On the hook in BVI

It’s been 6 weeks since we arrived back to the British Virgin Islands. We took the first night in Soper’s Hole (West End Tortola) to recover and get some much needed rest. Then we headed to the Bitter End where the boats in the rally would gather through to US Thanksgiving.

This year in Bitter End we opted to anchor instead of taking a mooring (last year they were free to the Dawgs, this year it is a cost of $20/day). Yes, we are cheapo’s. Hey, I figure we can always use the money to eat out or take in a happy hour now and then.

Both Paul and I took in 10 days of yoga. Judie on Rum Runner arranged with a yoga instructor to come to the Bitter End pool deck and take us through our sun salutations, etc. for $5/person. A great deal for an hour of instruction and after 11 days on the water, we all could use a little loosening up.

We also joined in on the pizza party, happy hour at Saba Rock and at the Fat Virgin, homestyle thanksgiving dinner at the Fat Virgin, and a lunch and hike down from Hog Heaven. We also had a musical jam session on our boat with Kalunamoo, Rum Runner and Destiny.

Paul took some time out of his day to aid a fellow boater who had hurt his fingers in a block on the passage and needed a few repairs done to his boat. Luckily for Pete his fingers recovered nicely and the repairs were manageable for Paul.

As our net controller, Bill from Kalunamoo, departed on Thankgiving day, I volunteered to take over as Net Controller for our morning net until the end of November. It was fun to do, Paul did the weather report for it and I did the rest.

As we tired of North Sound we headed over to Little Harbour on Peter Island. Here the water is clear and the snorkeling is terrific. It’s a harbour where you need to stern tie so you are close to shore. We love it there, but the bugs, oh my, we got bites galore, mostly from little flies. While in Little Harbour we got together on Blue Sky with Simplicity (Ralph and Kathy) and Accapella (Martin and Ellen). We had some great appies, followed by my Curried Cauliflower over rice and Kathy’s Apple Pie.

On December 10th we headed to Road Town and picked up a mooring for the night. These are new moorings to the east of the new cruiseship dock at a cost of $30/night or $10/hour. Let me tell you, you’ll never get everything done in Road Town in 1 hour, so even if you are not staying for the night, pay the $30 so you have all the time you need to get reprovisioned. It’s a short dinghy ride to the dock near BVI Yacht Charters, walk through the gate and cross the road to the large Rite Way store. There is also a hardware store and fuel station for Propane within a block of each other. Paul got the propane tank refilled and met me at the grocery store where we stocked up. We take a taxi back to our dinghy for $10. Well worth it when you are buying a lot of heavy stuff.

Later that day we headed into Road Town to the Salty Dawg gathering at Bamboushay Lounge. Here we enjoyed live music provided by the local college music program and might I say a very talented group. We enjoyed a delicious meal with about 80 other Salty Dawgs and their friends and family. It was good to be joined by Linda and Bill from Sapphire who were delayed in their departure and missed all the events in North Sound.

Since then we’ve wandered back to Peter Island, Soper’s Hole, Cane Garden Bay and back to North Sound.  We managed some snorkeling along the way at Peter and North Sound.

On Christmas Eve we watched the Lighted Boat Parade from Saba Rock Bar but were first entertained by an amazing kite boarder.  Sorry about the pic quality but it was dusk just before the parade.

First run directly at us in the bar – this guy is going about 25 mph!

And one more run with altitude.

Finally the lighted boats!

We’re not sure where we are headed next, but we’ll be in the BVI’s until mid January as we have our son and daughter in law coming for a delayed honeymoon on Blue Sky (can’t wait).


Apple Pie
Apple Pie

This pie is so easy to make that even I can succeed at this one. I’ve modified it a bit from the original recipe found online at Myrecipes.com. I made this for Christmas this year as dessert. It is pure delight to the taste buds.

Note: Prepare the Salted Pecan Crumble first so the apples are exposed to the air as little as possible. I used a premade pie crust, but feel free to make your own. If you do make your own crust, do this first.

½ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar
2 TBSP kosher salt
½ tsp cinnamon
Dash cloves (optional)
5 TBSP vegan butter
½ cup pecans
1. Pulse all dry ingredients in a food processor 3 or 4 times or until combined. Add butter and pecans and pulse until pecans are ground. You should have a crumbly mixture.
2. Transfer to a bowl, cover and chill until ready to add to the pie.

1/3 cup sugar
2 TBSP cornstarch
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
Dash of cloves (optional)
Zest of one lemon
5 large Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored, and sliced/diced
Pie dough
Salted Pecan Crumble

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl and mix well, add apple slices, tossing to coat
2. Roll out pie dough and place in pie plate
3. Arrange apple mixture over pastry and top with Salted Pecan Crumble
4. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is golden brown
5. Allow to completely cool before slicing

The rough “bird” passage to BVI

As usual, it was a bit of a mad scramble getting ourselves and the boat ready for the passage. G did a great job getting the boat provisioned early on but P kept running into issues prepping the boat. The biggest discovery was that the lithium batteries which have performed flawlessly for over a year were discovered to be a major noise source which made it difficult to receive distant calls on the SSB. Actually the EMS system on the batteries was the guilty party. Since this is critical to battery safety, it created a dilemma. For the trip, P wired a special switch to briefly shut down the EMS during radio calls. It worked so well that we were hearing all manner of other traffic on the radio that we had never been able to pull out of the noise. So that was a great discovery. The downside is a more permanent solution is going to be more complex.

But we managed to get all ready for the Nov 2 departure but that day didn’t look very promising so we delayed to the 3rd. The forecast winds were the wrong direction and a tropical storm was brewing which later became hurricane Kate. But delaying also had a nasty front brewing the following week, so we opted to go with the devil we knew rather than wait around another week. Many other boats departed on the same day and we seemed to roughly transit at the same rate so we had more company for the whole trip than we did the last 2 trips down to BVI. Of course on the ocean a “close” boat is one that is less than 50 miles away. We would occasionally spot another boat at sunset or sunrise when it was easiest to see or at night.

So off we set motorsailing out of the Chesapeake with a nuclear sub for a brief escort

Leaving the Chesapeake with a nuclear sub escort
Leaving the Chesapeake with a nuclear sub escort

We had delayed a day so the Northeast wind blowing against the gulf stream current would subside and make for an uncomfortable ride instead of extremely uncomfortable. Of course it didn’t help that the path through the gulf stream meant we had to sail to windward close hauled (most uncomfortable point of sail). Taking pictures of waves doesn’t impart a good view of the sea state, but a few of our fellow Salty Dawg sailors happened to be passing nearby and that should give you some idea of the uncomfortable motion. Kind of like riding that mechanical bull at a bar out west. Pics are a bit blurry due to the motion and getting late in the day but you should get the idea.

To exacerbate the situation, the wind clocked southeast as we were getting across the stream which meant we had to go northeast or southwest, both of which kept us in the stream. Didn’t take long for the captains to decide that despite having plenty of wind, staying in the stream was a lousy idea, so 6 hours of motoring later, we exited the stream and its steep waves but still had lousy sailing southwest in a cross swell, meaning the swell was coming from the northeast from the day before and now we got wind driven waves from the southeast all the while we were still sailing close hauled into the wind. What this means is that if the northeast swell meets a big wind driven wave at the same point as your boat meets them – well let’s just say we found ourselves still on the mechanical bull despite being out of the stream. The unfortunate part in retrospect is that we experienced this type of sea while sailing to windward for 9 out of our 11 day trip. Although we love passage making normally, this was one passage we were happy to be done with.

But we did have some fun along the way which is why we called it the “bird” trip. Our first passenger was a little guy/gal who showed up and just happily flew into the salon area of the boat. After exploring the boat a bit and driving Charlie crazy, s/he settled in to our mint plant and spent about an hour getting any little pests he could find off of it, thus earning his/her keep. Spent the night with us then reluctantly said goodbye and flew off to find another boat on his/her way to South America.

The next day, Nov 8, P got up to make his normal coffee on shift at 5 am – no propane. Dang. But switching the tanks is relatively painless normally but made a bit more painful with the boat happily bounding over steep waves. But the coffee got made and the captain enjoyed a completely unspectacular sunrise.

Once appropriately caffeinated, P went to fire up the genset to charge the batteries, but it of course refused to run. Since the whole trip had been cloudy, we were not getting much from our solar. So, P decided to charge with engine instead only to discover that the starboard alternator had taken early retirement and wasn’t about to work hard enough to recharge our batteries. This is when you are happy to have a catamaran and fire up the port engine to get some electricity (not very happy at engine maintenance time, however). Since solar + genset + starboard engine = three strikes, but we were still not out, P decided that he had better set about fixing the genset. On a bouncy boat, not fun, but within a couple of hours and a new impeller installed, the genset finally fired up. Normally this would make me very happy, but no charge was going into the batteries. The charger had an I’m not happy, I’m too hot light turned on. However when P checked the unit, it was stone cold. Hmmmm. After much poking and prodding and resetting, P was happy to hear the genset purring and pumping 160 amps into our batteries again. Phew! But he didn’t know what he had done to fix it so it would surely haunt him later. But a busy shift of investigating and fixing had flown by.

As an aside, replacing the impeller is normal maintenance which is done once a year. But last winter the genset ran only 3 hours in 6 months and the impeller despite being almost new self destructed. Note to self, run the genset whether you need to or not every couple of weeks.

Now we are six days into the trip, still bouncing like crazy, impossible to read, so what else do you do on a night shift? Take a pic of what the salon looks like under way at night.

Salon nav station at night under way.
Salon nav station at night under way.

Nov 9 didn’t improve – got worse. Once again that little light came on and the charger refused to charge. P shut it down for a while then restarted again, and it worked. This is not a good thing. So the weather decided to distract us a bit with a very rough squall filled night and gusts to 35 knots. Are we having fun yet?

Nov 10th, didn’t even want to get up to check that little light. Sure enough it was on again and nothing P did would turn it off. The good news is we have a back up charger so we did charge albeit slowly. Also found our backup inverter for the AC. Gee what else could fail? Once again that night the weather tried to distract us from our worries and put on just a wonderful lightening show which we mainly successfully kept at a distance. But the winds weren’t as wild as the night before.

Bit of a sunset under way
Bit of a sunset under way

Nov 11 – light winds with the sea down quite a bit, a welcome break. Even the boat showed its appreciation for the much kinder sea state by refusing to turn on that little temperature light so we quickly recharged all the battery banks and thanked Neptune. The seas started to get squally later in the day. So what does it look like entering a squall you can’t avoid near sunset. Sometimes just very eerie.

Bumping into a squall at sunset
Bumping into a squall at sunset

Nov 12 – bird #2 day. We had another little bird come to rest on the boat for a while. It wasn’t as brave as the first so didn’t come into the salon, but found a happy spot out of the wind behind our dodger and got a good night’s sleep. G put some food up by it. Off s/he went the next morning. Gee nothing went wrong or broke – nice day!

Bird #2 on the trip
Bird #2 on the trip

Nov 13 – bird #3 day. Having said goodbye to bird 2, we were startled to find a cool dude just hanging out on our lifelines in the afternoon. Only a picture can say this:

Innovative way to hang loose Blue Sky
Innovative way to hang loose Blue Sky

After watching the dude for a while, we decided s/he was probably more stressed and caught than cool especially when his foot slipped off the toe rail and s/he was literally just hanging there. So we stopped the boat and G gently lifted his/her body with our boat pole until he was able to flutter away and settle in the water. He just sat in the water a while regaining his/her dignity, did not appear to be harmed so we continued on our way in deteriorating cross seas and headwind – par for this trip but we were nearing the end. Whoopee! Then as night closed in, we hit those trade winds for the first time. The cross seas went away by midnight and the boat acted like it wanted to get to BVI more than we wanted to. Our GPS arrival forecast went from 1500 the next day to 0800 as our speed built and the ride smoothed out. Now this is sailing:

Clipping along at 9.4 knots in an ENE wind nearing BVI
Clipping along at 9.4 knots in an ENE wind nearing BVI

It was the opposite of the rest of the trip! Although there were squalls all around that night, we seemed to zip along between them without hitting one. Even the next morning looked dicey for arrival.


So this was our 3rd Hampton to BVI passage and quite surprisingly they have all been completed within 5 hours of each other. Each trip was very different, this latest trip being the roughest for the longest time but the least amount of motoring. We have never been in the trades for more than 12 hours on any of the trips so it makes me wonder how many times we have to do this before we hit the “normal” sail to 065W then go south on the trades.

But this passage was amazing in that every night we saw at least one meteor each and many more with a few long streakers despite a lot of clouds on other nights. G’s theory is that the passage was so rough we didn’t have our noses buried in books, crossword puzzles, etc during out shifts. P thinks she is right.

Of course after we had arrived, P had to repair our Torqeedo dinghy motor before we could get ashore to clear in. And so it goes.