Monday, February 13, 2017

Final 2 1/2 weeks aboard S/V BeBe (sniff, sniff; wipe a tear)

We have been so busy setting up household in Galveston that I have been lax in catching up this blog.  This posting covers our final 2 1/2 weeks aboard S/V BeBe.  Likely, I will make one more final posting later this year covering our adjustment back to land life.  That  is something that people often wonder about -- how does one adjust back to land after cruising for more than a decade.  Too soon yet to know how that will go.

S/V BeBe from aloft
On 11 January 2017 new owners Dan and Lori Carlson arrived in St. Thomas. We had docked at American Yacht Harbor marina in Red Hook in order to make their moving aboard as easy as possible.  Good thing we had booked 2 nights in this marina because half of their luggage did not arrive with them.  It was delivered to the marina the following day.  Dan took the opportunity while tied to the dock to go up and check out things at the top of the mast. Wind was high so that also was a good reason to hang around the marina for an extra day.  As we motored out on Friday the 13th (shudder!), unbelievably, that wind instrument again acted up!!  Is there no end to this problem!

Lori & Judy watching Dan at top of mast
Bill realized as we motored out that the instrument once again reported erratic readings after strong winds and heavy rain. This convinced him that we were getting water intrusion into the sensors.  Since every component had been replaced more than once, the only thing left to replace was what is called the control mount.  It is a mount built into the end of a cable which runs through the mast down to the Hydra 2000 at the nav station. The wind instrument attaches to the control mount at the top of the mast.  We had this part but had been unable to hire anyone to do this work and I did not want Bill going up there again.  He had some minor surgery on his thigh last September and each time he went up the mast that incision area was irritated. Thankfully, Dan is quite comfortable going up the mast.  We motored to Francis Bay and as soon as the wind slowed Dan went up and replaced the cable; he re-mounted the wind instrument and all worked perfectly once again.  Think we finally had a fix!!!

All this and more was stored in the cockpit lazarette.
Dan attempted to organize it 'his way' - but I think
he will find that the lazarette will be re-arranged
almost every time he gets in there.  

One day we went out for the first sea trial and all went well.  Winds were about 20-knots.  We sailed from Francis Bay northward to off western end of Jost Van Dyke; turned around and returned to Francis Bay.  Seas were lively and winds were a little high, so perfect conditions for a sea trial.  Dan and Lori could see that this 53-foot ketch handles differently than their 30-foot sloop back up on Lake Michigan.  Much heavier (and slower, most likely) and very comfortable and safe.

Lori & Dan celebrating on day we finalized the sales paperwork

After a few days we motored over to Soper's Hole to clear into BVI; then sailed in ultra-light winds to The Bight on Norman Island.  Dan flew the Secret Sail for awhile.  The Secret Sail is the mizzen ballooner which we have had placed into a sock; basically an asymmetrical sail flown from the mizzen mast.  

Bill & Judy also celebrating on day sales
paperwork finalized.
I have always especially liked this sail.  It can add up to 1 knot boat speed and really balances the movement of the boat comfortably.  On this particular day the wind was so extremely light BeBe got down to only 1-knot speed over ground!  But Dan had fun playing with the sail and it is best to learn new sails in calm conditions .  Finally we started the engine so we could arrive well before sunset.  We anchored in about 10-meters depth just inside Treasure Point.  We all felt that it was okay to anchor on this lee shore only because winds were so light and forecast to remain benign.

White Bay on Guana Island, British Virgin Islands

Sunset as viewed from White Bay on Guana Island.  That is
Jose Van Dyke in center background.
The following day we motored to Marina Cay since there was no wind whatsoever to sail. The following morning Dan and Lori took the dinghy across the channel to Beef Island to go to mass.  That afternoon we motored to Lee Bay on western side of Great Camanoe Island but the northern swell made that bay untenable.  We continued motoring past Monkey Point and picked up a mooring in White Bay on the eastern side of Guana Island.  There we found free wifi with decent speed; guess it was provided to the mooring field from the expensive resort on Guana Island.  How nice of them!

Lori & Dan settling into their new boat.
Next day was a gorgeous sail westward over the northern side of Tortola.  Dan and Lori put out a pole to starboard for awhile and then took it in -- just for the experience to see how it works.  Dan took the helm and sailed all the way to the entrance to Little Harbour at Jost Van Dyke.  Just before going between Green Cay and Sandy Cay we crossed paths with a couple of Texas boats which we knew were in the area and had hoped to meet up with, Tammy and Bruce on Dos Libras and Janet Lee and Michael on Adventure Us 2.  I have followed the blog for Dos Libras since they were berthed in Corpus Christi and had looked forward to meeting them.  Bill and I had met Janet Lee and Michael in Kemah a few years back and wanted to catch up with them now that they were out cruising in their own boat.  Both Dos Libras and Adventure Us 2 went on into Great Harbour while we stayed overnight in Little Harbour.

The next day we moved over to Great Harbour and we all met up for lunch  at Foxy's.  We enjoyed this very much.  Great to meet up with fellow Texans.  And I very much enjoyed listening to Tammy and Janet Lee tell stories of their first year or 2 out cruising.  Both boats just arrived in the BVI after spending last hurricane season in Puerto Rico followed by short visits to Culebra and the USVI.  So, while not really newbies, neither are jaded long-term cruisers.  I enjoyed seeing and listening to their excitement about their 'new' experiences, which caused Bill and I to remember how we felt at that stage of our first few years out.

L-R: Tammy & Bruce of Dos Libras; Judy, previously of BeBe; Janet Lee & Michael of Adventure Us 2;
and Lori & Dan, new owners of BeBe.  Bill is not in photo because he is behind the phone camera.
Lunch at Foxy's on Jost Van Dyke.  Excellent way to end our cruising years -- with friends at a beach bar.
Judy with Foxy.  Photo taken on
Christmas Eve day

A famous hammock.  Guess where?

Next day we motored over to Caneel Bay to pick up a mooring in order to clear into USVI once again at Cruz Bay.  Officialdom satisfied, we motored back to Francis Bay for our final night on a mooring.  The following morning we removed the bimini extension and mesh shade panels and folded down the bimini so that Dan could practice using the bow thruster to maneuver the boat in reverse as practice for docking stern-to in a marina.  He backed up perfectly to a mooring several times and it appeared that he could handle the boat in reverse just fine.  

When we arrived at the marina another boat was in our reserved slip -- the only slip that this marina has which can accommodate a boat the size of BeBe.  A smaller sailboat named Sunquest was in the slip and refused to move.  He was waiting for a new transmission to be delivered in 2 days and said he would not move from our reserved assigned slip.  The marina office advised us to temporarily dock at the T-dock.  Dan tried to reverse BeBe to the dock but got confused at some point and turned the helm the opposite direction and also pushed the joystick for the bow thruster in the wrong direction.  The wind caught the bow and there was no way to recover correct direction because of the strength of the wind off the bow.  We came within inches of ramming the stern of BeBe into the dock but Dan managed to go hard throttle forward just in time to avoid collision.  A learning experience.  He recovered control and re-positioned the boat and was able to reverse to dock the boat on the second attempt.  Now to settle the problem of that boat in our assigned slip.  I loved it when the guy told me that "It is all taken care of; I am not moving."  I told him he might be all taken care of but we were not yet taken care of; and that we could not remain on that T-dock.

Bill and Dan visited the marina office and soon Sunquest was moved to another slip which could accommodate that smaller boat.  Do not need an engine to move a boat; lines and dinghies can do that just fine.  Now that guy really was 'taken care of.'  And so was BeBe.

Dan was able to reverse BeBe into the assigned slip perfectly.  Bill stayed with him, standing near the helm to talk him through the process.  At one point the boat was reversing too rapidly and Bill moved the throttle from reverse to forward to stop the backward thrust or we might have hit the dock.  Other than that one little issue, Dan docked in reverse just fine on this attempt.  This process is something that becomes easier with practice and BeBe is still new to Dan and Lori.  So docking and reversing in tight quarters is stressful for them, I'm sure.  They will gain confidence with more experience and practice.

For our final night aboard BeBe, Dan and Lori hosted us for dinner at a nice restaurant.  It was a pleasure to enjoy a fine meal in a nice restaurant; a true treat for us.  Our flights home were uneventful.  We arrived in Houston after 1 a.m. and had booked a room at the Marriott right there in the airport.  We had rented a small SUV to handle moving all those duffle bags to our home in Galveston; ended up making several trips transporting as many things as possible the following day; then that long drive back up through the city out to the airport in order to turn in that rental vehicle.  Shame they do not let people rent vehicles at IAH and return those vehicles to Hobby airport; that would have been much more convenient.

Adjusting back to land life is going to take awhile, I think.  As I have stated to several people who have asked about this, we are returning to a different country than the one we left 11 years ago.  It was time for us to stop living on the boat because my hip has become too painful and movement limitations were difficult in that marine environment.  I ran across this quote from a State Department employee recently fired by new President Trump and it sums up my feelings about giving up our cruising life.  Tom Countryman served the nation for 35 years and at the time of his discharge he was the Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation.  He was in Amman, Jordan, booked to fly to an international meeting on nuclear arms control when he received notice of his discharge and orders to turn around and fly back home.  At his retirement gathering, he stated:

""I leave you with one last thought, from one of my favorite philosophers.  If you've never read him, or not for many years, I urge you to take the time now.  His name is:....Winnie the Pooh.

And he said:

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.""

Please note a new blog tab titled "Next Step (new)"

Bill & Judy stepping off BeBe for the final time, with lots of luggage for the flights home.  (So sad!)
It has been a fabulous 11 years!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Old Year's Night

 It is called New Year's Eve all over the world but in the BVI and sometimes in the USVI this night is observed as Old Year's Night.  This year we enjoyed an impromptu mini-celebration aboard BeBe with 'new' cruisers John and Cat Fearnow, owners of catamaran Heaven, to raise a toast to the end of 2016 and welcome in 2017.  True to cruiser form, our celebration ended well before midnight.  But we did share a bottle of Moet & Chandon, followed by a steak dinner.  As always, enjoying the conversation made the evening.  Glad they joined us.

How the fender covers used to look
Recently while moored in Soper's Hole at West End of Tortola we rented a car for a day. Having a rental car allowed us to visit a few very old friends at The Moorings and Sunsail base in Road Town.  We very much enjoyed chatting with them and also enjoyed a delicious lunch at the restaurant there.  The base has changed a lot since Sunsail was moved to the same location as The Moorings, and their secondary charter company Footloose vacated the area to allow more expansion room for Sunsail.  And The Moorings has expanded by addition of 2 more long docks toward a newer seawall. The staff have their hands full maintaining operation of both these charter company brands.  Quite the fleets!  And the director of operations told us they still had 40 more boats laid up in the hurricane hole area because have no space for them at the docks.  It appears that the lower valuation of both the British Pound and the Euro has greatly affected the charter business this high season, as there are fewer boats out on charter at a time of year when both Sunsail and Moorings are often fully-booked.  This portends of bad financial news for all the businesses in the BVI and somewhat in the USVI.

How the fender covers look today.  Terribly chewed up
by the docks at the marina
While exiting Road Town to drive back to Soper's Hole we picked up a couple of hitch-hikers.  We could tell they were cruisers (we are all easily identifiable by our well-worn and very casual clothing), so had no qualms about giving a ride to these strangers.  Turns out they were Canadians who had planned to be in St. Martin by now but due to the high easterly winds they were 'stuck' in the BVI.  They had to go into Road Town to request visa extensions.  We were happy to help them out with a ride back to West End.  But they would have to wait while we stopped at the Island Department Store to shop for duffle bags.  Turns out they were not familiar with this store and were as delighted as we were to discover it. Wish we had known about this department store years ago as it sold things not found anywhere else in the BVI.  Including the duffle bags we had just about given up hope of finding.

We dropped the 2 cruisers off near the dinghy dock next to Customs and Immigration in West End and on the spur-of-the-moment decided to see where another road might lead us. This very narrow road led us up the mountain, where near the top the road deteriorated horribly.  The rental vehicle was a small SUV, thank goodness; so it was able to navigate the very rough terrain.  The road was washed out in many places; very steep inclines; and very narrow.  We did not encounter any other vehicles until near the sea level on the northern side of the mountain.  We were on a search for the hotel where we stayed in January 1984 after a week sail on the Windjammer ship named Flying Cloud.  And we found it!

It still amazes me that I booked us into small hotel so off the beaten track.  This was during the pre-internet days!  However did I find out about Sebastian's on the Beach!  It is a small and very casual beach hotel situated on Apple Bay and pretty isolated.  Bill was working himself to death that year and I wanted to give him a couple of weeks away from everything.  These were the days before fax machines and cell phones and I wanted him to have a break from all things job related.  So I booked us for a week aboard the Flying Cloud, followed by a week at this small isolated beach hotel.  Turned out to be a great choice.
Sebastian's on the Beach

Judy cleaning. 
I did not want to turn around and return via the awful road back over that mountain, so we continued onward toward Cane Garden Bay.  Which is another place for which we have many wonderful memories from many visits spanning over 30 years.  And it looked like really nothing has changed.  That famous tire swing on the beach was lost years ago...but has been replaced by another tire swing on another leaning palm tree on a different place on the beach.  Myett's is still Myett's.  And Callwood Rum is the same as it has always been. The beautiful cute little 5-year-old girl who gave us such a detailed tour of the distillery is now a grown woman with children of her own.  But the family distillery is same as ever.

Once a year we remove the microwave and clean
behind it.  Today was the day.
We drove onward, back up over the tallest mountain on Tortola (on a much better road this direction!), and back down the mountain, ending up back on the same road just west of Road Town where we had picked up the hitchhiker's earlier in the afternoon.  From there we again headed west and stopped off in Nanny Cay to check out Cay Electronics to discuss that B&G wind instrument which continued to give us grief intermittently.  That turned out to be a wasted effort as Cay Electronics was booked and referred us back to the same riggers we had already contacted.  Astounds us that hiring someone can be so difficult!  (Turned out to be for the best.)

We had just enough time to fill-up the gas tank and return the car before the rental agency office closed for the day.  This had been a very enjoyable day roaming around the island.  Sorry, no photos because I forgot to bring my camera.  Bill was busy driving and I do not use his cell phone for photos.

It was time to replace a few of our batteries.  We had bought 6 batteries in Montenegro which were dual-purpose batteries rather than the marine variety which were not available in that country.  We bought what we could get knowing these would not last as long as the proper marine batteries.  These lasted 2 1/2 years so we were not disappointed in their performance.  Two of the 6 had developed internal shorts; so we planned to replace all 6.  The 6 marine batteries which we had purchased earlier in Turkey were still perfectly good.  Bill notified the buyers of BeBe about the battery situation and the new owner asked us to replace all 13 batteries so he could start fresh and he would pay 1/2 the cost.  The 13 batteries had been ordered a few weeks earlier and were ready for delivery, so we took the boat into American Yacht Harbor for a night.

Bill and I are too old now to deal with lifting 13 batteries up out of the battery compartment, up the companionway steps, over the cockpit seats, over the life rail and down to the dock.  Each battery weighs nearly 100-lbs.  That means 1300 pounds up and 1300 pounds down! We have done this ourselves but this time we paid 2 younger and muscular men to handle this heavy lifting.  In the heat of the Caribbean.  They were both dripping sweat with every movement.  But the delivery went smoothly and they carted off the old batteries.  A job well done!  We stayed at the dock overnight to allow the new batteries to fully charge to float.

While in the marina we enjoyed dinner ashore as a rare treat.  Next morning we shopped Moe's Supermarket and stocked up a bit.  This market is better than I remembered it.  Now stocks just about everything one might want.  High prices, of course, but at least they have whatever you need or want as long as willing to fork over that price.  The only negative about our 1-night stay at the AYH marina is that the docks are badly in need of repair and literally ate up our fender covers.  This now is an IGY marina and certain standards are expected and should be met.  Those docks are sadly in need of repair or replacement.

Judy fell in love with this 40-ft Nordhavn moored next
to us for a few days in Francis Bay.
(No; we are not seriously in the market for another boat.)
Back on a mooring in calm Francis Bay Bill went back up the mast several more times.  I think the wind instrument finally is working correctly once again.  Bill realized that each time it reported erratic readings was shortly after a heavy downpour; thus, he deduced that it was getting water intrusion somehow.  Sure enough, the sensor was missing a tiny 'spacer' between 2 gaskets.  Just enough to allow a few drops of water when winds blew heavy rain. The darn spacer could not have been more than 1/64th inch wide!  Bill fixed that little problem and (fingers crossed!!) the wind instrument has worked fine ever since -- even after heavy rains.

Last evening our friends Pam and Larry Shelton aboard Southern Girl arrived back in Francis Bay.  They and their guests visited us for a few hours for sundowners aboard BeBe and we enjoyed chatting.  Their friends also are ex-boaters; they sold their boat last year and  talk about it as if they still owned it.  Hard to make that adjustment to no longer owning a beloved boat.  I can relate; giving up BeBe is going to be a MAJOR adjustment for me.

Southern Girl left the bay this morning.  There are 2 other Texas boats in USVI right now and we hope to catch up with them soon -- Dos Libras and Adventurous Us 2.  We returned to American Yacht Harbor on today.  The new owners of BeBe arrive this evening and we decided being docked in a marina would make transfer of lots of luggage easier.  We will enjoy sailing with the new owners until January 27.  The first week, however, might be a bit too rough as a major cold front passes through and is predicted to cause high winds and large swell for almost a full week.