Tuesday, December 15, 2015

British Virgins

Following our circumnavigation (ha ha) of St. John we provisioned up and left the country. The BVIs are super duper cruising grounds and that's why they are absolutely packed with charter boats. Packed. It was a little bit weird and isolating being one of the few cruising boats in and among the crowds but we found company with our friends on Sail Pending, a visit from Grammie and a brief getting to know you sesh with the crew of Do Over before they continued on to meet up with the rally they were joining to go halfway 'round. And watching the charter boats manouver around makes for some really good entertainment.

Andy returns to the mother ship after clearing us in at Soper's Hole.

Another stamp in the passport and a new courtesy flag goes up. 

Cubby and Flour pose near a post box that reminded Andy of his university days.

Against all odds, all the pieces of the weather and travel puzzle came together to make it possible for Grammie to visit. First things first, an introduction to the airport kitties.

Followed by a pic with the sign. 

And a ride in the family car. It's always interesting watching newbies get in and out of the dinghy. I still have the occasional wipeout.

Grammie couldn't wait to get right in the water for a snorkel. It was nice and clear. And the weather improved just in time for her visit. We had a good breeze to cool things down and keep the mosquitoes away.

We headed right to the baths which is a very popular spot for snorkeling. The early morning race for a mooring ball is real. Thankfully the charter season wasn't in full swing so we got a spot despite our total inability to get an early start. Anywhere. Ever.

It's a fun scramble among the huge rocks to other snorkel spots and great views.

Really huge rocks. 

We paddled and swam to shore and back. Along with the snorkeling once there and the scrambling over the rocks we were all pretty hungry. But you can't stay overnight on the moorings at the baths so we had to eat and run. The British isles have lots of nooks and crannies just like their muffins so there are plenty of options for spending the night within a few miles of any spot.

As an early Christmas present Grammie brought the supplies and helped the kids make displays for their junior ranger badges.  I baked and ate cookies.

We stayed at the Bight at Normans for a couple days. We snorkeled at the caves and swam off the boat. We never made it to the Willy T. Maybe next time. Or not. 

The kids love doing this but it's a rare treat.

The sail back to Trellis Bay was awesome. Probably the best sail either of us has experienced. Lots of wind but no sea state because of the protection of all the little islands. We actually tacked back and forth the whole way! That NEVER happens. YachtshotsBVI got some great photos of us. Too bad we had a bunch of buckets and crap visible. It was sad to say goodbye to Grammie but we were glad the timing worked out!

As soon as Grammie left we set our sights on getting to St. Martin. Here's Andy listening to the forecast. Since we'd be traveling against the prevailing easterlies we wanted to wait for light conditions and it looked like we had an upcoming opportunity. 

A couple days of sucking up free wifi later, we headed to The North Sound on Virgin Gorda where we bumped into Sail Pending. We got together for another game night before clearing out the next morning. Without listening to the forecast. Major amateur move. After clearing out we relocated, picked up some wifi and downloaded the couple days of forecasts we had missed. Well, our window had basically evaporated but it seemed like a better one was coming. So back to customs Andy went to let them know we weren't actually leaving. 

And then we sailed north to Anegada instead!

It's flatter and drier than the other islands in the BVIs and reminded us a lot of the Bahamas. Except a lobster costs $50 instead of $0. 

A beach all to ourselves.

More sand forts for horses!

We rented a car and visited the rest of the island. Super pretty and a nice break from the busier spots.


This guy had a little too much fun at the previous night's Christmas tree lighting.

A pretty sunset over the anchorage. We had to rush back to the boat after a quick drink. F*&#ing mosquitoes. 

What was the point in renting a car when we could take the free ride to the Anegada Beach Club? We had lunch there the day before and enjoyed the use of the pool. Plus the beach looked so great that Andy was excited to go back and try kiteboarding. Sail Pending joined us so the kids played in the water all day and I had some nice company. 

Andy hooked up with another kiteboarder who gave him some good tips. And with this awesome stretch of beach almost entirely to himself, all the pieces came together. Look at him go!

Cubby got her hands on the underwater camera and played in the jets of the pool. I wish we could upload the video. She looked like a minion. 

Ok, this is really goodbye. Sail Pending headed off for more island hopping and we were stowing and prepping for our afternoon departure to overnight across the Anegada Passage. See you down the chain! 

A chilly and rainy start transformed into a cool clear night. Off to St. Martin. Or Sint Maarten. To be decided in the morning...

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Spanish and US Virgins

Back on the water for season two! First stop was to go back to Culebra where we spent so much time in the summer and then on to the US Virgin Islands. Sometimes it's hard to decide the exact moment to throw off the dock lines. There's always something else on the to-do list. There's always one more spare you might need, one more project that would be easier to tackle dockside, or one more item missing from the provisioning list. But once we leave, it is so liberating and we realize we will figure it out, make do or do without and it just doesn't matter. Just go. Keep moving. The longer you stay, the harder it gets to move.

"Our" mooring ball was free so we tied on and started pulling out all the toys. The pool's open!

Oh but wait. I haven't been swimming in a while and it looks weird. 

One of the things we wanted to do in Culebra was visit with all the kitties we had made friends with. It was sad for us to wander around and not find any of our furry friends. But the good news was that the big campaign to spay, neuter and find homes for everyone was working. So instead we visited with this really friendly horse that Cubby named Peaches. The kids would grab handfuls of fresh grass and RUN up the street. 

Peaches would follow at full speed and everyone would turn around and race back the other way. At the end, Peaches would perform a very fancy, prancing, tight turn. Every single time!

And then she would get a nice treat of fresh grass. She really seemed to love the game.

Every once in a while we like to post the reality pictures. Sure, living on a boat can be fun and relaxing. We get to see lots of new places. We meet new people and have freedom to live how we want. And we can do it all in our underwear most of the time. But boats are a lot of work and nothing is particularly convenient. Here's Andy replacing the boost pump for the watermaker. The watermaker is under our bed. Most things are under someone's bed. So getting a part or a jar of pasta sauce requires being a contortionist. And remaking a bed you can't walk around. Fun! 

But then a lovely snorkel makes it all worthwile. 

Until the dinghy motor breaks down on the way home and then that needs to be fixed. Oy.

After four months on land and a quick hop to Culebra we still did not have our sea legs. We left for St. Thomas fairly early in the AM and made the mistake of not eating breakfast. Add to that some bouncy seas and the kids were not feeling it! 

Even though it was November the weather was still quite tropical. It was only about 20 miles to St. Thomas but it felt like a really long day. 

This was our first sighting of the megayachts that hang out in the Virgin Islands. The three masted thing is Eos, Barry Diller's yacht. 

Another squall washes the salt off the boat but kicks up the sea state. 

We wanted to anchor at Christmas Cove but it was so filled with mooring balls we ended up taking one. They are free but not very well maintained so it was a tough call. Andy dove the mooring and it looked good so we stayed. And stayed. And stayed. We go somewhere for a day and then never leave. But the swimming and snorkeling was so fun right off the boat we had no reason to leave. Plus a great grocery store a dinghy ride away? No brainer. 

Panorama of Christmas Cove. It was pretty and fun for swimming but what the pictures don't show are the swarms of mosquitoes that showed up every night at dusk.

It was good to be getting back into the school routine. Cubby gets a computer lesson from Dorothy Hamill. 

This squad was always under our boat. 

Great snorkeling all around with lots of life including morays. 

And a really big nurse shark.

This boat runs a business called Pizza Pi. They make fresh pizza on their boat. And they deliver. Perfect when the dinghy motor is under repair. World's most expensive pizza, though, so that's the end of spending money for "the fun of it."

A lobster we wished we could eat instead of a $30 pizza.

Drew was kind enough to make us a fruit salad in the AM while we stayed in bed. That's, like, 5 days worth of fruit but it's cool. We love his kitchen independence! 

Arrow Crab.

Trunk fish are so cute and there were a few always under our boat. Andy got up close and personal with this cutie. 

Flamingo tongue on fan coral.

Fat moray. 

We had at least one rainbow per day.

On the south side of St. John we dinghied out to Booby Rock for a snorkel. And there was Barry Diller on his tender getting suited up for a dive. 

Have a nice dive and have fun at work on Monday! I'm just jealous because he has someone to dress him and throw him in the water. 

Queen Angelfish.

We met the crew of Sail Pending in Christmas Cove and then hooked up with them again in St. John. We had fun snorkeling and playing board games together. 

And just chilling at the beach. 

Tangent on a mooring ball in Salt Pond Bay.

Horses get some underwater sand time. 

On the north side of St. John we stayed in Leinster Bay and paddled to Waterlemon Cay for a great snorkel and visit with the pelicans.

Drew spotted this octopus and took some really nice photos of the blob. 

All the good snorkeling made up for the horrible mosquito situation. 

A visit to St. John wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Annaberg Sugar Plantation.

Sorry, dude, no pizza today.

Sugar Cane became sugar and the leftover molasses became rum. 

The mill powered part of the process.

We celebrated Thanksgiving in Francis Bay. We had a butterball turkey breast from Puerto Rico and a bunch of other boxed and canned items purchased in advance for the occasion. We never know what the food situation is going to be where we are so we have to prepare in advance. 

We had set the table really nicely outside but then got totally swarmed by mosquitoes so quickly brought in the bare necessities, closed up everything, and scarfed our butterball and stove top while we sweated and complained. 

Did I mention the mosquitoes? Unbelievable.
On a walk along the Francis Bay trail everyone got munched.

And then it rained. All day. Hot, rain, mosquitoes. Whose idea was this?

We got a mooring ball in Caneel Bay. Lots of wakes rock the boat all day but it's a good place to leave the boat to visit Cruz Bay. And then you get Venus, Steve Jobs' boat, as a neighbor. The roofs look like the back of an iPhone. 

And then they get this douche anchoring right on top of them. A VHF call was made, of course. The captain of Venus was much more polite than we would have been.