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Our Omega Event for Sailing

sunny 80 °F

Here we sit in Soper’s Hole for another night. Carol has decided that she wants ice cream for dessert, and it is on hand at the Harbour Market. She also claims that I am tired, a way of saying that she is tired, and that we need a day without travel, a day to rest. I am OK with that.

This trip was always going to be the consolation prize: the “kids” could not be here; we have no access to the USVI; 17 days in the BVI is a lot. What made the trip, for me at least, was the incredible, consistent wind. I would estimate that we wind in excess of 10 knots well over 90% of the time. Almost every time we put up the sails, we could sail like we had rarely done before. This was good, very good. The other nice surprise was how good Verizon’s cell coverage is. I have always been able to get to the internet, always with good 4G coverage.

I have another trip that I very much want to take: Croatia, a place most Americans could not locate on a map. It runs along the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea and includes Istria and Dalmatia, places where the rough sandals of Roman legions once marched. At Croatia’s southern point is Dubrovnik, dubbed by Lord Byron as the Jewel of the Adriatic. I have charts and charter agreements with the intention of going there next May. This is not a whim; I have literally been researching this trip for years.

My career was, more or less, an advanced degree in real life. One of many lessons I learned, and one of the few lessons that I taught, was intellectual integrity, a fancy name for learning to look at things objectively, as they are, not as a person might hope, want, wish or need them to be. The first step of all twelve step programs is recognition of having a problem, hard to do if a person is not dialed in to objective reality.

I now find myself, and to a degree Carol, in the uncomfortable position of doing this objective review on myself, not some abstract business situation. We have done well enough; we have not made any major mistakes; we have not put ourselves or the boat in a position to suffer harm. What disturbs are two things. First, we have been sloppy in our execution of basic boating stuff. Most of my course changes have been terrible; the few good ones raising to the level of bare adequacy. These are not fatal flaws, but they show clearly that we are now far removed from the practiced skills we had before we sold our boat in 2013. The second concern is stamina. We have both been tired most of the time. That cannot be the result of long legs of trips; at most we have gone about 25nm in a day, short sails in a small area. The Adriatic trip, if taken, would require much more mileage to be covered in a day.

As an objective observer, I can only conclude that another trip, to the Adriatic, would be an overreach, something that we could do, but in the doing there would be little enjoyment. So, quoting myself …

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Setting aside the metaphysics of Deities, everything has an ending, an “Omega Event”. Astrophysicists tell us that the very universe in which Carol and I have sailed will one day collapse back into itself. If there is no BIG BANG then, maybe, there will be a giant slurping sound like a straw siphoning the last few drops from the bottom of a glass, although it is hard to hear noise in the vacuum of space, and there will not be anyone around to hear it, anyway.

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This trip is to be our last, our "Omega Event," and it will be. Starting and finishing our life's great adventure in the same place seems an artful symmetry, a closing of the circle. Our future joy will come in the remembrance of things past.

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This blog posting will be number 186, and there will be only one more after this is posted. I started the blog in 2008 so that my mother would have a way to know where we were and what we were doing. She passed, but the blog went on, a quotidian diary of our boating lives. Our blog has been read by so many times that the number staggers, a little. It is humbling to think that Carol and I have shared a portion of our lives with so many others and that it has been interesting to them. Carol and I have been fortunate in our lives and in each other. It has been my pleasure to share some of our good fortune with blog readers.

Posted by sailziveli 14:39 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged islands sailing british boating virgin bvi Comments (0)

Soper's Hole

N18 23.161 W64 42.187

sunny 80 °F

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I seem to be having a bad run on photography. Lots of shutter clicks, not much I want to put out there. Sunset from Cooper Island, such as it was. Cloudy, amber, and only rising to the level of OK. That turned out to be an unusual place, but hard to describe. Manchioneel Bay, where we stayed, is not so much a bay as it is a wide arc; there is nothing extending around the sides to form a shelter. So all the boats should have been riding into the wind approximately the same way. Not even close. Catamarans were helter skelter as were the few monohulls. No logic seems to apply.

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We have passed by Soper's Hole two times on our way to other places. From looking at the chart I had thought Mr. Soper to be a very clever fellow having found a sheltered place and assigning it his name. Just one more item on the growing list of things I have gotten wrong on this trip. The "Hole" is formed by the very western tip of Tortola, called West End, of course, and Frenchman's Cay. This being the British Virgin Islands I guess that any proper Englishman, e.g., Mr. Soper, has naming rights, but a Frenchman does not. There is a gap between these two land masses that is not only is a conduit for easterly winds, but it also seems to act as a venturi for them, quickening their passage across this spot of water. Not any particular problem, just not what I expected. Despite the high winds we got the boat moored and secured.

The rationale for coming here was the expectation of buying ice for our last few nights on the boat. The run from Cooper Island to Soper's Hole was not very long, maybe 10nm. We were on a run, downwind, but not very much wind, which would have taken about three hours to Soper's Hole. I had the thought that the day was rather like Pamlico Sound in North Carolina where we first learned sailing. There we would go out in the morning and just sail, no plan, other than to handle the lines and to work with the wind, moving the boat. So, today, we did the same.

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We broke south toward Norman Island, the subject of a prior blog entry. In the far distance I saw something that I could not understand. This is Pelican Island, adjacent to Norman Island. It has a nasty set of jagged rocks to the west. I could see those rocks but there were also some great clumps of white which could not be surf.

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The clumps were four catamarans anchored between Pelican Island and these rocks. There must be a shoal or a ridge between the two because the boats did not seem concerned about dragging anchor. Pretty gutsy, actually, although once you get past the shock value it does not look like a comfortable anchorage even if it is a safe one. I like monohulls even if catamarans are faster. The America's Cup contest has catamarans with hydrofoils that can go over 40 knots, about 45 MPH. We have seen beaucoup catamarans this trip and they do one thing that I somewhat envy. They have no keels, the second hull acting as the counterforce to the wind in the sail. Where we draw about 5-ft. they may draw only 3-ft. They can get crazy close to the shoreline and anchor in very shallow depths.

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We did some back and forth runs on a five-mile leg to try our boat handling while coming about, reversing course. Total FUBAR disaster, but we did get out to open water, ocean swells, and unattenuated wind. Very nice. Having tired of that, we decided to sail around Flanagan Island. If islands could sing, this one would do Simon & Garfunkel's I am a Rock, I am an Island, it being both: a tiny island or a large rock. This loop took us into the USVI for the first time. Fortunately, there were no sailing police and we returned to BVI waters fairly quickly. and then proceeded to Soper's Hole.

For the first time on the boat Carol deigned to eat out. This is quite out of character for her, she being a foodie and all. So to capture the memory I took my very first selfie. Maybe it should be called an usie since there are two people in it. I am not current on all the cell phone cultural issues. Anyway, two old people having dinner at Pusser's.

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These are what we see to starboard and to port. Bright and colorful, kind of how we might imagine a tropical Caribbean place to be. For some reason, this place has more active commercial activity than any other that we have visited save for Roadtown. Two things of note: (1) we scored 40-lb. of ice; (2) it's cloudy, no sunset picture today.

Posted by sailziveli 22:38 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged islands sailing british boating virgin bvi Comments (0)

Cane Garden Bay

N18 25.623 W64 39.625

semi-overcast 78 °F

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The wind direction here has been very constant: E, ESE or SE. When moored the boat's bow will ride into the wind meaning that the stern is facing: W, WNW or NW. Over the stern, every night, there is a sunset, some spectacular, others have a more muted beauty, as was this one at Peter Island. I like them all. This, and all the others, will fill my two computer screens and help to recall wonderful times for years and years.

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Well, Cane Garden Bay was the Nordic Princess's destination of choice, so here we are. The destination had less to do with the allure of exotic places; it was more about where to off load trash and where to buy ice. We have two coolers on board and buy ice in 3 or 4 bag increments of 10-lbs. each. They last at best 72-hours, more ice lost to melting than our consumption. I cannot believe, or do not want to believe, that Beneteau eliminated freezers. I am dead certain that I will never purchase another Beneteau sailboat.

The trip here ran some gamut to another. The wind forecast was for 10-15 knots all day, just like yesterday's and just like tomorrow's. Except, when we got underway, at about 0730, the apparent wind speed was 0.0 knots. We got to open water and hoisted the mainsail, it rising with little problem because there was no wind. We motored for a few minutes and there were no whitecaps, there were not even a little bits of frothy bubbles. Eventually we cleared Peter Island and there was a hint of a breeze. I am on a sailboat and I am going to sail. We put the foresail out at the 2nd reef point; there was not enough wind to fill the full sail. Even with shortened sail, it collapsed sometimes before slowly filling again. For a while it was 2.something knots, then 3.something knots. We were sailing through the narrows, again, the same route we had taken to Jost Van Dyke.

Carol thinks that she needs more than the 16% oxygen on which the rest of the world thrives. Fans and breezes. So, I try opening the "glass" panel in the dodger, more air, you see, more oxygen. As I should have expected, all the clips were broken, there was no way to roll it up and keep it open. Rather than go around the dodger, I tried to jump forward to the the companion way stairs, something I have done many times on our boat. Except this wasn't our boat. I fell about 7-feet, bounced off a couple of the stairs and landed on the cabin's floor. I should have broken something, maybe several somethings including my neck, but I did not. I know I will be sore tomorrow because I am already sore today.

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We live in the mountains of western North Carolina. Many of the roads are steep, many of the driveways to homes are steeper yet. I was watching this scene at the very western edge of Tortola, which does have not the highest terrain. It struck me that people getting to these homes and to other areas of the island probably have tougher climbs than we do at home. Some of these roads are seriously steep and have severe switchbacks.

As we headed to the end of the narrows, we had achieved the remarkable speed of 4.something knots. We went around the headland and set a course for Cane Garden Bay, maybe 4 or 5 nm. We had hit a heavy rain storm leaving Jost Van Dyke for Anegada. Today we were in almost the identical place at the identical time. And the rains came, and they came hard. It was interesting in a way, as long as you were not piloting a sailboat. The wall of rain was like a gray shroud being tightened around us. Visibility shrank, islands disappeared, our world became very small. This could have been worrying, but I knew that the course laid in would avoid any trouble for at least an hour. And when the rains came they brought with them the wind, a lot of wind. The sails were set properly, the boat surged and heeled over, and we flew.

Ten minutes of hard rain, ten minutes of light rain, then no rain at all. The trip on the north side of Tortola was easy and quick. I had not given entrance to this bay much thought until we had the sails down and were motoring our way there. Turns out that this bay has a reef on each side and the two form the outer edge of the harbor. For me finding buoys comes in three stages. 1 - locate them on the horizon. 2- identify a red or green buoy, always Carol's job given my poor color perception. 3- From a distance the scene is in two dimensions, it's difficult to distinguish which are in the foreground and which are farther away. You have to get fairly close to get three dimensional perception.

It always works out. We cleared the channel, found a mooring ball and settled in. We arrived about noon and there were several other boats in the harbor. By the time were were secured, most had left. My guess is that they had better wind forecasts than we did.

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This is a picaresque place, colorful buildings, a bright, white sandy beach, elegant houses clinging to the steep hillsides that form the bay. The first order of business was: two huge garbage bags off the boat; 4 10-lb. bags of ice onto the boat. I asked Carol, again, if she saw any restaurant that interested her for dinner tonight. She demurred again, too much fried food.

Posted by sailziveli 19:03 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged islands sailing british boating virgin bvi Comments (0)

Anegada

N18 43.350 W64 23.184

Getting to Anegada

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We were underway early this morning, as is our wont. By 0730 we had cleared Great Harbor and we in our usual mainsail muddle. Got it up on the 3d try, which now seems about average for us. I am sure that I do not need a cardio stress test. If raising the sails did not kill me, then nothing will.

The weather forecast was for showers until noon, then partly cloudy in the afternoon. They got that one exactly right. We had a heavy shower sweep over us and, as it passed, we saw this rainbow in its wake. Carol thought it quite unusual that it lasted as long as it , did.

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It took us about an hour to clear the island congestion. When we finally did we had a straight 23nm blue water run to Anegada. But we keep going up against the wind thing. This was an easterly run into a wind from the E to ESE. Having grown tired of tacking, we only did one this morning, I decided to just sail as close to the wind as possible and work out the details later. So, we did. This was a simple, one point of sail run for 23nm. And, mostly, the only action was to adjust the autopilot a point or to as the wind veered in small increments. Cruisers do not obsess over sail trim, however it cannot be completely ignored. Today, with little else to do, I started working on better, not perfect, sail trim by using the telltales on the jib. This jib has three sets: 3 telltales near the sail's foot; 2 in mid-sail; and one near the head of the sail. The object is to get then all streaming horizontally. As a practical matter, only the bottom ones are useful; to get the higher ones streaming, you need to use the leech line, built into the sail. This involves going onto the deck under full sail, reaching out, across the lifelines to grab a small piece of string, and then messing with it. I maybe tried it once, just after we bought the boat; haven't tried it since. Even though only the bottom telltales were streaming it made an obvious change in the boat's speed. Worth it.

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We ended up about 4nm from the waypoint, not a surprise, and motored to the channel entrance. I remember the captain, Dave, all those years ago saying that this was a tricky bit. I have a Maptec chart kit for the Virgin Islands and I am assiduous about their waypoints. They were not good enough today. A cruising guide had some waypoints for closer in including one for the dead center of the first two channel markers. This was good. The same cruising guide gave guidance and one point was: if the water is less than 20-ft. you are in the wrong place. Clear and concise. Except that I am dead center of the channel showing 8-ft. then 6-ft. but I am not in the wrong place, I'm clearly in the channel. Eventually, we clear the channel and head for the mooring field which the cruising guide says is fairly shallow. I have some sea miles on my resume, but I have never been in water that had a negative depth. It's a little hard to see but we are anchored in -1.4 feet of water. This boat has a depth sounder and cannot tell the water's depth.

The depth is way out of whack, but I can fix this I thought, because it was a frequent check on our Raymarine system. How to measure the depth? There is no spare line on the boat but there is an anchor line for the dinghy, with an anchor. So, drop the anchor over the side and mark the depth with a clothespin. I have an 8-in. ruler for plotting on maps, the only measurement device on board. 9.5 units of 8-inches comes to about 6.5 feet. Now all I have to do is find the way to manually change the depth, which our Raymarine could. An hour with menus no luck. So, I drag out the B&G manuals. This is true because I have them at hand. There are Quick Start Guides in Deutch, Italiano, Nederlands, Norsk, Suomi, Svenska and Chinese. In fairness, Chinese kanji characters are usually readable by the Japanese, so I'll give them credit for eight languages, none of which are English, the native language of the British Virgin Islands, and, by the way, almost all of the Moorings customers in the BVI.

There are many obvious and not so obvious problems that can arise from not knowing the accurate depth of the water. In the event of an accident of anything, any of those problems would be caused by negligence, a failure to act as would be expected by a normal person. It will be impossible to recommend that anyone ever charter from the Moorings. They will send customers out on any boat regardless of its condition.

Setting all other concerns aside, it was a good day that ended with this sunset, which if not a 10 was at least a contender. The low row of trees are Australian Pines, which are not pine trees at all. They seem well suited to beach areas and are able to withstand many hurricanes. This put me in mind of Garrison Bight, the mooring field in Key West, FL. Carol and I saw many wonderful sunsets over a fringe of these trees.

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Being on Anegada

Anegada is the stepchild of the Virgin Islands including British, United States and the Spanish. which are part of Puerto Rico. All those several islands have height above sea level. Some are over 1,000-ft. high; those that aren't approach it. The highest part of Anegada is 28-ft. above sea level which is why the name translates as drowned or inundated: an average storm surge during a hurricane would put most of the island underwater. It must be uninhabitable during almost any hurricane. The whole place belongs in the Bahamas or the Florida Keys. There are no rocks as seen on the other Virgin Islands. It is an anomaly.

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The first picture, the island's VFD fire and rescue vehicle, is for our dear friend Stan. Carol and I wanted to explore the island and had thought to rent a motor scooter. Given Carol's aversion to the sun, we settled on the orange thing, sort of a golf cart with a transmission dressed up to be a jeep-looking dune buggy. It did shade her.

Off we went with absolutely no idea of the geography except for a small pretend road guide to drinking places. We must have driven over every mile of paved road, and many additional miles of sandy roads. Almost every mile of paved roads here are concrete, very little asphalt. Best guess: concrete roads can withstand hurricanes. Strange thing, to me anyway: they drive on the left hand side, very British. The speed limit signs are in MPH not KPH. These were the first speed limit signs we have seen. On the other islands they just put a speed bump every 100 meters. It does the job.

The sense of what we saw was this: the interior of the island is covered with tenacious and tangled vegetation, that is impenetrable in many places except by bulldozer. There is nothing of beauty or grace to be found in the interior. But the beaches and the water and the reefs will make you think of Polynesian islands. It is stunning. The pictures will tell some of the story better than I ever could..

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This is the transition from beautiful beach to unbeautiful interior.

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We drove down a sand road with no idea or end in mind. It was just there. What a fortuitous choice. At the end of the road, maybe 100-ft. from the water was Ann's. It was a Sunday, not much happening. I took several of the previous pictures there. I joined Carol in the shade of the bar and decided to have my first Caribbean beer called, what else: Carib. I don't know if it was great beer, but it was cold beer. And on that day, at that time any cold beer was good beer.

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Going down another sandy road we came to Keel Point. There was an abandoned resort there that could have been in the South Seas. The guest rooms were all thatched huts. The beach there was the one with the blue beach chairs, above. I thought that the yellow rowboat was worth a picture.

We were gone about five hours, leaving around 9am and back by 2pm. Bought some ice and drove the dinghy back to the mother ship. My dinghy skills are not very good. I think that I can handle a 42-ft. sailboat better than a 12-ft. inflatable.

Today seemed hotter than most other days. Carol has struggled with that and has had a difficult time this whole trip. We are both tired and she looks like a train wreck survivor, bruised and battered. I suppose that I have pushed a bit, that's what I do. So, tomorrow we are off, and tonight I have no idea where we are off to. But, given that we are at the eastern edge of the island chain, I am sure that we will have a tack free trip.

Posted by sailziveli 21:15 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged islands sailing british boating virgin bvi Comments (0)

Jost Van Dyke

N18 26.509 W64 45.086

sunny 80 °F

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This has to be trophy home heaven. This picture is Mosquito Island, which forms the NW barrier of Gorda Sound. Every home on the island, and there may be a dozen, possible more, has to have cost millions since each yard of cement had to get to the island by vessel. We saw a lot of these in the Bahamas, which are much more accessible from the USA. Regardless, I think that these islands must have 10 times the number of homes. Saw even more on one side of St. John in the USVI as we sailed past. Very few are near the water's edge, which eliminates hurricane storm surge.

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This morning we woke a little later than usual, that means about 0630. I ran through my checklist; this boat has lots of boat stuff, some new to me. That didn't take too long and by 0700 we were ready to get underway, except no one was around to help with the lines. No hay problema. The wind was helping, pushing us away from the seawall. The boat got crooked the wrong way, fixed that and we were off for Jost Van Dyke.

First thing, after clearing the harbor into open water, deal with mooring lines and fenders. On the 38-ft. boat there was room for that in the lazarette. Bigger boat, the lazarettes are completely full, so less room. The oxymoron of bigger boat, less space, continues. So, Carol and I are on the deck, the boat on autopilot, while we tied everything on the handholds just after the mast. Nothing new to this, it's what we did on our boat. However, in these parts that makes us look like low renters but who cares.

This boat has the same B&G navigation system as the 38-ft. boat. So, no learning curve should have been necessary, except that one was. The same system, displayed the data boxes differently, with no waypoint information. I must have spent 30-minutes trying to find a way to rearrange the data boxes. No luck although I knew it could be done. There is an obscure gauge on the port side, one of which I knew nothing, not even why it is there. Started scrolling though those menus and, voilá, there it was: the perfect display of all waypoint data: direction, distance and time.

All of this stuff must have taken an hour. Now we were ready for a new and improved mainsail adventure. Our mast was 51-ft. so this one must be at least 60-ft. Could be more. My guess is that the sail is at least 45-ft. top to bottom. It can take a while to raise this sail a few inches at a time. On competitive racing boats, think America's Cup, they have guys called grinders, whose sole job is to work the winches. They all look like linebackers, something to which I have never been compared. Eventually, we got it to-block. Carol, for the first time recently, actually held the boat in irons which made the whole thing easier.

We passed through a bit of the Sir Francis Drake Channel, and headed for the off ramp: the Narrows. Not overly narrow, to me anyway. The wind was right over the stern, but was bouncing a little from side to side which made it impossible to set the foresail. It would luff to one side and then luff to the other. Having proven that we can sail with just the foresail, today took in the foresail and we proved that we could sail with just the mainsail and do it equally well. Maybe the final exam is to use both sails. Might be too hard for us.

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We made surprisingly good time through the Narrows, passing small BVI islands to starboard and USVI islands to port. This is Whistling Cay, forming part of Francis Bay, a very sheltered anchorage in the USVI, which may have had 20 boats in it as we passed by. At the end of the Narrows we made a northerly turn. It was dramatic. With the wind over the stern, the boat cruised like a luxury car on the interstate... smooth and quiet. When we came around to the new point of sail, a close haul, again, it was like my 4-wheel drove truck going up our driveway ... loud and bouncy. And the thing is that the speeds over ground on both points of sail were about the same.

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Today, the wind was more like what we have experienced. 10-15 knots with gusts, down from 15-20 knots with gusts. Back in the day, if the winds were too high we would hunker down and wait for a better day. In that respect it was an easier day for us. Sailing is work; the higher the wind speed, the more the work to do it.

We were moored on the second pass at a mooring ball, about noon. By 1300 we had Carol ashore, at the clinic to have her stitches removed. No infections so she should be good. Asked if she wanted to celebrate with dinner on shore. She demurred, too tired. Anyway, this is her new stitchless look. Closed mouth, of course, a tooth is broken. Strange picture, she actually does have clothes on. This evening I almost blew it. Getting ready to dive into the water and remembered that my hearing aids were in. I really cannot form a picture of Great Harbour from those years ago. Kind of fuzzy. However, I do remember that we ate at Foxy's because I had a t-shirt with Foxy's on it. There is still a Foxy's, a venerable place by now, although the real Foxy may be different than the one in the early 90's.

This place holds little allure other than noisy people at a bar serving not very good beer. I think tomorrow we will head to Anegada, a longish trip of about 25nm.

Posted by sailziveli 21:57 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged islands sailing british boating virgin bvi Comments (0)

Trip Interlude, part 2

N18 25.50 W64 36.80

sunny 83 °F

Honestly, I am too tired to make this stuff up. Having agreed with the base manager that the Niou Dem II was not a serviceable vessel, we headed back to Roadtown to get a different boat. Simple enough. But I want to sail, so we exit Gorda Sound, move away from islands and reefs to find a clear path to try to go into irons and to raise the sails. It is blowing 15-20 knots, good for sailing if only we could get the mainsail up. And we cannot despite attempt after attempt, for 30 minutes we try. The acme of our success was to get the errant batten tangled with both sets of jack lines.

No mainsail, no problem. We will motor sail using the engine and the foresail. We know how to do this and can do it well. It can be a pretty quick way to cover ground. We are maybe 5 nm from the harbor and the engine alarm goes off: overheating. Shut down the engine and take a look at the engine compartment. There is an obvious problem with the water pump. It is leaking sea water into the compartment. Now we are down to a foresail and getting pushed towards Beef Island. So, Carol calls and gets some Moorings’ guys to come out. They quickly agree that the engine is not going to be used. So, with one sail, and the benefit of a wind coming over the stern I sail about 4 of the last 5 miles and do it pretty well, making maybe 4 knots. At the end, they tie on to the boat and get us to the dock.

Everyone is nice and genuinely apologetic. But I get the sense that they think that we should have carried on, somehow, with the main sail problem. Uncharacteristically, I hold my tongue, but I am thinking why should I adapt when I am paying mucho dinero. The boat should work so I do not have to adapt. So, they are giving us a 42-ft boat in lieu of the 38-ft. boat. Should be great, right? It is the sardine can thing again. This boat has 3 cabins, each of which is smaller than either of the two cabins on the 38-ft. boat. But it was a nice gesture and not one that could be gracefully declined. But it does have a nav station.

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We spent most of the day moving stuff from one boat to the other. My stuff was fairly easy. Carol and groceries, not so much. It was hot and we were soaked. And, just when you think you are close to done, I looked up at the mast and noticed that there was no windex, the most basic instrument for sailing. They added one.

The boat’s name is Contango, and I knew that the owner was probably a commodities trader. A contango is a situation where the futures price of a commodity is higher than the spot price.

We are both tired and told one and all that we would not be leaving until tomorrow and will not be able to do that without some help. We are hard against a sea wall with little room to maneuver the boat. We also negotiated another day since this one went down the rat hole.

I do not have much of a plan yet, other than that Jost Van Dyke, where Carol can get her stitches removed, and Anegada will be our next two stops. After that, jump ball.

Posted by sailziveli 21:28 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged islands sailing british boating virgin bvi Comments (0)

Trip Interlude

sunny 80 °F

One of the nice things about being on a charter vessel, versus your own vessel, is that there is no maintenance to be done. Owners have, or should have, intimate knowledge about their boats. Any day that is a layover always has a to-do list of consequence. So today was a layover day on a charter vessel and I am doing maintenance. The mainsail has been gnarly to lower, so we bought some silicon dry lubricant and I lubed each car and guide on the sail. At least an 80% improvement; not perfect, but workable. I spotted one other issue that seems to affect lowering the sail but I am not going to pursue it. While we were futzing with the sail, I figured out why we were having such problems raising it. One of the battens came loose somehow and sticks out about 3-inches past the edge of the sail. Of course it gets caught in the jack lines. This sail needs to be repaired.

We have been communicating with the Moorings folks on Tortola. Long story short, we will return to Tortola tomorrow and swap boats. The leaky water tank and the mainsail are not problems which can be resolved quickly or away from the dock. The good news is that we will be heading in a westerly direction with a wind from the east. My next prediction is, at last, a day without a single tack.

We will continue the blog when we are underway again.

Posted by sailziveli 15:13 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged islands sailing british boating virgin bvi Comments (0)

Virgin Gorda, Gorda Sound

N18 29.938 W64 23.426

semi-overcast 79 °F

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An addition to the previous entry. We saw this boulder on the path leading to the beach at the Baths. In a Rorschach test I think that most people would see a skull; at least I did. I could just imagine a Voo-Doo queen, or even a mere princess, dancing with abandon to the beat of Carlos Santana's Black Magic Woman, or the Hollies' Witchy Woman.

From the 29th of April, the day we arrived in the BVI, to the 9th of May the weather was perfect, courtesy of the Truman Show. Clear skies with puffy cumulus clouds, the sun was always shining and it was good. Now we are in for some cloudy days. This is obviously good for Carol, the sun is not her friend. It will also be good for me. I have been wearing shorts and t-shirts; we're in the islands, on a boat so what else would I wear? In just three days I have crispy-crittered my forearms and shins. They are sore, one ankle seriously swollen. So, some cloudy days will be a relief. Although the cloud cover has changed, the wind has not. Every day the forecast is the same: 15 - 20 knots from the E to ESE, and gusts much higher. When I check the apps on my phone it looks like every day was copied and pasted from the previous day; they are identical. I wish we had gotten here sooner. It's like going to sailing heaven without the dying part, which never sounded like much fun.

I distinctly remember being at Virgin Gorda those many years ago. I had thought that we were in Spanish Town and taxied to the north side of the island. Now, I am not so sure. We probably were in Gorda Sound. Doesn't much matter because on this trip we will have done both.

Today was a true boating day, a trip down memory lane, bringing back all the joys and all the frustrations, in just four hours. The water gauge indicated that we had consumed about a quarter of the 80-gallons in the water tanks. That seemed like a lot, but maybe our water usage is not quite as strict as when we were cruising. Fair enough. Before leaving it seemed like a good idea to top off the tanks, not knowing when the next opportunity to di that might be. It took a lot longer than I thought it should, since this boat is, more or less, our former boat. Off we go. Same old story raising the mainsail, but worse today. Regardless we got the sails up and headed east, more major tacking. We are getting worse, not better. At one point on a tack, we were down to 0.5 knots after the turn, maybe a new age group record for 65 and above.

Then Carol tells me that the cabin is flooded and that the deck plates (the cabin floor) are awash. Well, that is pretty seriously not good; I could probably find the problem; we had it happen twice while on our boat; once in Miami and again in the Bahamas. But that is not my job now. But not to worry. There is a bilge pump that will solve the flooding problem. Except that the bilge pump is not working. OK, fine! We’ll deal with that later.

Theoretically, a tack should change the course by 90o. In practice 100o to 110o is usually the outcome. Today, I was trying to tack to waypoints, with the boat getting kind of close to the location at the end of the run. Never even came particularly close even using 120o. We were getting pushed sideways in some considerable relation to our forward progress. On the day’s last tack, I came within a 1/2 mile of our last waypoint, and thought that I had done quite well. We watched a catamaran and a monohull that had given up, choosing to motor through the wind. In the end we did the same, although much later than they, opting to motor through the passage to Gorda Sound and from there to a mooring ball. Even Stan and Ollie can moor a boat after enough attempts, so we did.

Meanwhile, the bilge pump had not started working while we were sailing. Gallons of water of water were sloshing from side to side as the boat rode into the variable wind. Waiting did not seem like an option, so Carol and I bailed for a half hour, or more, and got the water level down to a reasonable level. Called the Moorings in Tortola and after a while got to speak with someone in charge of something. Under duress, he agreed to send a boat out tomorrow to take a pass at the bilge pump and the water leak. With the mainsail on our minds, we also asked him to bring some dry lubricant. Then, in the way of these things, the bilge pump started pumping at warp speed, quickly draining the residual water. So, three problems became two problems and two is smaller than three. Boating progress.

The Virgin Island chain is not very wide from east to west. Norman Island is the western most edge except for a narrow peninsula on Tortola. We have now, in two days gone across the entire chain into the wind, tacking more times in the past 10 – 12 sailing hours than in most months when we were cruising.

We were moored, we had help on the way, and the sun came out. To make it even better, the Moorings guys cane by this evening rather than tomorrow. The problem is a crack on the top of the forward water tank, not easily repairable. But I can work around this now that I know the issue. Should not have to, but I will if pressed.

Haec vita in navi.

Posted by sailziveli 22:42 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged islands sailing british boating virgin bvi Comments (0)

Virgin Gorda, Spanish Town

N1826.977 W64 26.199

semi-overcast 80 °F

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The evening before we left, I took the dinghy out for a bit of a ride. I had tested it before we got underway and it started OK, but I wanted to give it a workout. It ran very rough, needs work, but it ran. There is a restaurant at the head of the Bight that had done some landscaping which I liked. From this picture you might expect to find Paul Gaugin sitting at his easel.

Had my first cruiser's shower at Norman Is. Down went the swim platform and into the water I jumped. This was deeper water, maybe 70-feet, than at the beach, so much cooler, but not bad. We brought along one of those camp showers, a plastic pouch with a hose and nozzle, and had set it out in the sun to warm the water. It was hot shower hot, almost too hot, but it felt good. Then the hard part: lifting the swim platform back into the closed position. That thing must weigh close to 200-lbs. or more. It got back up but my thought was that the lifting line was not properly rigged.

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We saw this sunset over St. Thomas in the USVI. Not spectacular, but nice. Scientists tell us that the earth is 4.5 billion years old. If true, then the earth has made 1.6 trillion rotations of 24 hours. Homo Sapiens has only been around about 200,000 years and for most of those years the setting sun meant only darkness, danger and, possibly, death. Beasties walked at night. Sometime in all those years there was a first person, he, or she, that looked at the setting sun and saw something for which a word probably did not then exist: beauty. That person was humankind’s first poet. I have not the words to be a poet, but I love sunsets, more than sunrises, though I could not say why. I have seen so many wonderful sunsets sitting in the cockpit of our boat. I look forward to a few more on this trip.

Our next stop was going to be Virgin Gorda. There is a clinic there where Carol can have her stitches removed. I did not want her to have to worry about the dinghy ride which could be very rough. So, we opted to stay in a marina for a night or two. We never got much of a sense of this place those decades ago, and there are supposed to be some interesting things to try to see.

We got underway at about 0700 and had the sails up by 0730. Only one snag of batten to jack line, easily fixed, much better than yesterday. I used the autopilot and we two did fine. The functional course from Norman Is. to Virgin Gorda probably runs about 85o and we would be heading almost due east; the wind was coming straight on from 90o, directly from the east. My prediction was a long slog with a lot of tacking, not a Jeopardy question I wanted to get right. The route was not much more than 15nm. We must have traveled at least 25nm, probably more, to get to the harbor. Along the way we mastered the 5-minute tack, not a competitive advantage except when compared to the 10-minute tack which we perfected in the afternoon.

In truth it was a hard day. I do not recall ever having sailed in such winds, consistently running 15-20 knots with gusts much higher. We ran close hauled the entire way. This is a fun point of sail, the boat flies, spray breaks across the bow, the downwind rail is close to the water. It is also a tough point of sail to control, demanding exacting helm control. Auto pilot was not an option; the wind direction was bouncing around. At one point today we were well heeled over to port; a gust came along and knocked us further over and came quite close to putting me over the side. Seemed like a freak thing until it happened again a few minutes later. For only the second time I put on a safety harness and tether while at the helm in daytime; it was mandatory for ant nighttime passages The boat had to be manhandled every foot of the way. It was hard work, and I am tired.

Carol got her first turn at the helm today. In the first few minutes she must have turned 6 or 8 doughnuts, not a maneuver recognized by the U.S. Sailing Assn. Eventually she got the hang of it.

I may have learned something new today. Our first leg was a starboard tack, the wind coming from the starboard side. I was on the port helm, not much reason for that other than that is where the chart plotter is. We were moving along quite nicely until the next tack, to the port side. I was still on the port helm and for some reason the boat and I were badly out of sync, sailing poorly. Not having any better idea, I moved over to the starboard helm. Huge difference, everything was working again, and we were sailing along nicely. I am prepared to believe that this was the placebo effect, and it may have been. However, I kept the rotation from side to side all day and handled the boat well.

Sailing today had an interesting aspect to it. We were never able to know where we were. We could see a position on the chart plotter screen but could not place that position in context. Out here with no local knowledge all these islands look alike from the water: green/brown blobs, nameless and shapeless to our untrained eyes. It wasn't until well after noon that I was able to know with assurance where Spanish Town was on Virgin Gorda.

The first time we recovered the mainsail I just opened the clutch and let it drop, as I have done in the past. Today I tried a slower lowering, maybe a little better than yesterday, but not by much. I still had to go out onto the deck to get the sail down and stowed. Were this my boat, I would have had a can of Sailcoat which I would have applied liberally the guides and the mast. I think that there is a fundamental difference in chartering from the Mooring. The other boats we chartered were all privately owned and used by their owners. The owners would notice issues and have them repaired. Here, a charter captain might mention something to the folks at the docks but there is no pressure to fix things. This boat is not a mistake, but it does not seem well maintained. In that vein, there must be a battery issue; the screen read 12.0v this morning, a silly low number if it is accurate. On balance, I have to say a good thing about the Moorings: they have great towels, big and thick, and they feel good.

We had our nightly G&T's in the cockpit after supper as dark, low thick clouds rolled in beneath higher dark, thick clouds. These were definitely weather clouds, the first we have seen since our arrival. Sure enough, about 1900 the rain started, a serious rain not a passing shower.

I have been consuming huge amounts of fluids, mostly Gatorade, some iced tea. It has been warm but not hot. The perspiration must be insensate, the wind drying it before awareness, because I have always been thirsty so far on this trip.

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This the vegetation that covers all these islands. It is not much to look at. Scraggly is a kind word to describe it. These trees and shrubs have to be the cockroaches of the plant kingdom. There is no topsoil in which to grow, they survive hurricanes and get by on little water.

We're only a couple of days into the trip, maybe too early to say, but it looks like our preparation was good. We have not had any obvious oooops moments. One question I did not research was a freezer on the boat. Of course a 38-ft. boat has a freezer just like our did. So we have adapted with an igloo ice chest. Ice lasts about four days and a freezer would not have held the three bags of ice we are carrying. So, probably a neutral trade off.

When Carol called this marina to make a reservation, she got a message, more or less saying that the call could not be completed due to non payment of the phone bill. They were doing email so everything worked out. As we approached the marina I saw a lot of masts, probably 50 or so, and thought that it must be a big deal. Turns out that all those masts were in two boatyards, all of them out of the water, perhaps in anticipation of the hurricane season. They may not be paying the phone bill but they must be paying the electric bill; we are on shore power.

We got up this morning, after last night's rain, to a surprise. This was the first day that the sun was not visible due to the clouds. It looks like the weather is blowing by.

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There is a National Park on the island that we never got to see: the Baths, so named for all the boulders on the beach that make small pools, ergo Baths. I had thought that we could walk there; the chart had the distance of about 1.5 miles. A good thing we didn't try; the actual route was much longer and we would not have found it anyway. The place is a literal jumble of boulders. I thought that our mountain home had rocks, and it does. But this place is so much more boulder-ous. It was clear that many of these gigantic rocks were granite, an igneous rock. But the entire chain of islands that goes from the tip of Puerto Rico to the coast of South America lie on a fault line. There are Caribbean volcanoes so, of course, there is igneous rock.

Carol went to the clinic this morning to have her stitches removed. They took some out and left others in; told her to come back in 4-5 days and the rest may be ready to come out. Tomorrow were are off again, to the north side of the island and Gorda Sound.

Posted by sailziveli 18:59 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged islands sailing british boating virgin bvi Comments (0)

Norman Island, continued

N18 19.048 W64 37.175

sunny

Carol was tired and asked that we lay over for a day at Norman Island, so we did. There is nothing compelling about this location. However, the mooring balls are secure, the Verizon cell coverage seems to be intermittent but generally workable. The predicted weather never arrived, although it was very breezy, 15-17 knots, so the boat moved a lot during the night. We were both tired and Carol was gone by 2000; I was tired, but not sleepy so did not sleep as well.

There are not many things on a boat more important than power management. During the walk through, Dale, the person showing me about the boat, said that we should leave the engine battery in the on position, making it part of the house circuit; do not touch the battery control panel. This goes against every boating manual ever written. He also recommended running the engine for an hour in the morning and two hours at night to charge the batteries. This has all seemed strange to me. The writeup for this boat said that it had more than 600 Ah, more than the 585 Ah on our boat. So, I have been paying close attention to the battery readout on the control panel. It did get extremely low overnight, down to 12.3v which, in my experience, is too low. So, as advised, I ran the engine. There are two solar panels on this boat, built in, not added on. It is early days yet, but they seem to be maintaining the power at an acceptable level. I am going with what I know: the start battery switch is in the off position when the engine is off.

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There are things to love about this boat, and things to dislike. We are staying in the front cabin and it is delightful. I still do not get the two helms thing, but who cares. Beneteau makes a fat boat, broad across the beam. That extra width makes the boat comfortable. Most boats I have seen back in the day, a pronounced taper from the widest part of the beam to the stern. This boat, and the modern Beneteaus, taper very little, maybe only a foot or two. I do not know the reason for this. It does create much more space on the boat; it might be to accommodate the two helms. There is one feature that is entirely new to me. The entire transom folds down to make a swim platform. Just incredibly cool. My first thought was that they had created another fail point, of which all boats have too many, simply because they are boats. But there are no mechanics involved other than hinges. A total plus.

On the other hand, people want a boat, so they contract with the Moorings to purchase one and put it out for charter. The Moorings specifies interior boat design to cram people in like sardines for a week or so, not for functional cruising. Eventually, the boat is paid for and the owners want to use it. However, the boat they bought is ill designed for two people to cruise. The only explanation is that I can see is that the owners have never spent a lot of time on boats, so they do not understand all the tradeoffs.

The weather continues to be dead, solid perfect, maybe in the low 80’s during the day; down to the 70’s at night. The breeze is constant; out of the direct sunlight it is very comfortable.

These islands are quite different from the Bahamas. First, they are rocky, as in real granite and other stuff. These islands will endure, the sea will not take them away. The Bahamas are soft limestone and are eroding. Most of these islands seem to have some height, at least several hundred. The highest point in the Bahamas is about 260 feet. What is not different is the vegetation. It is all low, 15-20 feet tops and fairly dense, well able, it seems to me, to survive hurricanes.

Tomorrow, Sunday, we will be off to Virgin Gorda. There is a clinic there and Carol will get her stitches removed.

Posted by sailziveli 13:47 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged islands sailing british boating virgin bvi Comments (0)

Norman Island

N18 19.048 W64 37.175

sunny 79 °F

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Here we sit, in the Bight, at Norman Island, on a mooring ball, this to our port side. So, how did the first day go? In a pass/fail system we passed. Got from the marina to our selected location. Did not sink the boat. Did not damage any other boat. So, we passed. But using a more nuanced system, say a scale of 1 to 10, we were, at best, a 3; I had hoped for a 4 but the mooring ball killed that aspiration.

I am a dedicated user of waypoints; you cannot get in trouble using them; you can calculate time and distance; they are great for route planning. While Carol was doing her thing at the medical clinic, I figured out how to create and enter waypoints in this chart plotter system. This is the best system with which I have ever worked. It will do stuff that I do not even know needs doing. One other surprise: most screens, probably LCD, are unreadable with polarized sunglasses. This one is not a problem.

We looked pretty goofy once we got past the channel entrance. I was half steering and half trying to figure out how to use the waypoints that I had created. This took a while, but I mostly have it figured out now, mostly being the critical adverb.

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Having hit the second waypoint in the Sir Francis Drake Channel, we went for the gold ring: sails up. Here the descent from a 10 to a 3 started. To deploy sails the bow of the boat needs to be pointed directly, constantly into the wind. I had Carol do this, something which she has never done well in the past, and did even worse today, going 90o off course, on both sides. The problem created is intricate. This boat has a “lazy jack,” a series of lines that keep the sail vertical when recovering it. The sail has battens, somewhat flexible reinforcements every few feet of height. By allowing the boat to take wind from the side, rather than the bow, the battens got tangled with the lazy jack, snarling everything. Took a while to unsnarl things, had to put the boat on autopilot to stay in irons. We got past that and sailed OK for a while, on a broad reach down the channel. I mishandled the sails on a course change; got that corrected. Then it was time to take in the sails. I do not know what happened, but the main only came about halfway down the mast. I had to go onto the deck to manhandle it into position. We will have to try something different the next time but do not know what different may be. Sometime we passed Pelican Island, pictured above.

Then into the mooring field. We did not know whether these mooring balls would have pendants to put around a cleat; they do not. This was an ugly sequence and, relying on the kindness of strangers, we got secured to the mooring ball only after a nice man came over in his dinghy to help us. In fairness, the wind was pretty strong which added difficulty, but not an excuse.

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So, here we sit, like this bird, humbled, tired, and having an absolute assurance that there is an infinite amount of room for improvement. With a third person on board, we could have gone for the Three Stooges; lacking that we will have to settle for Stan and Ollie.

What a name! Norman does not rise any imagery of pirates, adventure, or other exotica. There was no particular reason to have chosen this location other than it was reasonably close, less than 10 nm. We are in a bay called the Bight, which is well protected. From what we have seen, the island has no human activity except for a couple of bars/restaurants at the head of this bay. There is a floating bar on our starboard side, a metal hulled vessel seemingly permanently anchored there. The cruising guide said that parties there can get loud and raucous. There are not a dozen boats in the Bight; does not seem like party time will happen today, even if the bar is open.

I had to do a little catch up one my phone. I should have loaded an app called Sailflow, before we left, although I did check the weather. The man who helped us said that there was some weather coming through tonight. He may be right, but the forecasts do not predict any.

We will sleep well tonight; we are both tired, possibly a little dehydrated from the wind and sun. We will have to watch that. This evening will be easy: dinner, a G&T, and then we both probably collapse into bed.

Posted by sailziveli 22:44 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged islands sailing british boating virgin bvi Comments (0)

Sucia Island

semi-overcast 63 °F

Thursday and Friday, June 14 - 15, 2018

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Carol remarked that it was unusual for us to be the fourth boat out, our days underway usually starting before zero dark thirty. We didn’t leave the dock until 0915, leisurely, time for reading the WSJ, unhurried disconnecting power lines, dock lines, unhurried everything. A nice morning. We had chosen as our next destination Sucia Island, rated as one of the two best places for cruisers to visit mainly because there are so many good coves and bays in which to anchor. Actually it's sort of a colony of islands, each having a separate name.

There is a navigational aid for this area of water that I have never seen or even heard of before. It is a chart kit, about 90 different charts, one of which plots the current flow for every hour of every day of the year; that is 61,320 hours per year. This matters because these islands are at the southern end and very close to the open waters of the Pacific. Huge, strong tidal flows constricted by all these islands.

The point of all this is that despite having used the book several times so for, I completely ignored it this particular morning. And it didn’t really seem to matter very much until we cleared the harbor entrance and headed down the channel. The water was turbulent and roiling. Bow on to the current our speed kept dropping: 5 knots, 4 knots, 1 knot. The chart book had indicated that there would be a current of N>2.5 knots flowing against us. In fact it was almost certainly greater than 5.0 knots because at one point we were making 0.5 knots of headway, basically standing still. We were in the deepest part of the channel, more or less trying to go up a funnel against the flow. Bad plan.

After a while, having accomplished nothing, I decided to try a Gulf Stream tactic: get close(r) to shore in shallower water and the current will be less strong. We moved from over 600 feet deep to about 150. This worked OK; we got up to about 3 knots.

I’m standing there thinking about Sylla and Charybdis, purported to be in the Straits of Messina, through which I have been, and the boat does a spurt, 7 knots. It was pretty clear that this was a back current and, sure enough, we passed by a large eddy/whirlpool and I’m trying to remember what Odysseus did. As if I needed it, this was another demonstration about the power nature, weather, gravity when they influence water.
When we exited the lee of the island we were back to standing still. However, we now had wind. So, out go the sails, no problems again, and with the sails and the motor we were able to make decent progress. After about three hours the tide started to turn and things were better.

Currents notwithstanding, it was one of the nicest days we have had. Sunny, pretty warm, a little wind. A good day to be on a sailboat and we were.
We had about 12 - 15 nm to travel; it should have taken about two and a half hours, or so. Actual time was closer to five hours. But, there was a secure mooring ball at the end of the trip, pretty scenery. When we entered the mooring field that afternoon there were less than a dozen boats. By sunset that number were more twenty.

I got the dinghy going, first time, and tried to find the park ranger station to pay our fee. We didn’t have the secret decoder ring and I never found it. The park ranger lady came by later to get our money.

It looks like we’re in for a run of good weather for the few days that we have left. We decided to stay two nights here, Sucia Island, no special reasoning for that. It's just a pleasant and safe place to stay. By about noon, most of the boats that were here last night have moved on. But by dusk there will be a new flotilla arriving just because it's a pleasant and safe place to stay.

Since we have no boat maintenance to do, days like this are leisurely and lazy. The phones and Kindles are in constant use, batteries draining, connections being maintained. As we were struggling against the current yesterday, I got to thinking about how boating today is different from years ago. I don’t think that we, or many of the folks with whom we share and have shared these and other waters, could do so without GPS and chart plotters. The GPS satellites, built and launched for the military, have democratized boating among other activities. Some of my earliest, strongest and best memories involve the beach, ocean and boats. The ocean has always had a fascination for me and I have had the opportunity to pursue that just because we wanted to be better at making war. An ill wind that blew some good.

Posted by sailziveli 12:52 Archived in USA Tagged boats sailing boating sails sailboats Comments (0)

Back in the US of A

sunny 70 °F

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

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Some general blog housekeeping because it's important to Carol, since she took the pictures. The first picture is me, of course, with my guaranteed, boat proof, not tippable, non skiddable, tea mug. It really works and has never failed to stay upright even in the most trying conditions. On the water, I fortify my tea with a dollop of honey, for quick energy.

We expected cool weather and have not been disappointed in that. We brought a lot of polar fleece clothing that doesn't absorb water, so it retains body heat. Being a certifiable, undeniable cold cold weather weenie, surprisingly, I have been quite comfortable. The only exception has been my feet and hands when wet, which they have been a lot, since there is no protection from the rain. What's been surprising is how much the temperature drops when the sun goes behind a cloud.

Carol solved a problem today. There is a small general store at this marina specializing in t-shirts, sundry drinks and fishing tackle. Somewhere in there she found a boat hook. Go figure. She purchased the entire inventory: one each. Maybe we will moor when in the San Juans.

We have eaten out a bit and Carol has done some grocery shopping, all in Loonies, of course. It's disconcerting to see the prices in Canadian dollars; they seem so high. It takes a moment to think through the conversion process. One Canadian dollar is about $0.78 US, roughly a 4:3 ratio. Maybe not exactly a deal, but OK.

If I ever decide that I want to be a financial mogul, I am going to roll up and consolidate all the shower stalls at all the marinas in the Pacific Northwest. There is no such thing as a free shower out here; $2 for 2 minutes, a deal was $1 for 3 minutes. And the first minute is wasted waiting for the hot water to circulate to he shower head. US, Canada, it doesn't matter. Cleanliness may be next to Godliness, but only if you are willing to pay the price. Last night, at Montague Harbour the showers were not only not free, they were cold water only. So, Carol convinced me to do something that I only did a few times on our boat: take a shower using boat water in the head. This violates every genetic imperative of boating, water conservation being the prime directive. The only times I did that on our boat was when we were in the middle of a three or four day offshore transit and I needed something to revive me, knowing we were going into a port where we could get more water. We got water today, we'll get water tomorrow and it felt really good to get clean. This boat even has a plexiglass shower door that folds into three sections. Very fancy.

Quick update. Last night we did have a gin & tonic at the pub but it was a hurried affair. We arrived at 1550; the pub closed at 1600. Customs people get exercised about unopened bottles of spirits. These have various taxes imposed and they seem to fear resale without the government collecting its few dollars. Having an unopened bottle of scotch on board last night, I had to open it to get through customs. I had long known that good scotch goes well with good dark chocolate. I recently discovered that it also goes well with Vanilla Wafer cookies. Sounds like an oxymoron, but they go down well together.

We have mostly overcast weather with little sunshine during the day. Finally, in Montague Harbour there was something like a sunset.

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The trip to Roche Harbor was quiet, As we got closer to the US we could see this mountains to port; hard to tell if they are in The US or Canada. Probably doesn't matter too much; they are majestic regardless.

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As we passed Saturna Island, we could say that we had arrived home. If you look very closely you can see the dotted line that is the international border between the two countries.

There was one interesting thing along the way. As we were in Boundary Passage I saw a whale, too far away to photograph, and too quick anyway. It was probably an orca. I could see a large dark body surfacing and what looked like the dorsal fin, which is distinctive to those whales. It surfaced about three times and then was gone. We probably did better than all the all of the dozen, or so, whale watching boats that were scurrying about trying to find something to watch.

Clearing customs was very pro forma, maybe five minutes. We moored and we were done. Bad weather on Wednesday kept in port. Off tomorrow, we hope,

Posted by sailziveli 19:46 Archived in USA Tagged boats sailing boating sails sailboats Comments (0)

An Easy Day

sunny 68 °F

Monday, June 11, 2018

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Woke up early with plenty of time for a not so rushed morning. We did not have a stopping place in mind. There were several places we could stay, the farthest not but about 30 nm, maybe less. This lack of destination is quite uncharacteristic of us on a boat or any other time: Focus! Plan! Execute!

As we were working with lines to get going this Canadian Goose approached the boat. I think that it was actually begging, folks probably having given it food before. Regardless, the bird was not put off by humans or their activities.

The boat was moored in an awkward place; easy to get into, not a lot of easy options getting out. As mentioned previously, this boat has a sail drive propulsion system, something generally found on catamarans, not so often on mono-hulls. For some reason, which I don't understand, in reverse it backs up perfectly straight. Regular drives, as we had on our boat, pull to port or starboard depending on the direction the propeller turns. So, I decided to try something that I had heard could be done, but had never tried: I put the boat in reverse, walked around to the other side of the binnacle, steering from there. From that side the helm responded exactly as it does from the rear side going forward. This is kind of "inside boating" stuff but it was really cool, after years of looking like an idiot on our boat.

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We had a tricky passage about an hour into the day. To get to it we passed through the Northumberland Channel on our way to Dodd Narrows. In family terms, the city of Victoria is the beautiful daughter; Nanaimo is the less attractive one that works very hard, an overachiever. It is a commercial place. Along the channel we saw some of that commerce in action.

No surprise here, logs, lots of logs.

Next to that was this operation. It's a silly picture for a blog but what struck me is that the vessel being loaded is one that we saw going into Vancouver, one of many that was laying at anchor. From Vancouver to here is no more that a couple of hours for this type of vessel. I have no idea what the pile of brown-ish stuff is, but it must have some value, somewhere because a load was heading out soon, most likely to China by the boat's name and home port.

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At the end of the Northumberland Channel is a spot called Dodd Narrows which must be transited to go south inside the Gulf Islands. There is a lot of water on both side of this real estate and it must follow the passage of the moon, it being difficult to repeal the law of gravity. The upshot is that the current there, passing through the narrow place can generate very powerful currents, currents that exceed the ability of this boat's engine to manage, i.e. 7 -10 knots. The trick is to go through at slack water, the few minutes between rising and falling tides, which today was exactly 0900. We were there with plenty of time to spare, saw a sailboat coming through at about 0830 so decided we could do it too, which we did. Carol did the required sécurité, sécurité, sécurité to notify other boats that we were entering the Narrows. Actually, it was mostly a non-event. It was no more than a quarter mile long.

What we did get to see was this on the other side: a tug with a raft of logs in tow also heading for the Narrows. It was being helped by a smaller tug that was working on the sides and back of the raft to keep some shape to the bunch. Best guess is that the raft of logs was at least as wide as the Narrows. It's also a safe bet that these guys know how to make it all work. During the safety meeting at San Juan Sailing, a frequent hazard to navigation that they mentioned was floating logs. Now we know why.

That was pretty much the excitement for the day. Heading south and east this was what we saw after the Dodd Narrows. In many ways this could have been what we saw last year in Maine; the same piney woods, mostly low islands, with the tops of the trees not reaching 100-ft.

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What was different was the high rise of mountains in the interior of Victoria Island. As we got farther down the chain of islands there was some higher land, one peak measured at about 1,000-ft. The area was much built up, some smaller places, what you would expect for a rustic summer cabin; other places were almost mansions.

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We decided to go to Montague Harbour (no adjoining Capulet Harbour that we cold find) . This was Galiano Island, on our port side, as we approached the harbour entrance. We intended to get a mooring buoy but had lost the boat hook over the side during the Great Boom Vang Debacle of Sunday, June 3d. There are work-arounds but we decided to moor at a a dock, unashamedly the path of least resistance. There are some walking trails which interest Carol, and maybe we'll go to the bar tonight for a gin & tonic. As the title says, an easy day, earned or not.

Posted by sailziveli 15:24 Archived in Canada Tagged boats sailing boating sails sailboats Comments (0)

I Do Know What I Don’t Know

overcast 60 °F

After yesterday’s modest weather debacle, some research seemed in order. I had dialed up the Weather Channel for the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, as this area, north of Vancouver, is called. I checked the weather for the region this morning, as must always be done before making weigh. Same forecast as yesterday. I tried the weather channels on the VHF; found a couple of stations in French, despite being more than 1,000 miles from Quebec. I found an English language channel that sounded like a BBC broadcast, very proper, you know. Couldn’t understand a word over the VHF radio.

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Finally, I did a Google search for marine weather and hit the jackpot: marine weather for the Strait of Georgia north of Nanaimo. Dead solid perfect. What a difference. There is a low-pressure system coming in this evening. Winds 10 – 20 knots today; 20 – 30 knots tomorrow. Sounds about right.

We had planned to head inland today through the Agamemnon Strait. That would have put us in narrow-ish waters flanked by very high mountains. In Chicago, the Windy City, winds were greatly accelerated by the tall buildings. This was due to the venturi effect. I don’t know if that would happen in this geography, but I also don’t want to find out that the answer is yes. Where we were going to anchor has not great protection to the south; it would have been our first stern tie anchoring. It was easy to say that the downside risk outweighed very little upside benefit. So, in Pender Harbor we will remain for a while. It’s secure, we have power, and a couple of down days were built into the schedule. And, in truth, we are both a little tired having pushed very hard since last Wednesday. However, right this minute that seems like a bad decision.

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We are, probably, 40 miles north of Vancouver, and the hillsides around the harbor are very built up with many nice houses. There is not an uninterrupted road connecting this area to Vancouver; a ferry passage is required somewhere to connect to a road along the coast.

The large harbor, has several smaller alcoves called bays, each one discreet from the others. To get from bay to another can only be done on the water. The geography makes that seem reasonable. It’s hard to imagine how people even get to their houses. But, as the picture shows, it is a lovely place.

On Saturday, taking the boat out of the marina, I was uneasy about my knowledge of the boat. Now, having set up the chart plotter to my needs, having gone through the charts, and been on the water a few days, it’s all come back. At the house our routines are whatever we want them to be; on a boat our routines are whatever the boat requires for cruising and safety. We have to work a little harder at them now, they are less ingrained, and we are applying them in a new context.

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One thing that has been different on the north side of the border is the Great Canadian Anti Cleat Conspiracy. This is our second stop and there haven’t been any dock cleats for mooring. Big surprise. Instead, they use a rail system using 4x4’s. Short pieces are attached to the dock and then long pieces are run on top. Lines go under and around the top pieces. I suppose, if it’s what you use daily, not a big deal. I like cleats better if for no other reason than I avoid all the splinters in my hands and fingers. This was not an anticipated contingency and it’s hard to find a pin or needle to get them out. I have been using a not-very-sharp compass point that mostly works.

Miscellany

  • This has been our first experience with a diesel heating system on a boat. It works like a radiant heat system, circulating warm water in front of fans. I must work pretty well; I am comfortable and Carol is too hot.
  • I haven't had too many successful pictures so far. It's pretty simple: the water has been so choppy or rough that auto focus cannot keep up. Frame a shot, and by the camera goes click, and I am as likely to have a picture of the sky or my foot.
  • We went out to dinner and walked around some and the area is striking; it is Snow Falling on Cedars, remarkably lush and green. Most of the trees are Spruce, Fir, Cedar with the occasional Maple. Dinner was pub fare. Carol tells everybody everything, a well known fact to all reading this blog. So, she told the owner that this was, sort of, a 50th anniversary deal. He, being a nice man, prepared and served us a tasty flambé dessert.
  • Just a few days into the trip we are running short of two critical commodities: toilet paper and scotch. Fortunately, there is a small store nearby that sells both.
  • I have been using this website since day 1 in our boat, that being 2007. Having studied and learned to build web pages, I am increasingly frustrated with this resource. It is, probably, 1995 technology, and not very good even for that year.

The weather forecast has remained the same but there has been a 24-hr. shift back. It now looks like Saturday noon will be the earliest we can safely leave the dock. When we arrived we were the only boat; several have since come in, presumably, for the weather. A certain stoicism is required to survive boating: weather happens. Our worst time was in the Bahamas, at Emerald Bay, when we were stuck for 10 days, not being able to safely navigate the channel to open water. Last year in Maine we got fogged in for several days before we were able to leave the dock even for the first leg. All cruisers should remember the last line of the poem “On His Blindness,” by John Milton: They also serve who only stand and wait.

Posted by sailziveli 08:48 Archived in Canada Tagged boats sailing boating sails sailboats Comments (0)

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