July 24, 2008
This dream began as many of mine do – figuring out how to get something cheaper!
In 2002 my wife, Debbie, and 6 other friends were with me aboard the Belline II, a fabulous 48’ Cat operated by Captain Walter Wegman and his lovely wife Lela. I was an early riser and loved to get up and take a dive off the pontoon to start the morning. On the last day of our BVI charter, I gazed at my reflection coming off the crystal blue waters of Little Harbor, and dreamed of coming back as my own captain. I dreamed of sharing this "seven days in paradise" with my friends and family over and over again. Only two things stood in my way – sailing experience and unlimited wealth.
After three years I wasn’t making much progress on the unlimited wealth, so I accepted a good friend’s invitation to embark on getting an ASA Sailing certification. Over the course of two years, we stumbled and bumbled our way to bareboat certified and spent untold hours stoking the fires of our obsession with back issues of Latitudes and Attitudes.
As 2008 rolled around, it was time to unfurl the mainsail and get the dream underway. I was encouraged when my friends, discreetly amused years before when I announced my intentions to command the next trip, showed their confidence (and courage) by agreeing to share the adventure. Preparations began in earnest.
Just a few weeks ago my skipper’s hat was flying high as I completed a 5 day bareboat charter aboard a 33’ Beneteau out of Emerald Coast Yachts in Pensacola, FL. We anchored with the Blue Angels, ate like kings, slept in sweltering fan-less cabins, found sand banks with our keel, and had a blast!
I am one who can’t leave a good thing unorganized. I ordered a chart kit and cruising guides galore. I began to Google for just the right boat and read all the advice from TravelTalkOnline. I probably know more about the Lagoon 420 we chartered than most owners!! Oh well, no problem, man, Caribbean time is comin’
Next blog- the Motley Crew
July 25, 2008
Thought it would only be fair to introduce the crew and their assigned duties and snorkel gear.
Randy, would be captain. In the evenings he’ll plot, during the morning he’ll drive – in between he’ll snorkel till his fingers are shriveled. Black fins, no noodle
Debbie, first mate in all my life journeys since 1976. This cutie will be a lookout for coral heads and shoals. – Yellow noodle
Kathy, a teacher in her past life, has agreed to be navigator and galley chief. Red noodle
Norman, her husband, is a Sudoko master and electrical engineer, so we will expect him to untangle lines and monitor the unique electrical systems aboard the Lagoon 420. Black fins, in the water last.
Becky is our language expert. She will translate the native Caribe and bargain for better deals in all the markets. Green noodle
David is a computer guru who will man the communications station and monitor the GPS. Black fins, shiny noggin.
Katey has a passion for Geo-caching so she will guide us when we are ashore and help us to discover all the treasures of the Virgins. Orange noodle.
Kevin is our manly man. As the youngest hunk aboard he will man the winches and the anchor rode when he’s not posing for pics with the ladies. Doesn’t need fins.
July 26, 2008
That’s right, sixty days from today we’ll be flying the friendly skies to Tortola and St Thomas. The boat deposit is in the mail and the galley crew is looking over provisioning options. We’ve heard that you can pre-order from Bobbys Supermarket and plan to do some of it that way. We’ll wait till we arrive to buy meats, veggies and fruits.
I spent an hour today pulling out my crisp new nautical maps and reviewing anchorage options. Its amazing how many great places there are and sad that we only have 10 days to make it happen. Right now I’m thinking we’ll select four main stops and spend two nights at each so we’ll have plenty of time to soak it all in. That’ll leave a couple of completely spontaneous days to go with our gut. But the group knows that the winds and weather will have a lot to say about where we finally set anchor, so we’ll leave a lot of it in God’s hands.
Next Saturday we all meet for our next "crew party"- a great excuse to share food and get each other pumped for the trip. Several of us have been on a number of adventures together since that first charter to the BVI in 2002 and we’ve found its the best way to turn a short vacation into a really long one!
August 05, 2008
Here in north Alabama August is about the most awful month of the year. Temps in the mid to high 90s and breezes only when a late afternoon thunderstorm rushes through. I’m positive the water from the sprinklers heats up in midair, getting the grass wet but scorching it brown. That’s why I love waking up at dawn and walking the dog when it’s still merely hot.
I have a morning ritual every day. I check a weather site that tells the temps and winds in Roadtown, Tortola. I used to keep the numbers in a diary until I realized they don’t really change much. Maybe a little boring for them but comforting to a sailor. I check the TMM site to relish over the fact that those red blocks on Martha R are OUR days in the BVI. Finally, I read the latest posts in the BVI forum on Travel Talk On Line.
Its really amazing how many relevant posts come and go on the TTOL site. Reading the questions and great answers is almost like sitting in the marina jawing with the cruisers next door. I recommend it highly to anyone.
August 11, 2008
Saturday night the crew gathered on green mountain at the beautiful hilltop home of the Deasys. They’ve cleared off some trees to give them an absolutely beautiful view to the valley on their East.
Katey had prepared a sumptuous feats of Lasagna, fresh tomatoes, french baguettes, and a fruity dessert that produced raves from the crowd. We shared stories and enjoyed a few laughs from past and present trips. Kathy caught us up on provisioning by bringing along a gastronomic survey and yours truly gave out the last of the "what’s your pleasure" itinerary surveys.
After dinner we all retired to the family theater to watch some video from the BVI Video site. I showed them some 30+ knot racing by catamarans in France. I was flattered that most of the crew was kind hearted enough to believe me when I told them I was crewing the red one!
check it out here:
We also took a dive to the Rhone together:
All this revelry generated an impromptu mask and flippers regatta to test out Kevin’s ‘plywood flipper’ theory. The pylons were placed strategically throughout the upstairs and ended with a downwind leg back down the front staircase to the finish line in the foyer. For those of the group who don’t recall this event and its outcome, I can only say you drank too much sweet tea or left too early!
Next outing will be on the deck of the good ship Harvell for a final briefing on travel tips and ship stowage about two weeks before we shove off. Until then let me leave you with a great quote Katey found on TTOL-
Take your time. . . smell the sea air, feel the sun. It is totally impossible to see everything in one trip, so don’t force yourself to try. Squeeze every goodness out of every minute. If you love where you are and don’t want to leave, stay another night. Leave room in the sponge. All you HAVE to do is get the boat back on time and as she was given to you.
It is YOUR trip.
Ahh, I can hear the waves lapping already!!!
August 12, 2008
After reading that title you may be expecting a treatise on surviving the hiking trails in the BVI, but alas, ’tis a bit lower brow than that my friends.
I was on TTOL today and got the idea of asking the travelers in the know where we could get water, ice, fuel etc. during our bareboat. I also made the honest mistake of asking about holding tank pump outs. I guess I should have remembered from our trip in 2002, but I was quickly reminded that everyone simply dumps their tanks overboard down there. Gives new meaning to the term recycle, doesn’t it! After the humorous banter subsided, I did get the info I needed, but I’ll be more careful what I ask in the future.
I guess its another reason to be grateful the crowds will be sparse during our trip. Here’s praying the current always flows AWAY and out snorkle gear is turd tight!!
August 19, 2008
I came across this website during my daily wandering in the BVI cybersphere today. It tells the tale of a venereable old steel hull sailboat they plan to sink as an artifical reef in the BVI this Fall. http://www.windjammerflyingcloud.com/
The name of the vessel is the Flying Cloud. She plucked a few heartstrings for me because she last sailed as a Windjammer cruise boat in the BVI in 2002 -the same year a catamaran trip inspired me to work towards a bareboat there. She shared an anchorage near us a couple of times and we have a memorable backlit sunshot photo as part of our DVD.
Built originally for the French Navy in 1935 she has been a cadet trainer, a spy ship during WWII, a cargo vessel, and, since 1968, a member of the WindJammer fleet. Although she has a colorful past, her next assignment will find her arrayed in all the splendor of the deep, because this October she is scheduled to go to her final anchorage on the bottom between Ginger and Cooper Islands.
I look forward to visiting her through a mask in future years, she should live to make as many memories below the islands as she did around them.
August 26, 2008
Today we are one month away from the sea filled air of the Caribbean, and we find ourselves wading through the drizzling, dripping, draining remains of Fay. Of course the reality that a hurricane or tropical wave could be disastrous to our late September plans is becoming ever more real.
It was encouraging to look at the weather at RoadTown today and see that, despite the passing threat of Gustav, winds are light and skys are sunny! The really scary part about this guy was how quick he popped up. There’s not much we can do but pray they’ll blow themselves out in the next three weeks and leave us with clear blue water and steady winds in a favorable direction.
One sad piece of news for the MarthaR. She’ll not get to strut her stuff for our dear friends the Weavers – this time around at least. Larry has been scheduled to attend a week long work convention in San Francisco during the time we are in the Virgins, so they’ll be unable to come down and share a sail with us. That’s especially sad for me because Larry has been my sailing partner since the beginning of this dream – we’d bottle it and bring it home for you if we could, guys!
We’ve continued our little email game of Name That Anchorage – a little diversion I cooked up to get everyone looking around the islands by sending Google Map links of pretty spots. Today’s challenge was different. I emailed only a Panaramio photo of the spot, so they’ll have to really search around until they find a match. Take a look and see if you can – Name That Anchorage!
September 08, 2008
Sunday afternoon was our final get together as a group. We really did it up right with Carribean music, exotic dishes and eating on the deck to simulate BVI temps (if not wind). The only thing we forgot was to have everyone come in their swimsuit!
We again broke with time honored tradition and did not take a single photo. Could this be an ominous sign of Obama-like change in the air? Surely not, being conservative Christians, we are more likely Palin proselytes.
Well, it all went off without a hitch, even when we got home from church to find out the main entree had failed to cook due to a timer malfunction. We enjoyed a luxurious last minute lunch in 82 degrees of Virgin weather and topped it off with virgin Pain Killers all around!
The guys retired to the TV room to view Tivo versions of Top Ten Caribbean Beaches (White Bay YVD was #5) and the ladies spent some time making provisioning plans. We are going to try what we’ve read about on the TravelTalk forum – taking frozen meat in our luggage. Katey found a vacuum packing device from Zip Lock and apparently well frozen meat will stay frozen for over a day in transit.
Our anxiety over the three hurricane landing pattern in the Atlantic has calmed somewhat, but we will watch the wunderground tropical
website closely for the next 14 days to see what developes.
September 24, 2008
Well, last entry before we shove off for the wilds of the Sir Francis Drake. We’ve been pouring over all the usual Tropical forecast sites for the past two weeks, and are encouraged that the current storm deluging Puerto Rico is remaining East and North of us. Its expected to clear the area before our arrival, leaving behind lots of wet island and blue skies – for a while. Its all in God’s hands, of course, and we’ve been on our knees more than usual for a 10 day window of tropical wave-free weather while we’re there!
We’ve ordered the provisioning for 5 of our 10 days from Riteway and Bobby’s, reserved the clear bottom Kayak, and frozen the marinated chicken, steak and BBQ we’ll bring into country. Thanks to Kathy’s super meal planning spreadsheet (available for similarly challenged planners and cooks) we know down to the ounce what we’ll need for on board culinary excellence. Now all we have to do is find a grilling expert among the crew. I’m not worried because the lighter fluid usually risies to the top when a man gets really hungry.
You can see from the photo of my bedroom floor below that I’ve been slowly piling my worldly sailing possessions to test my 50 lb limit. So far so good because I still have room for my shorty wetsuit and my good fins. I pretty sure I’ll get a hankering to dive when we pass Salt Island and the grave of the Rhone!
I’ve stopped worrying about being the perfect skipper for the moment, Im sure that will come back with a passion while we’re flying down. I’ll be happy if the TMM people just agree that I’m safe enough to trust their boat to for the duration. If not I’ll pony up for a one day skipper and let him get us to Anegada. Question- does Anegada have enough real soil to cloud the water after heavy rains?? Snorkling is one of our main pursuits on a trip like this so we hope the clear water and sea life is in abundance.
I’ll keep a diary during the trip and post a daily blog account when I return (if I don’t get lucky with the wireless at one of our anchorages), so check back around the 10th of October for new pics and posts.