks like it will be raining all afternoon, so why go out in the boat.  Better to just sit here at anchor, play on the computer, and sort through all the goodies that we received in the boxes we picked up at St. John.  It feels like Christmas morning.  We have new stuff!  And lots of mail to sort through.

BTW, three large dolphin (porpoises) just surfaced right beside our anchored boat.  Don’t think we have ever seen dolphin in Great Harbor before.

December 31, 2006  Sunday
Marina Cay, BVI
18.27.764N; 64.31.624W

There were 58 boats in Great Harbor when we left yesterday morning – all awaiting the New Year’s Eve bash at Foxy’s.  We motored directly into the wind to Marina Cay.  Many boats were sailing it, but it just didn’t seem worth tacking 50 times to get here; that’s why these boats have engines in them.  Trellis Bay was already full of boats by noon yesterday.  People arrive a day or two early for the New Year’s celebrations in both Great Harbor and Trellis Bay.  We decided to anchor at Marina Cay and take the dinghy over to Trellis tonight.  All the mooring balls at Marina Cay were filled by noon Saturday.  But we had planned to anchor anyway so it didn’t affect us. 

Saw another dolphin (porpoise) in the cut beneath Monkey Cay at Guana Island.  But he didn’t play with the boat, just surfaced a couple of times and then disappeared.  There were a LOT of boats on the water yesterday.  Moorings boats seemed to dominate; many more of Moorings than any other charter company out the past few days.  One old-fashioned little dark boat flying a pirate flag really looked like a pack of pirates.  The little boat was from Key West.  Real salty dogs on that deck!

By noon today there were about 2 dozen boats anchored here at Marina Cay.  Most appear to be larger private charter boats or owner boats.  WiFi connection is not working with enough signal for us to access internet; surprised because we had a good WiFi signal when we were anchored in the same spot a couple of weeks ago.

Hey!! Bill just found another case of Polar beer from Venezuela!  He was pulling out the bread machine for the first time in many months and found a case of beer stashed beneath it.  Need to make bread; so can make some bread crumbs; so can make meatballs; so can cook the Italian sausage and make some great spaghetti sauce.  Trying to pre-cook a dinner or two before Theo and family arrive Wednesday evening.  That way we can spend time chatting instead of Judy being stuck in the galley so much while they are here. 

Kind of getting to the basics when you first must bake bread in order to make bread crumbs because there aren’t any stores around.  Reminds us of other cruisers we know who make their own hamburger buns and hotdog buns.  We haven’t reached that point yet.

So now Theo and Teresa and their two college-aged daughters will get to sample Venezuelan beer.

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