Preparing for passage

We’ve been attending daily weather briefings with our fellow Salty Dawg rally boats. Last night the group had a lovely buffet dinner at Pusser’s Landing in Soper’s Hole. A few boats departed yesterday, taking advantage of the wind. The rest are leaving today, the 15th of May.

We will get a late start as we have to pick up our repaired main sail this morning. Once we reinstall it (this will take a few hours), get our fuel topped up, and finish stowing our kayak and SUP, we’ll assess our readiness for departure, clear out at customs and immigration, then point the bow north.

Our plan is to sail as direct as possible from BVI to Hampton, Virgina in 10-12 days. At this point we anticipate 3-4 mostly windless days during the trip, and will have to drift or use the motors. Likely we’ll do a bit of both. Once we arrive I’ll do my best to put an update on the blog.

Crazy Parents

We went to the Michael Beans show at Leverick Bay the other night with our fellow Salty Dawg Rallyers. Paul won a ‘Blowhard’ prize (rum and a t-shirt) for the longest conch horn blow of 57 seconds. It was a fun night and the songs were very entertaining and about everyday stuff out here in the Caribbean. Michael is from Michigan and has some great tunes which mention places we are familiar with from when we lived in Holland, Michigan a few years back. He inspired me to write the following for our kids.


We have some crazy parents

Who left us high and dry

To sail the deep blue ocean

To see the big blue sky

They didn’t take us with them

A visit we can take

If we fund it with our money

cause retirement means no cake

We often don’t know where they are

We can’t talk to them at whim

They blog updates as they desire

Between snorkel, play and swim

It’s a mystery why they made this choice

To head out to the sea

But a life on board called to them

And they went for it with glee

We miss our crazy parents

They miss us too they say

But for now they’re staying out at sea

To enjoy each sunny day

Dog overboard

Drying off after my dive off the boat
Drying off after my dive off the boat

So here we are, moored, getting ourselves ready for the day. Paul is making breakfast and I am taking a swim/bath in the ocean off the stern. Charlie is being the lifeguard, keeping the birds off the boat and warning me if any dinghys come by. He spots his friend Zoe from Sapphire and he gives a bark which gets her barking back. This is how the friendship goes. She’s heads off to her boat with her owner and Charlie proceeds to chase the birds. Next thing you know he goes sliding off the back of the boat and into the drink. Now, I must admit, his timing was perfect. I was only a few feet away and already in the water. He took a pretty good dive too, with a flip and all on the way down. As soon as his head popped up I called him and he swam straight to me with that ‘rescue me’ look in his eyes. It was like he couldn’t believe he just did that. It took him a bit to recover letting me hold him close while I had him wrapped in a towel. So he gets the award for being the first to accidentally fall off the boat. We are thankful that it didn’t happen while under sail.

Turtle and Ray

We explored Trellis Bay and opted not to spend another $60 to stay two more nights on a mooring just to see the full moon party. There just wasn’t enough to do there while waiting. It was noisy from the airport and crowded, as the mooring balls are so close together to fit as many boats in as possible for the monthly party.

The anchor dragger - luckily caught before he hit the cat behind
The anchor dragger – luckily caught before he hit the cat behind

We left there and headed back to North Sound, where we spent a few days with an almost disaster one night. (P)I awoke abruptly hearing the sound of a halyard slapping on the mast – very loud very near (usually happens loudest when a boat is sideways to the wind). Since there was no one near us when we went to bed, I dashed madly up the stairs only to see the stern of a catamaran moving slowly past our port side about 2 feet from hitting us sideways to the wind of course. There was a person at the helm but the engines were off. I suspect he was disoriented and trying to grasp what was happening. What was happening was that he had anchored late the night before about 500 feet in front of us and at that moment was clipping along at about 2 knots with the anchor totally free. I heard him swear as he turned around and saw how close he was to me but then he ran below and turned on his spreader lights which of close blinded him to other boats around. He ran back up to the helm just as the anchor grabbed something and spun the boat rapidly causing him to lose his balance. The good news is it grabbed and held before he hit the next cat in line. The bad news is he did nothing else and went back to bed – didn’t add any scope or test the anchor set. But now that he was behind me it wouldn’t affect us. Watching him pull up his anchor the next morning, he had maybe 90-100 feet of chain out in 50 feet of water. He is lucky he stayed put for the night in the gusty high winds.

(G)We needed to get propane and really wanted to see some other islands so we left bright and early and got to Road Town before 11 am. We left Charlie on board to make it quicker to shop. I headed straight to the Rite Way grocery store while P got the propane tank refilled and returned it to the dinghy, then met me in the store to help collect the items from our list. We were back on board with provisions loaded within 75 minutes (record time). Lesson learned – it’s much less stressful on everyone if Charlie stays behind while provisioning.

After loading the groceries and propane back on Blue Sky, we hauled up the anchor and headed over to Peter Island and anchored in Benures Bay for some quiet time. It was fairly full of boats when we arrived so we stayed in the lesser popular part of the bay which normally has more swell, but the winds finally calmed and the ocean was nice and flat (waiting for this all season), so it was a pleasant anchorage which we had to ourselves after the first night. While here we did some snorkeling. The excitement for me (G) was seeing my first Stingray .. very cool. We also did the hike again over the island to ‘The Bight’ where there is a nice sandy beach for Charlie to run and swim. It was hot and Charlie needed lots of water and rests while en route. He was happy when he saw the beach.

Southern sting ray wandering along in the wonderfully clear Benures Bay
Southern sting ray wandering along in the wonderfully clear Benures Bay

Blue Sky in Benures Bay seen through a fascinating tree atop the island
Blue Sky in Benures Bay seen through a fascinating tree atop the island

One of many butterflies encountered on our hike
One of many butterflies encountered on our hike
Another view of Blue Sky in Benures with the Indians, St. John and Tortola in the distance
Another view of Blue Sky in Benures with the Indians, St. John and Tortola in the distance

Mister Mercer's 1 year old 62m yacht - our neighbor
Mister Mercer’s 1 year old 62m yacht – our neighbor

A few days later we headed over to Little Harbor on Peter Island.  We stern tied for the first time on Blue Sky. Here we had a sea turtle swimming between our boat and shore almost daily. This anchorage was also has great snorkeling which we did daily. (G)With the calm of the water, I enjoyed several paddles a day on the SUP with Charlie. I beach combed and found quite a lot of sea glass. I also found a lot of litter on the outer beaches, which bothered me so much that I went back with a plastic bag and collected it but even with flattening the many plastic bottles, my bag was completely filled on just one beach. I decided that I would bring an extra bag with me to collect the trash when I can, since I’m enjoying the place, the least I can do is participate in keeping it beautiful. Paul kayaked and explored an old fort (?) of some sort. It’s a bit of a mystery what it was built for (as you can see from the pictures).

Turtle just lounging about our stern tie in Little Harbor
Turtle just lounging about our stern tie in Little Harbor
What to do in a pristine anchorage - make Jewelry (G) and bread (P)
What to do in a pristine anchorage – make Jewelry (G) and bread (P)
And what was this miniature "fort" used for?
And what was this miniature “fort” used for?

In Little Harbor Peter Island BVI - Just soaking it all in
In Little Harbor Peter Island BVI – Just soaking it all in

Snorkeling with Charlie
Snorkeling with Charlie
It was hard to leave Little Harbor, but the month was moving fast and we still wanted to see Cooper Island before returning to North Sound on the 1st of May. April 29th we sailed to Cooper and anchored outside the mooring balls in Manchioneel Bay. Here there are sand beaches, mostly taken up by a resort with a few small sections that are private and even fenced off. I paddled Charlie to the one small section that was open and had no house or resort attached to it. It was enough to satisfy his need to run in the sand. This is a favorite for him, long stretches of beach allow him to stretch his legs in full out sprints while fetching his ball. Later in the day we all took the dinghy ashore to explore the resort. We started with a walk along the beach. Another dog approached Charlie from behind. There was an immediate fight which we managed to break up without getting bit. The other dog was friendly enough and concerned with Charlie after the fact, but it scared us all enough that we just headed back to our boat. So much for exploring more of Cooper Island. With that we made a decision to stay only one night.

Sea turtles love the eel grass at Coopers
Sea turtles love the eel grass at Coopers

April 30th we snorkeled early in the morning. Here they have dinghy moorings near the snorkeling area. I paddled over with Charlie and P followed in his kayak. P tied his kayak to the dinghy mooring while I dragged Charlie around on the paddleboard while we snorkeled. This has a few advantages: 1) Charlie doesn’t bark his head off while we snorkel, 2) we have the paddleboard to hop onto if we get tired while swimming, 3) boaters can see you so they don’t run you over. Here we had the pleasure of seeing a sea turtle swimming in among the fish. What a treat, this really made our trip worthwhile.

After the snorkel we pulled up anchor and sailed back to Virgin Gorda. We are now settled in for 10 days as we attend events with the Salty Dawg Spring Rally fleet and prepare the boat for our return passage to the US.