Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Island visit with family

January 3, 2007  Wednesday
American Yacht Harbor Marina, Red Hook, St. Thomas, USVI

Cleared out of the BVI yesterday and cleared back into the USVI.  Clearing out of the BVI in West End was a bit of a hassle.  Our passports were stamped that we were cleared to remain in the BVI until Jan 7.  The lady in Immigration was willing to clear our boat out of the BVI, but she was not going to clear us out of the BVI because we said we would be returning on Jan 4.  Since we were only going to be gone for 2 days, she said it wouldn’t count that we had left the country.  Said we would have to stay cleared into the BVI even though we were leaving, checking into the USVI, and then returning to the BVI.  She said the rest of the family could stay in the BVI until Jan 9, but that Bill and Judy would have to go to Road Town and request permission to stay past Jan 7.  

We never argue with Customs and Immigration officials, being pleasant is the far better method of dealing with any officials.  But this time Judy was not going to accept this explanation, so she argued back and forth with the Immigration official:  basically, just how long did we have to be out of their country before it would count that we had left their country --- if 2 days was not sufficient time, did they require that we be gone for 3 days, one week, two weeks, one month, or what.  Just what was the time requirement by their laws.  After a good ten minutes of this nonsense, the Immigration official gave in and cleared us out of the BVI.  So now we won’t have any problems when we return on Jan 4.

We arrived in Red Hook promptly at 1:00 p.m. on Jan 3 as instructed by the marina and found that our assigned slip was still occupied.  The guy finally managed to leave the slip at 1:45.  Seems like we ought to receive a discount for that lost time but it doesn’t work that way.  We immediately backed into the slip, tied up and went to Molly Mallone’s to split a burger.  Noticed a dive shop right next to the restaurant so Judy was able to buy new fins.  The new ones are much more comfortable.  Then we hit the supermarket for fresh produce.  We got back to the boat and started to unload the groceries and Judy checked email, where she found a message from Theo’s Blackberry saying that they had arrived at the airport in St. Thomas and were already enroute in a taxi.   Barely had time to stow the groceries before they arrived.

Showed everyone where they could stow their clothes and where they would sleep and gave them the standard boat instructions for showering and operating the head (none of them have boating experience).  Then we split up: the guys hit the grocery store again for a beer and wine run and the gals went to Wok & Roll for Chinese take-out.  Pleasant night at the dock with lots of cold air conditioning and had a good time visiting.  Teresa introduced us to coconut flavored rum mixed with pineapple juice, a/k/a Bahama Mamas.  She declared this to be her preferred drink of this trip.

January 4, 2007  Thursday
Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke, BVI     9.8 NM

Cloudy, hazy day with scattered rain showers; so we motored all the way to Jost.  Kristin and Teresa began to feel a bit seasick so we gave each of them one of the French seasickness pills that work so well for Judy (and put her sound asleep for an hour or so).  We went to Foxy’s for lunch and both Teresa and Kristin were really dragging by that point.  Kristin cratered in the hammock on the beach.   Unfortunately, Foxy’s was the deadest we have ever seen it.  No entertainment and we were the only people there for lunch.  Shame since this will be the only opportunity for the group to come here this trip, so they won’t get the true Foxy’s experience.

Customs and Immigration on Jost Van Dyke were extremely pleasant; they cleared us both in and out since we will only be in the BVI for 5 days.  First time they have done that for us here in the BVI.

We had planned to go to Green Cay for snorkeling this afternoon, but decided not to push the seasickness issue any farther today.  Decided to just stay where we were.  It was a rainy night for our guests’ first night aboard, but Great Harbor is very calm so there was little boat motion.  Hopefully they will adjust to the movement tonight and have no further seasickness.  We played Mexican Train Dominoes and had a nice evening.

January 5, 2007  Friday         
Marina Cay, BVI         22.2 NM

Happy 20th Birthday to Kristin!  Not a teenager anymore.  We gave her a tie-dyed tank top that we had bought in St. John.  So now she has a St. John souvenir.

Prettier day today.  We had a late start from Great Harbor, headed over to Cane Garden Bay.  The wind would be directly on the nose so we planned to motor; but Bill wanted to let the group have a small experience of sailing, so we sailed between Jost Van Dyke and Tortola for a few tacks and then motored.  First Kristin sailed at the helm, then Lauren and then Teresa.  After Bill got the sails back in, then we turned Theo loose with the helm to drive us into Cane Garden Bay.  We got onto a mooring ball and went ashore.

We walked down to Caldwood’s Rum Factory.  It has been producing rum since sometime in the 17th or 18th century.  It is so old that the stone is rotting away.  We sampled a few rums and wines and made a few small gift purchases.  Mr. Caldwood no longer is involved with the rum factory.  The young guy behind the counter said that Mr. Caldwood is too old now to even drink the rum.  The new guy has been making the rum for about six years now.  Nice to see that the tradition is continuing.

We had tuna sandwiches on the boat as we motored along the north side of Tortola toward Guana Island.  Around Monkey Point the girls decided to lay on the mizzen deck to catch a few rays.  Down the Camano Passage and we anchored in our usual spot between Great Camano, Scrub Island and Marina Cay.

Lauren, Kristin and Judy snorkeled for a short while; but the current was very strong so they didn’t stay in the water very long.  It was pretty strenuous fighting the current and it was a bit colder than they would have like it to be.  But it was nice to see that there actually is some live coral still in that area.

We all went to happy hour at the small bar at the top of the hill on Marina Cay.  No entertainment; what’s up with that!  Seems everywhere we go this week there is none of the normal entertainment!  So we each had a rum drink – all of which were too strong to enjoy and went back to the boat.

Spaghetti and meatball dinner aboard.  Winds were unusually high and weather was cooler than normal.

January 6, 2007  Saturday
Gorda Sound, Virgin Gorda, BVI        13.1 NM

Seas and winds were too high to even consider mooring off Spanish Town to go to The Baths this morning, so we decided to motor up to Gorda Sound and take a taxi down to The Baths.  Turned out to be a good decision.  Teresa decided that the reason for her queasiness on the first day must have been that she was wearing contact lenses, which she hasn’t worn in months.  So she didn’t wear contacts yesterday and felt fine all day.  So she will just wear sunglasses over her regular eyeglasses instead of the contacts.  Good thing she figured out what was causing her to feel motion sickness.

Motored up between The Dogs and around Mosquito Island, past Necker Island, and into Gorda Sound channel.  We picked up a mooring ball in Leverick Bay and found a taxi to take us down to The Baths.  Bill gave the taxi driver one of our boat cards and told him that we operated a private charter boat out of St. Thomas and that Theo and family were our charter guests.  This got us the private charter boat rate of $6 per person each way for the taxi, rather than the standard price of $10 per person each way.   Cool.

The taxi drive was a great idea.  It provided us with beautiful scenic vistas.  The driver stopped twice for us to take photos, once overlooking Gorda Sound and the eastern side of Virgin Gorda and once overlooking the southern end of Virgin Gorda and down the Sir Francis Drake Channel.  Definitely the best way to go see The Baths because it also provides a good tour of the island and breathtaking views from the mountaintop.

We hiked down the path to The Baths and duck-walked our way through the small entry between the boulders.  This always brings back good memories for Bill and Judy.  The first few times we came to The Baths it was just boulders; none of the ropes for handholds and the wooden steps and little bridges that are there now.   We had to find our way through the boulders and pools by trial and error; now there is a well-marked path that is easy to follow.  Sort of takes some of the fun out of it, but also accommodates a lot more tourists.  Used to be free, too; and now it costs $3.00 per person.   Definitely worth that small admission price to see this unique spot. 

The types of stone at The Baths are different than any found anywhere else in the BVI.  Our theory is that Gorda Sound and surrounding islands on the north end of Virgin Gorda is the remnants of a volcano crater from distant millennia and that the enormous boulders down at the south end of Virgin Gorda were thrown down there during volcanic eruptions.  The boulders all look like they landed there, not as if they were pushed up from the earth.  Can you imagine how violent the world must have been during this active volcanic period!

We arrived back at Leverick Bay well before dusk, so we motored over and picked up a mooring ball at Saba Rock.  But the winds were 25-30 knots so we did not want to get in the dinghy just to go up to the bar for a drink.  So Theo and Teresa didn’t get to see the pretty views from the hill at Saba Rock looking eastward over the reef or the magnificent mahogany bar in the restaurant. 

It was so windy that the grill would not stay lit, so we had to cook chicken breasts in a skillet down in the galley.  Then we watched the first two episodes of Rome.  The boat was dancing all over the place and the movement didn’t seem to bother anyone one bit, so guess they are getting accustomed to boat motion.

January 7, 2007  Sunday
The Bight, Norman Island, BVI           22 NM

Great down wind sail today!  Everyone tolerated it well.  Kristin got a teensy bit queasy but she managed to tough it out.  Everyone else tolerated motion without even noticing it.

We trailed a fishing line most of the day.  We caught a large barracuda, which we threw back, of course.   At the bottom of Peter Island we also caught a bonita, which we also threw back.  It looked like a large fish had tried to bite it in half.  The teeth prints were in a wide pattern like a shark’s mouth, not in a tight pattern like a barracuda’s mouth.   Poor bonita:  a hook in its mouth and something tries to bite it in half.  Getting it from both ends!

We picked up a mooring ball.  Winds were still quite high so taking the dinghy over to the caves was not appealing.  It was too cold to want to get into the water.  Being from southeast Texas, we all are accustomed to hot weather and very warm sea water temps.  This water was too cold in the cool winds (probably 80F water temp and 82F air temp).  We are all wimps and not ashamed to admit it.

Bill took Theo, Teresa, Lauren and Kristin over to Willie T’s for happy hour.  Judy stayed on the boat to cook dinner.  Willie T’s is a floating bar/restaurant named the William Thornton.  It is notorious for girls getting drunk and jumping naked off the bar end of the boat; they get a tee-shirt for doing this.  But the BVI government put a stop to the naked jumping back in November; didn’t think it promoted a family vacation image of the BVI.  But you can still do body shots!  They didn’t stop that practice.  Someone offered to buy shots if Lauren and Kristin would do body shots.  They declined.

The Rouse group met one gregarious guy who was on a Moorings charter boat – very talktative.  He asked if the girls had a chance to sail the boat.  Bill said that both girls had sailed the boat.  Bill said, “Kristin, show him how to set the mainsail.”  She held up two fingers and pulled them back simultaneously as if activating two toggle switches, which cracked up everybody; and the guy goes “Oh now, not one of those!”  And Kristin was right, that is how you set the mainsail on the Amel – electric sails.

Again the winds were way too high to light the grill, so we cooked steaks down in the galley.  Tonight was going to be movie night of “Master and Commander; The Far Side of the World.”  But the guy at Willie T’s told the girls about the movie “Captain Ron” so we watched that instead.  Still a funny movie, even if we have seen it at least a dozen times.

January 8, 2007  Monday
Christmas Cove, Great St. James Island, USVI        17 NM

This morning the winds had finally decreased back to normal.  Bill took the girls in the dinghy over to see the caves, but no one took the time to snorkel.  We have a lot to do today since they leave tomorrow.

It was a nice, flat sail over to Soper’s Hole at West End, Tortola.  Picked up a mooring ball and took the dinghy in so everyone could do a bit of shopping.  While they were shopping Judy made sandwiches for lunch and we ate underway to Cruz Bay.  Another nice, flat, calm sail.  Picked up a mooring ball off Caneel Bay and took the dinghy in to Cruz Bay to clear US Customs and Immigration, which was a quick and easy process. 

We visited Connections, our mailing service on St. John; but neither of the two remaining parcels have arrived yet.  If these have not arrived by next week then we need to have these packages traced as both should have been here by now.

We walked around a few minutes and the group did a bit of souvenir shopping.  Then back to the boat and motored over to Christmas Cove.  Winds were so calm that we had no trouble using the grill tonight – great grilled pork tenderloins that Judy had started marinating last night.  Served with Judy’s spicy yellow Caribbean rice with golden raisins, carrots, onions and red peppers; and plantains cooked Cuban style sautéed in butter with brown sugar and lime juice.  A touch of the Caribbean for their last night aboard.

Then we played a half-game of Mexican Train Dominoes (starting with sixes instead of starting with twelves).  Kristin won again; she only enjoys the game if she wins.  Judy had her highest (worst) score ever.

January 9, 2007  Tuesday
Christmas Cove again            4.6 NM

Their flight home wasn’t until 5:15 p.m., but they wanted to get allow plenty of time to get a taxi to the airport.  We had planned to take them to Charlotte Amalie and anchor.  Bill could take them ashore in the dinghy to get a taxi to the airport.  But we decided that will all their luggage that it might be easier if we just went to the fuel dock at Red Hook; so that is what we did.

We arrived at the fuel dock around 12:30 and unloaded all the luggage.  That was certainly easier that dealing with a dinghy!!  Just lift them over the life rail and place them on the dock.  Like that! 

Then we moved the boat and anchored out in Red Hook bay and went ashore; took a safari taxi to Cost U Less and picked up 1 cold bag and 3 canvas bags of stuff.  This time we only bought what we could carry on a safari taxi back to the marina.  Also stopped by Tutu Park Mall and bought a few things.  Judy’s eyes dry out badly from the winds when we sail at night; so much that she was forced to wear her sunglasses at night during our passage from Bonaire.  So we bought some swim goggles for her to try at night when we do the Anegada Passage to St. Martin later this month.

Then we motored right back to Christmas Cove, our favorite anchorage.

January 10, 2007  Wednesday
Christmas Cove

Today was “clean the boat” day.  Six loads of laundry and just general cleaning to put everything back ship-shape. 

Tonight we visited another couple on a Beneteau 461, which is the model boat that we owner prior to purchasing the Amel.  They have a very nice 2-cabin version of that boat, with electric head and electric winch for the in-mast furling mainsail.  Enjoyed the evening.

January 11, 2007 Thursday
Christmas Cove

Put up the shade awning today, so guess that means we are staying a few days.  Last night would have been a perfect time to do the passage to St. Martin; winds were non-existent and seas were totally flat.  But today the prediction is for the winds to start building again, so guess we will be sitting her at least a few days.

Bill donned all his diving gear and cleaned our prop this morning.  We could only get 2200 rpm before he cleaned it.  It is a feathering Auto Prop and very sensitive to any marine growth.  After cleaning we were able to get 2500 rpm easily.  That was as high as he wanted to push the engine while we are still anchored.  The boat started moving forward on the anchor chain too quickly to try to push the revs any higher.  Hopefully, he got it clean enough that we can again push it to 3600 - 3800 rpm to blow out any soot build up.  Diesel engines should be revved to high rpms at least once a month to prevent build up, although most sailors don’t bother to do this.

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