Happy 2018

Happy New Year and all the best wishes for 2018.

We rung in the new year anchored in Carlisle Bay on the south side of Antigua. There is a resort on the beach here that has had bands playing both during the day today, January 1st and yesterday as well as last evening. We sat out on the bow of the boat, under an almost full moon taking it in.

Fireworks above us

At midnight fireworks were set off from the beach. Our boat was just far enough away to be safe. Every one set so high in the sky just above us. Then we noticed some more fireworks in the next bay over off our stern as well. We were surrounded. It was magical and well worth staying up for.

So for today’s blog post, I thought we’d add some photos from 2017 that never managed to get posted to the blog.

The year started with a big problem when one of the four struts holding the roof over our cockpit broke at the weld.  But a quick stop at Nanny Cay, some great welding by Nanny Cay, and a lot of Paul labour made us good as new.  Not the ideal way to spend the last couple days with Gwyn who had arrived for Christmas, but we found ways to make it good.

Next was the visit of our son Keith and his wife Taryl. They enjoyed a week with Paul in BVI in January 2017.

Between January and March, Paul single handed the boat from BVI to Antigua.  Love the passage sunsets


Spectacular sunset

Next I came for a break from work in March and was joined on the boat by my second cousin from England, David Wilce (our grandfathers were brothers). He spent 10 days on the boat, while I left after 6 days.  First stop was some relaxing at Green Island and a visit to Harmony Hall.

Then came Paul’s birthday with a fun toy.

After much fun and relaxation at Green Island, Gwyn had to head back to Vancouver so Paul and David met some friends in Falmouth and discovered some great hikes.

And lastly Paul had some great crew, Matt and Chris, from St Croix, who helped him sail the boat from BVI to Hampton, Virginia in May. They had a quick and easy sail to the US. Here’s some of the dolphins they enjoyed along the way. They also caught some fish.

Hopefully we’ll do better at keeping the blog up to date from this point forward. Meanwhile Happy 2018 everyone.

The Rescue – well sorta

This is a very delayed post of events in November 2016. Enjoy.

With the birthday bash behind us, we awoke on Monday to a drizzly day. We had hoped to go to Jost van Dyke but decided to see just what the weather was really going to be like. So we wandered into town with just a hint of rain and decided to track down the rum distillery. Sure enough they were open in a very old building. Actually quite funky but they didn’t want pictures taken inside. Ah well. We discovered they make 4 types of rum but are actively distilling only from March sometime to August when the sugar cane harvest comes in locally. Disappointed, yes, but never fear.

Our host was very energetic. Let me tell you about the 4 types of rum. There is the basic rum (4 year old, quite the bite, you know you have liquor in your mouth), aged rum (10 year old aged in oak casks from Kentucky, remarkably smooth and sophisticated – well maybe that is a bit much to say for rum, so let’s just say on the velvety side with little bite), the “oh you are American, here is a Bacardi style white rum” (where did all the flavor go?) and the “panty” rum. Huh? Whazzat? Well you take your basic rum, bottle it with a piece of cane sugar, and you have your rum aperitif (sweet easy on the mouth) with a bit of a hidden kick, ergo reference to removal of panties after much consumption of same. Got me to thinking in nonsexist terms but jock strap rum, brief rum, undie rum just didn’t roll out quite the same. Lookin’ for some ideas here to help the Callwood distillery with a gender neutral term for drinking too much and ….

Nuff said. Connie, I am afraid I have destroyed your son as we opted for the taste test at the horrendous price of $1 for a sample of all 4 rums (uh, I think it was 9 in the morning – sorry again). But they were really small shots, honest, really (make the communion wine look like flagon thereof [if you don’t know what a flagon is, you shouldn’t be reading this post])! But it was an eye opener and the 10 year rum won out big time, the other 3 trailing badly.

OK, now we have two rummies wandering the town early on a Monday trying to decide what to do for the day. Take Charlie to the beach! What else since it was all of 10 steps away. And what do we find, Charlie’s ball “lost” the day before. Well this is a very honest town to leave the ball on the beach for a whole day for Charlie to go discover it. Some pics of Cane Garden Bay which is mostly destroyed now by Irma:

After a good play and a couple more groceries, we are back at the boat with the rain abating but the wind picking up big time. As I eat breakfast, I notice our too near neighbors reanchoring a ways away. Good on em I think and return to my repast. Finally I note them departing at slow speed with people running about on the deck. Odd, but each to their own. Ten minutes later a wander onto the deck to wash out the coffee filter in salt water and I discover a snorkeler nearby that appears not to be snorkeling. I at first politely ignore him but then curiosity gets the better of me and I ask if he needs assistance as he seems to be hanging about a bit long.

OK, so now it gets interesting. Matt (that’s his name – from NZ) says he is a bit perplexed as his boat with his spouse (NZ) and a bunch of us Canadians appears to have departed without him. We can see it way out yonder towards Jost but they are moving oddly so we worry that they are performing a man overboard search. We invite Matt aboard and the wind picks up to 20 knots so we are trying to decide what to do. We can’t reach his boat on the VHF so …

So the decision? Of course, go out to find (nameless to protect the innocent) The Boat and deliver Matt home – even though we have decided not to go to Jost because the weather is becoming very sketchy (15 to 20 knot forecast, now blowing 25). So we keep sails down and motor out towards the errant boat. Titan does an excellent job hauling anchor in 25 knots sustained. Then a turn north with the winds behind us, we get there fairly quickly although we find ourselves 3/4 of the way to Jost even though we decided not to go there. But the wind gods are truly of the fickle greek/roman nature. As we arrive at The Boat (catamaran) we discover she has neatly wrapped a water toy line bar tight to the starboard prop (what this means to non sailors is The Boat now has only one working engine which tends to turn the boat in circles instead of going in a straight line somewhere). They have a diver in the water trying to cut through the lines but the winds are building and the rough water makes it too dangerous to stay in the water. So now we know they are in distress and can surmise the circumstances as they drifted out of Cane Garden Bay trying not to hit any reefs, mooring balls, or boats on a single engine. So partial relief as we realize they have not abandoned poor Matt (marriage intact) but are trying to protect the boat and hope Matt figures out something (which he did getting himself safely aboard our boat). What to do?

Option 1 – Go to Cane Garden Bay, re-anchor, and wait there for Matt’s boat. Problem. Winds are now 35 knots sustained gusting to 45 – nix on the re-anchor.
Option 2 – Go to Soper’s Hole and hope it is better there (more aligned with the forecast). Problem. Boat in trouble is going east not west to Soper’s Hole.
Option 3 – Matt swims back to his boat. Problem. Have you ever been in the water in high short chop with 45 knot winds? Didn’t think so.

Result: Bad decision, good outcome.

I decide to give Matt the choice and he opts to swim to his boat (maybe we had bad BO). He still has his fins but mask and snorkel departed to King Neptune in a violent gust of wind moments before. The Boat strings out a line with a number of life vests at the end. Blue Sky approaches to windward at speed to maintain control and avoid a collision. Engines cut off, Matt exits Blue Sky off the starboard sugar scoop and is at the life vests moments later but does not don one (oops). He manages to get to the sugar scoop stern of The Boat and grabs on as wave lifts him out of water – safe! Phew! What if, he had lost his grip, the sugar scoop had dropped and bonked him on head with no life vest. Bad scene. Very grateful for the outcome but would decide differently if I had to do it over.

Happy Sailing Matt and spouse and crew of The Boat! We waved goodbye as they hoisted sail to wander about the BVI until the wind died sufficiently to put someone back in the water to cut the prop free. Hope you got the line free shortly and the rest of your vacation was great!

So we turned west and Blue Sky motored into murderous 45 know winds peaking at 50 until the turn into Soper’s Hole at which point the winds subsided to 20-25 which felt calm by contrast. Picking up a mooring ball was still a challenge but Titan did a great job. And of course, Neptune had the last laugh, 10 minutes after securing to the ball the winds plummeted to 10 knots as if to say – What? Were you worried?

So we sank (bad word) back into a quiet evening to regain our composure and rest. Or so we thought. Hadn’t seen Linda and Bill for a while, so off Paul went to reunite Charlie with Zoe (who Charlie absolutely adores) and renew our friendship. Meanwhile Titan was happy to grab a kayak and do a tour of Soper’s Hole including paddling through the gap to the eastern/southern shore (a challenge with the current). Great adventure. All were safe and happily tired as we found our bunks after an eventful day. Just another day in paradise!

PS – a tremendous lack of photos in this post but we were a bit too involved in the events to think photo. Maybe I should buy a dash cam and mount it on the boat somewhere. Hmmmm.

Quick BVI tour

Having arrived safely in the BVI after a great trip, it was now time to introduce Titan to this beautiful country. But first, we had a variety of events winding up with the Salty Dawg arrival dinner on the 18th then resting up, hiking, swimming, eating (Fat Virgin, Saba Rock, Crawl Pub), and of course the occasional sip of beer or rum – in other words taking full advantage of our hosts, the Bitter End Yacht Club and surroundings in North Sound. It is a very beautiful place. We wrapped it up with US Thanksgiving dinner a day early on the beach at Prickly Pear complete with live entertainment provided by Hair of the Dawg (Rick, Malcolm, Paul, and Steve on guitars leading some Buffet favorites along with other singable tunes). After that it was time to set sail.

So off to Anegada. We enjoyed 15 to 20 knot winds on a broad reach which whisked us to Anegada in a couple of hours. We hiked the roads around town then all the beaches by the restaurants to get a flavor of the place. When we got back to Blue Sky, Orion arrived by dinghy and we decided to rent a car for the next day to see the island and enjoy Loblolly Bay and Cow Wreck Beach. Snorkeling was great and Charlie had a great time piling sand everywhere after running around the beach like a mad thing. It was a great day. As evening set we opted out of the lobster fest with music and enjoyed dinner on the boat. Actually we got to “enjoy” the music until about 3 AM as one restaurant has a stadium worthy sound system. Still it was all fun while enjoying a little star gazing. Actually we were listening to the handiwork of a DJ we met at Cow Wreck beach earlier in the day. Small world?! You betcha. We learned from him that the island population is fundamentally 4 families with, of course, many relatives. Small world when you have an island of less than 400 people.

So a day and a half was great for Anegada but the winds beckoned us to raise sail and go, but where ??? We kept changing our minds en route finally ending up at Cane Garden Bay. North swell caused us to forego the normally great snorkeling at Monkey Bay enroute which was a pity. But once again we had a great wind pushing us nicely on a broad reach directly to Cane Garden Bay. It was quite strong blowing 20-25 knots with gusts to 30 but Blue Sky loves that kind of wind on a broad reach so it was a fast comfortable trip arriving around dinner time. We anchored very close to shore and found the north swell was not a problem. A quick exploration of town, a few groceries, and we packed it up for the night.

Sunday was a lazy day exploring the town, getting groceries, playing with Charlie on the beach then topping it off with Titan’s 18th birthday dinner at Quito’s with great live music. We both discovered the only way to have conch was cracked conch at Quito’s. Just superb. Some happy hour $2 beers with dinner and we slept well that night despite one party at a bar that managed to entertain the whole neighborhood until 4 AM. But it didn’t matter. Great beach, great fun, great food, great music in a beautiful place celebrating my grandson’s 18th birthday. Can’t beat that.

Titan enjoying happy hour with great appetizers

The Honeymooners

Excitement abounded as we readied the boat for our first visitors of the season. Lindsay and Katie (our son and new daughter in law) were joining us for a week long honeymoon. They were married in June of last year and we gifted them a trip on Blue Sky in the Caribbean as a wedding gift. They picked the dates January 5-12 and we booked the tickets.

They were due to arrive into St Thomas and told to go catch the ferry from Charlotte Amalie to West End Tortola. Unfortunately, that ferry was cancelled, so they were advised that their next option was to get the ferry from Red Hook. Low and behold, there was a traffic accident and although that ferry waited for them an additional 25 minutes, they missed that one as well. Luckily, they had befriended some people from Tortola who had these experiences before and they arranged for a private cigarette boat to ferry them across the water (at a good price of course). They finally arrived about an hour and a half later than planned but feeling pretty good after the trip. We fed them and sat up chatting quite late.

Very excited parents
Very excited parents

The next morning we did a little walk around Soper’s Hole and then headed out to snorkel the caves at Norman Island. It was mainly a motor due to wind direction, but we got there in time for a snorkel before lunch. We next motored through the Bight so they could see Norman Island and Willy T’s famous bar.

Then on to Little Harbor on Peter Island. Here we hiked the ruins of a house and tobacco grower. We also snorkeled, paddle boarded and swam. This is such a beautiful bay, it’s hard to leave, but we had plans to get them to as many places as possible.

The next day we made a brief stop at Cooper Island so Katie could get pictures of herself on her name sake island (her last name is Cooper). From there we were able to sail on to North Sound.

Taking a look at the sunset while we tried to get to Bitter End before dark - didn't make it
Taking a look at the sunset while we tried to get to Bitter End before dark – didn’t make it

We walked Bitter End for pastries. Then Katie and Lins decided on an afternoon at the beach, so being close, a swim was called for. In the evening, we visited Saba Rock bar where they watched the tarpon feeding and got an introduction to happy hour Painkillers. They taught us to play Dutch Blitz, a fun and fast card game which we became addicted to.

After Virgin Gorda we headed to Anegada. Here we took a taxi to Cow Wreck beach then went to Potters for lobster dinner. Katie, Lindsay and I all tried the limbo dance while Paul waited to pay for our dinner (the only flaw with eating there). The food was delicious and we’d recommend it to anyone.

From Anegada we sailed to Monkey Bay for a snorkel, but there was a bit of a swell causing low visibility. From there we continued on for an evening in Cane Garden Bay. Here we played games late into the evening again. Up early the next day we headed to Sandy Spit, but due to big swells, we would not be able to land the dinghy, so we didn’t stop. We made our way from there over to the bay nearest the Bubbly Pool. We made the hike and enjoyed the pool to ourselves for nearly an hour. It was fun and with the big swell we really got the full bubbly pool experience. Here the swell comes in through a narrow channel of high rocks and smashes down in on the pool sometimes knocking you over. We had a blast. What a way to end the trip.

And for a video view of the bubbly pool, courtesy of Lindsay and Katie:

Back to Sopers Hole for the evening, more card games, chatting and fun. The next morning the week was up and we dropped them back at the ferry for noon. They had a long gruelling trek home (3 flights including a Red Eye). Sorry Katie, we heard it was rough on you and the babe.

Adieu to the Lins and Katie, time went by so quickly
Adieu to the Lins and Katie, time went by so quickly

I enjoyed cooking up many of my vegan favorites for them as we travelled around. Paul enjoyed the sailing. We all enjoyed the company and agreed it went by like a dream. Happy honeymoon, Lindsay and Katie. Thanks for letting us share our travels with you for such a special occasion.

New Years Eve 2016

New Year’s eve we found ourselves back at Bitter End, anchored near Prickly Pear island. Fellow cruisers, Second Wind (Howard and Hope) and Judith Arlene (Ed and Judy)were near by so we decided on a pot luck dinner and games on Blue Sky while we awaited midnight. Nigel (Judy & Ed’s dog) joined us in his finest attire (bow tie at his neck and cuffs on his paws).

The bay was filled to the brim with boats of all sizes, including many mega yachts. The bars and restaurants were full and music abounded around us. There was no need to set the timer for midnight as ship horns honked and people cheered. We rung in the new year with a glass of champagne brought by Judith Arlene and some Grand Marnier soaked strawberries and a bite of chocolate. Oh what a reward for staying up until midnight. Cheers to everyone for a healthy and happy 2016.