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

BVI beckons as Hampton gets chilly

Tis that time of year again when the seasons encourage one to do like almost all smart birds – head south that is. But this year it is with a twist. Gwyn has temporarily swallowed the anchor for a challenging project stint at a hospital so I find myself without my wife, constant companion, best friend, and co-captain. That’s a big loss/change! And mother nature threw a knuckle ball by speeding a lightning bolt toward Blue Sky in September effectively destroying all electronics on the boat. So the last couple of month’s have been a mad scramble getting the boat ready for a passage while constantly discovering layers of damage. But that will be covered in another post.

So throwing out the challenge of how to get south without an arduous singlehander (plus Charlie) trip, Paul went looking for crew, found 3 but one dropped out at the last second. Never fear, the committed two proved to be great crew and we (Paul, Charlie, Elisabeth, Dennis plus Paul’s grandson, Titan) proved up to the challenge, scrambling at the last minute to get the boat seaworthy and stores aboard for what is usually a challenging trip. But Neptune was kind this year and the trip was the fastest and easiest of the last four years, by far!! So between favorable winds and having 3 instead of two crew (meaning 5 1/2 hours of sleep at a time instead of 2 1/2), the trip was wonderful. But you have to understand that is relative to the “normal” trip. A new passagemaker might describe our easy trip as horrible, rough, biiiig waves, thought the boat was coming apart, never got any sleep, how can you talk on the SSB, catch your coffee taking an unplanned trip to starboard, while typing on the computer, and pretending this is fun! But that IS the joy of a passage, its always different and the more you do, the more interesting it becomes. If it isn’t your thing, a cruise ship is definitely a better idea.

But it is my thing, and Charlie, and my crew, and eventually Titan (you gotta let your body figure it out for a bit). We left on Nov 5 with a favorable wind but not quite enough speed to get across the gulf stream before a bad wind shift to the north was due to arrive. So we augmented the sail with a loping motor which got us across on time. It was lovely to shut it down and have some quiet on day 2. The promised north wind showed up creating 12 foot steep waves with the odd one to 20 feet. But they were coming from the aft quarter (behind us) which I find relatively comfortable in our catamaran, not so much in a monohull. So we had a rough fast ride for a day or so until the waves got further apart making the ups and downs more gentle. All our brand new electronics performed wonderfully and we had a good ride.

Once Titan got his sea legs after a few days and the seas relaxed a bit, it was time for fishing. Armed with a measly $48 worth of fishing gear (Cuban Yoyo, no rod and reel) our expectations weren’t high but we were hopeful.

Titan maintaining a cool fish watch 400 miles from land
Titan maintaining a cool fish watch 400 miles from land

Of course the first thing we caught was ourselves! Whoa, how is that? Well, just forget to pull in your fishing line at night, add an autopilot disengaging somehow, a sprinkle of boat turning 360 degrees before the Watch sorted out something was amiss and you have the fishing line wrapped around the rudder/sail drive. The good news since we were motorsailing at the time is that it wrapped around the rudder/saildrive of the engine that was off. And even better, when the captain started his 5 am shift, he noticed the line was out but very taut and crossing behind the boat – so wisely did not switch to the port motor. So as the crew awoke from their slumbers we all did a little brainstorming and sorted out how to unwind the line without losing the lure, making things worse, or jumping in the water which was still a bit bumpy for doing work under the boat.

But it was all worth it as a couple days later – “Fish on”.

And all that led to over 30 pounds of 3 types of fish in the freezer.

Fantastic Wahoo steaks!  Whoopee!  Yum.
Fantastic Wahoo steaks! Whoopee! Yum.

As we got south, all were able to get somewhat more relaxed until we spotted Tortola before dark on the 13th and had a fantastic fast beam reach sail all the way in to North Sound arriving at 9 pm with an almost full moon (impossible to photograph on a moving boat but was stunning and beautiful).

The next day, after checking in with customs and immigration, it was relaxing time for all until our crew had to leave early Wednesday morning.

A hearty thanks to my fine crew Dennis and Elisabeth who with Titan blended into a wonderful temporary family for the trip. You two are awesome! And thanks to our great provider, Titan, for the awesome variety of fish to eat and add to ship stores. Certainly made a great return on the $48 fishing tools investment! And for a final thrill, Titan hooked into a marlin just before we hit BVI waters. As we were trying to figure out how to let it go, it made a short hop then quick turn, and it was gone. Beautiful fish back into the sea to grow much bigger.

Watching from the sidelines

I’m sitting here having received the latest Spot ( A Spot is a message sent on a small electronic device that sends a signal to some satellite somewhere and eventually sends a message to my phone/email. It helps to have someone on shore tracking you in case of emergency. I am one of two primary contacts on land (Paul’s brother Mark is the other) that ensure we hear from Blue Sky at least once every 24 hours. This trip Paul sent messages every 12 hours or so. This was great for me.

This is a record of the track Blue Sky made (each Spot report is represented by a dot).

Blue Sky Track South 2016
Blue Sky Track South 2016

While I go through my guilt of not participating in the trip this year I can tell you it isn’t easy being the one watching from afar. Not only do I know what they are facing as they make the 1562 miles trek across the big blue, I know what it takes to get the boat ready for this passage.

I used to be the one to take care of provisioning, storing things safely, ensuring Charlie had all his paperwork done, and preparing some ready made meals for the passage. This year Paul had to do that along with the boat repairs and getting his head around having crew for the first time. Believe me the guilt is real.

Anyhow, while he made the trek I watched him get closer and closer to the final destination, Virgin Gorda, BVI. The latest Spot read ‘Land Ho. Arv VG about 2100 tonight.’ Great news and I’m sure the captain and crew were excited to spot land after 8+ days at sea.

As Blue Sky made her way I reflected by looking through photographs of our travels on her over the past 3 years. This is one of my favorites taken last spring in the BVI. I had borrowed Paul’s waterproof camera to take ashore to take pictures of rocks I had stacked. On my way over on the paddleboard I spotted a Ray. I stuck the camera in the water and this was the shot I got. Pretty proud of it. (And only now did I realize that this Ray was spotted on what would have been my mum’s birthday – what a gift).

Spotted Ray April 15, 2016
Spotted Ray April 15, 2016

Hopefully the next blog will be from captain or crew along with some pics of the trip. Looking forward to hearing all about it.

Underway Again

Paul and crew, Dennis, Elizabeth (hope I got those names right) and Titan (our grandson), left Hampton Virginia this morning just after 0200 with the tide. They were not alone. About half the fleet opted to delay a few days to avoid a storm disturbance over the gulf stream the past few days. The other half of the fleet opted to leave early on Nov 1st and ran motors to get ahead of the storm. Charlie of course is taking it all in stride. He had some good times with his Jack-Russell friend Zoe while in Hampton and knows what’s ahead. So they’ll be on the water for 9-11 days. You can follow the fleet on where you can enter in Blue Sky as the boat name to follow just Blue Sky, or enter SDR in the group field to view the entire fleet.

Blue Sky is the dark blue dot near Virginia Beach
Blue Sky is the dark blue dot near Virginia Beach