We departed Virgin Gorda after the full moon and headed to Road Town for some shopping and then island hopping to Peter Island and Norman Island on our way to Soper’s Hole for the haulout.
As with most of this sailing life, challenges arising from constantly moving in a salt water environment are definitely the norm. So while attempting to leave Peter Island and head to Norman, our anchor windlass went on permanent strike. The good news, is that we had just retrieved 194 of the 200 feet of chain we had out when it died. That is good for two reasons: First, the anchor and two hundred feet of chain weigh in at close to 400 pounds and pulling that up with the manual feature of the windless would have been challenging. Second, the way the windless died was destruction of gears in the gearbox and the manual feature of the windless was inoperable. So we had to hand over hand the last 90 pounds – better than 400 pounds!! But now finding a replacement was proving difficult but our friend Anthony at BVI Yacht Charters helped us out locating some new parts. So we decided to install replacement parts during the haul out. We did stop at Norman Island but had to grab a mooring ball, having no anchor. But the view of Pelican Island and the Indians and the serenity of the bay was worth it.
We made it to Soper’s with a beautiful smooth sail and were hauled out on Friday with an acid wash scheduled for Saturday, paint and windlass fix on Sunday, and saildrive seals on Monday – 3 days and we’re back in the water, or so we thought. The removal of the old windlass was a simple matter of removing 4 nuts and sliding the gearbox and motor down off the shaft that turns the gypsy (the part that winds up and down the anchor and chain). Right? Sounded like a 5 minute job to me with another 15 minutes to put it back together and rewire. However, remember this is a BOAT so after quickly removing the 4 nuts, I discovered the gearbox and shaft remained as firmly entwined as a young couple discovering love. So I called in some professional assistance, expecting to be embarrassed as he would separate the parts in 2 minutes giving me a “what was the problem” look. Not so. It took almost three hours of continuous pounding and levering before the gearbox suddenly give up the ghost and split open releasing the shaft. Yay! Of course once again this is a BOAT, so the unexpected demise of the gearbox also released a pile of gear oil all over the chain and people in the vicinity. In the end, the expected 20 minute job took the better part of the day before all was apart, re-installed and cleaned up. But the new windlass is so quiet, I now can’t tell when G is dropping or retrieving the chain – but I am not complaining!
The paint job went swiftly but our mechanic for the sail drives showed up to check the boat and said he would be back later in the day. Remember we are on island time here so that means tomorrow or so. Chalk up another day on the hard – day 3 was done. Next day we got to enjoy another BOAT experience as the straightforward job of replacing the zincs and saildrive seals went very quickly until it was all apart (gears again – beginning to understand the old expression “being given the gears”). Lo and behold, the bearings in the gears of both drives were shot, partly due to age but accelerated a bit by the beautiful but very heavy bronze flexofold props I installed last year. Love those props because they fold nicely when under sail giving us a speed boost – but because they are on a BOAT, which is by definition the epitome of compromise, there was a small price to pay in accelerated bearing wear.
The good news of course is that we discovered this during routine maintenance rather than by finding water in our gearbox or worse (remember the windlass) in some remote location. The really bad news surfaced rather more slowly. This is an in stock local part, right? After all the BVI has many hundreds of boats with this drive. With assurances from everyone and a promise to have them the next morning, we found our departure delayed again as day 4 came to a close. Of course the next day came only to discover that the parts were not in the BVI, they were not even in St Thomas. Nope, sorry but they have to be fedexed from the US (ka-ching). But it will be overnight – so day 5 passed. Of course the Thursday came only to find out that the bearings “got stuck” in Puerto Rico, so didn’t show up. Sigh, day 6. They didn’t even show up on Friday, so now we had a weekend on the boat to add to our stay as days 7, 8 and 9 wandered by.
You must understand the “on the hard” environment we were in. For any non-sailors, picking a boat up out of the water and storing it on land is considered on the hard. If you live on a boat as we do, it feels very unnerving at first to be on the hard. Your body and being are used to the soothing constant motion on the boat so when that is suddenly gone, your brain tries to convince you that you are still moving which is very unnerving when you aren’t.
Where we like to be hauled in Soper’s Hole, the “hard” has been created by chiseling a roughly 100 foot level area out of very steeply rising terrain (as in very, fit mainly for goats). Having removed this material, a concrete retaining wall of some 40-50 feet high was built to keep the rest of the terrain from attempting to fill the ramp back in so nature could be happily back to normal. Of course on top of this wall sits a road, barely better than a jeep trail, with its own retaining wall so that people can access their homes cleverly hanging on in other nicely chiseled areas. So here we are, aft end of the boat against the wall on a concrete ramp, a beautiful bay in front of us with lots of ferry traffic. So what do you have? A perfect sound reflector! You can here every engine in the bay as if some heavy metal rock guitarist just cranked up his new amp! Ok, not quite the bad but walk 100 feet to the water and all is serene. Sit in the back of the boat and watch the goats impossibly walking down the steep hillside and you almost have a ferry concert. Of course the normally windy Soper’s Hole which keeps the area naturally air conditioned chose to be not windy during our extended stay thereby promoting a healthy mixture of perspiration with 3 billion mosquitos, dust from the road, and assorted other creepy crawly things that seemed to fall out of the sky. Not that we weren’t entertained!
Oh no, cruisers can always find the little nuggets in what we may have felt was intolerable in our previous lives. Charlie of course kept a watchful eye on the goats that managed to wander into the “hard” area. (click on the small image for a slide show and Esc to come back)
We temporarily adopted K’Mani whose Dad did a great job repairing gelcoat dings left over from the charter days (since we were stuck on the hard, this was great to get taken care of). K’Mani, at first scared to death of Charlie, ended up rubbing his tummy and finding much to do with Gwyn.
We also took him out in the dingy for a frolic at a beach where Charlie played with Zoe a few times.
We wandered through town and found a rather ingenious chair made from two discarded pallets.
We took a hike to the south side of the island (about 10 min) where the pelicans were having a feeding frenzy.
We were entertained by the magical transformation of our boat from blue to grey (barrier coat) to black (new bottom color), not to mention ecstatic when we finally got off the hard.
We headed immediately to Benure’s Bay on Norman where only two other boats shared the anchorage. Delightful to get into the water for a snorkel and swim. The next morning before leaving, the usual crowd of small fish were under the boat but with a rather large black shadow.
Then it was off to Road Town for errands and food and a bash back to North Sound for Christmas Eve. We arrived too late and too tired to participate in the festivities but enjoyed all the lighted boats and the boat parade. Next morning we peaked out the back to see Santa relaxing after a hard night’s work.