Archive for November, 2009

First Week of Caribbean Cruising

Monday, November 30th, 2009

We’ve been in the Caribbean for almost 2 weeks now and are just starting to get into the groove.

Most of the first week was spent at Nanny Cay marina recovering from the 1500, cleaning up and repairing the boat, and of course taking part in nightly cocktail parties and dinners.  After the awards dinner on Friday the 13th, we left Nanny Cay to begin cruising in earnest.

We left Nanny Cay at around noon on Saturday and motored over to Norman Island, stopping en route at the Indians – an underwater cave / reef – for our first BVI snorkelling.  Then it was on to the Bight at Norman Island.  We anchored up close to shore in about 20 feet of water and were soon joined by One World, a schooner that had come down with us on the 1500.  We spent the afternoon snorkelling on a delightful little reef close to the boat and then swinging into the water on the rope swing that One World had rigged from one of its yards.  (Schooners, when not sailing, appear to be floating playgrounds with ratlines, yards, and all kinds of other rigging to climb on or jump from)

The next day, Peter from Stolen Hour and I went snorkelling in the Treasure Island caves on the west side of Norman Island (Norman Island supposedly provides the locale for the novel Treasure Island).  It was quite cool, and you could easily envision how pirates would use such caves for hiding – either themselves or their wares.

We then motored over to Trellis Bay which, near as I can tell, exists principally as an anchorage so that people who need to drop or pick up crew at the airport can do so without need of a cab.   You can literally dinghy to shore and then walk a minute or so to the airport.  Since Ian was flying out the following morning, Trellis Bay was a required Sunday night stop for us.  To send Ian off in style, he and I, as well as Peter from Ohana (lots of Peters around here) went ashore for dinner and some drinks at the Loose Mongoose.

The next morning, we said goodbye to Ian and then, for the first time in a few weeks, had only Kilgours on board.  The first order of business was to deal with an outboard motor that had ceased functioning.  One hypothesis was that we had water in the gas, so I borrowed Ohana’s dinghy and zipped over to Marina Cay a mile away and picked up some new gas.  Unfortunately, new gas didn’t solve anything, but on the upside, the fuel dock was right beside a Pussers’ store and I managed to pick up some rum and a couple of bottles of Painkiller mix.

We then motored around the east end of Tortola and headed west to Jost van Dyke where we picked up a mooring between Jost and Little Jost.  Going ashore, we met Dwight (our crew), Patti (his wife), Sandy (her sister) and Gerry (husband) who had chartered their own boat for the week.  Dwight led us down a ‘pirate trail’ through the mangroves where we saw wild goats, beautiful cacti, and huge aloe vera plants.  At the end of trail, we were greeted by a ‘bubbly pool’, which was a small sandy area which circled a small pool water.  At the sea end of the pool were large rocks that separated the pool from the sea, but for a small 2-3 foot wide channel that led out to the sea.  Waves from the sea would then funnel up the channel and then explode into the bubbly pool, turning it into a giant, natural hot tub.  We swam and bounced around for a while and then made our way back to Bojangles.   We motored over to White Bay, picked up a mooring while the kids spotted their first sea turtle, then taxied over to Little Harbour for a lovely dinner at a beachside restaurant with Dwight and his crew.

The next day, Dwight headed back to Tortola to complete his charter and we moved over to the other side of the bay where we could anchor and avoid the $25 a day fee for a mooring ball.  We anchored just off the famous Soggy Dollar bar (home of the Painkiller) and beside a mega-motor yacht called Hooter Patrol.  As you might have surmised, the vessel in question and its crew of pneumatically enhanced young women was on location at the Soggy Dollar for a photo shoot for the Hooters Calendar.  We offered up Bojangles as a prop for the calendar, but they declined our offer.

Whilst we were now starting to get into the cruising groove, we heard on the radio that our friends Kirk and Elizabeth (also from Toronto) on Discovery had just learned that their engine was in need of a serious rebuild and that their cruising plans would be delayed at least a few more weeks.  We offered to take their kids for a few days so that the kids could escape the marina and so that they wouldn’t be underfoot while the engine was being pulled from the boat.  As Claire, their daughter, was a bit under the weather, we arranged to swing into Nanny Cay and pick up Wesley for a few days.

Our first stop with Wesley was Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda which, for us, was simply a place to park the boat for the night and then zip over to the Baths first thing in the morning.  At Spanish Town, we also caught up with our friends on Stolen Hour and Ohana who had similar plans.

Exploring the Baths was quite neat.  It’s a collection of boulders and caves on the water’s edge that you can walk and swim through, and then you can snorkel off the beach in some very nice reefs.  (I can’t do the Baths justice.  If you want to learn more – google Baths Virgin Gorda)

From there, we zipped around to the South East side of Virgin Gorda with Ohana and Stolen Hour and found a beautiful anchorage in the South Sound.  The entrance was a little tricky due to the preponderance of reefs and isolated coral heads, but once inside the reef we had the perfect combination of calm waters but good winds to keep the boat cool.  We snorkelled around a bit, saw a ton of conch, and had a great night in a very pretty anchorage.   Unfortunately we later learned that South Sound is a national park and that all mooring is prohibited there.  We promptly apologized to Mother Nature and then pulled anchor.

Leaving South Sound, we sailed around the east side of Virgin Gorda and said goodbye to Stolen Hour who was sailing north to Anegada for a couple of days.  Rounding the eastern tip of Virgin Gorda, we sailed (actually motored due to the need to charge batteries) into the North Sound and anchored just off the shore of Prickly Pear Island and about 1 mile west of the Bitter End Yacht Club resort.

This was a great anchoring spot with good access to beaches, snorkeling, and the Bitter End’s facilities – which include and outdoor movie theatre and a free double feature every night.  We spent about 5 or 6 days anchored here.  The kids particularly enjoyed collecting hermit crabs on the beach and creating a ‘Habitrail’ for them.  At its peak, the Habitrail – a maze of sand trails – housed around 60 crabs, each about as large as your fist.  It was quite a sight to see them scurry around and try to get back to the forest whence they were plucked.

One day, we picked up a mooring at Leverick Bay – on the other side of the Sound – and took part in a fundraising Pirate Party at Jumbies, the marina’s bar.  A good time was had by all as kids and adults alike spent the evening dancing under the stars.  Additionally, I got a second chance to wear my Wal-Mart purchased pirate costume, the first being a few weeks ago on Halloween in Hampton.  Unfortunately, I did not win the ‘best dressed’ award and the accompanying bottle of Pussers.

Our last day in Gorda Sound was US Thanksgiving.  What started as a gathering of three ‘kid boats’ (Bojangles, Stolen Hour, and Ohana) mushroomed into a fairly large gathering of Carib1500 boats and a massive potluck Thanksgiving dinner on the beach.  At last count, there were something like 14 or 15 boats represented and about 30 adults and 15 kids for Thanksgiving.  Folks started gathering on the beach around 1:00pm for swimming, beach volleyball, and ‘painkilling’ (the act of drinking Painkillers) and then around 3:00pm we gathered to give thanks for our blessings, which is an easy thing to do when you’re anchored in November on a beautiful beach with lots of friends and a veritable feast in front of you.   We then tucked into a great turkey dinner and had a delightful evening.

After that, we said goodbye to Virgin Gorda and traveled back to Nanny Cay – with the Discovery crew onboard (they have the broken engine, but hitched a ride over to Gorda Sound for the party).  Back at Nanny Cay, it was Claire and Wesley’s 11th birthday (twins) and the kids enjoyed a pool party at the marina and then we all headed to Mulligan’s for beer, burgers, wings, ribs, and fries… Another nice day…

The day after the birthday party, Nov 28, in a way marks the start of a new period for us.  The last week and a half have really been about getting into the cruising groove after two months of boat projects and constant travelling to get to the Caribbean.  Now, we’re here.  There are still boat projects, but no major ones.  We have begun cruising and explored the BVI’s.  And now, it’s time to think independent from the group we’ve been traveling with (even though they’re a great group) and start to make our own plans and go our own way.  We’ll of course meet up with all these boats again, but for now, the time is right for us to strike out on our own a little.

That said, we came over to the south side of Peter Island tonight in hopes of finding a quiet anchorage in White Bay (different from the White Bay on Jost van Dyke).  When we came into White Bay – a beautiful ¼  mile long horseshoe shaped beach surrounded by steep, tree covered mountainside – there was only one other boat anchored and not a soul on the beach.  We quickly anchored and swam ashore to have the beach to ourselves and enjoy the late afternoon sun.  Then the folks from the mega-yacht (the other boat anchored) came ashore as well and we no longer were the only ones there.   However we kept to ourselves and they respected our privacy, which we appreciated.  (And while we haven’t confirmed this, Kathleen’s binoculars have provided a 95% certainty that the ‘dad’ on the mega-yacht has a name that rhymes with Com Trooze and his wife’s with Hatey Combs.)  They only stayed the one night and then weighed anchor in the morning.  We, on the other hand, stayed one more day and got to be good friends with Bill – a 54″ Barracuda who spent about 24 hours hanging out beneath our boat.

That’s all for now…

Cheers,

Colin

Results are in – Bojangles IV First in Fleet!

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
Overall Handicap Winner, First in Class

Overall Handicap Winner, First in Class

We had a great sail to the BVI’s, but I didn’t realize it was THAT great. At the awards ceremony last Friday (the 13th), Bojangles IV was recognized as 1st in Fleet amongst the 26 boats that entered the racing class of the Caribbean 1500.

Click here for the press release.

What a great way to cap off a tremendous ocean passage. Now, as I sit here typing away with my toes literally in the sand at the Soggy Dollar Bar at Jost van Dyke, it’s time to stop racing and start cruising.

Cheers,

Colin

Some photos from the 1500

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Here are a few photos from the trip… I’ll likely put a proper album together at some point, but hopefully this will give you a flavour of life on board Bojangles IV

We made it!

Friday, November 13th, 2009


On Monday night, just after midnight we crossed the finish line in the Caribbean 1500 and arrived in Tortola. After 7.5 days at sea, we were all ready to see the lights of Tortola and a free mooring ball at Soper’s Hole where we could finally bring the boat to rest and get a good night’s sleep.

After clearing customs the following morning, we motored over to Nanny Cay marina where we have been for the last few days. Our time has been spent cleaning up the boat, doing laundry, re-provisioning, filling the water tanks and general boat chores that pop up after a 1500 mile passage. Of course, we’ve also been able to squeeze in a little time for the beach, the pool, and the daily happy hours.

Today (Friday) is the awards banquet and we’ll get a chance to see how we fared against the 25 other boats that entered the racing class. We had a pretty good passage, so we should show fairly well.

The next few posts are some of the email messages I sent while we were at sea. Perhaps by reading them, you can get a feel for how the passage went.

Cheers,
Colin

Nov 10 – Bojangles is in Tortola!!!

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Hi all,

We got into Tortola this morning (Tuesday) at 1:10am. More of an update to come later (once we finish celebrating and cleaning up the boat), but I wanted to let you all know that we had a great, fast, largely problem free trip. (No big $$ items)

And oh yeah, it’s lovely here. Water temp is 35C. Air temp about the same.

Cheers,
Colin

Nov 8 – 36 Hours Out?

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

We’ve had a busy day. Yesterday we were zipping along under our ‘Full Monty’ sailplan (full genny, full main, full mizzen) enjoying broad reaching speeds in the 8′s and 9′s with gusts and surfing opportunities seeing us hit 10′s and 11′s regularly. Then the winds and seas began to build with the winds hitting 25 and the seas in the 12-15 foot range.

We began shortening sail late in the afternoon – one reef in the main, then two, then dropping the mizzen, then one reef in the genoa, then another. Finally, about an hour later, we had the ideal sailplan – cruising along at 8 – and finally the autopilot was able to take control.

We stayed that way through the night – and the boat sailed well. Unfortunately, the motion below was not kind to those who wished to sleep… or eat, or read, or well… do anything other than lie in one’s bunk and stare at the ceiling.

Then, around 2330, Dwight woke me to tell me that my spinnaker had started to fall into the water. I had left it in its bag on deck and secured the bag, but there was a small opening in each end of the bag between the zipper and the bag itself. Well, I guess a wave went through there and grabbed a corner of the sail and pulled it out. Next thing you know, there’s 1300 square feet of sail trailing behind the boat, not tied to anything, in 30 knot winds, and pitch black darkness. I got my shorts and harness on and went on deck to see what I could do. After what seemed a very long time (say 30 minutes?) I was able to pull it back on deck, get it back to the cockpit, and then re-stow it in it’s bag. Not a fun exercise, but we’re glad we didn’t lose the sail.

Today, the winds and waves continue, about 24 knots out the NE and waves in the 10-12 foot range. While it’s uncomfortable moving around below, spirits remain strong and the kids are enjoying planning what they’re going to do when we get to Tortola.

Also this morning, we had a repeat of the ‘water in the engine’ scenario. So, Dwight and I pulled the injectors for the 4th time on this trip and were able to get the engine running again (We don’t need it for propulsion, but we do need it to keep our batteries charged)

At the same time, it looked like we had run out of freshwater. As it turns out, the pump had simply lost its prime and we still have plenty of water. (And even if we had run out, we carry enough emergency water to have gotten us to Tortola well hydrated)

For now, it seems that all the potential disasters have been averted (touching wood everywhere), we are 256 miles from Tortola with good winds. While the ride right now is a bit uncomfortable due to the sea condition, we know that we’ll likely be safely moored by sometime after midnight on Monday (certainly before noon Tuesday) and we’re buoyed by the prospect of completing the passage.

Cheers All,
Colin

Nov 7 – 450 Miles to Go

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

At Saturday 1330, we are 453 miles from the finish line. If the current good conditions persist, we should make Tortola sometime on Tuesday morning. If the wind, currently 18 knots out of the Northeast dies or shifts materially, we’ll likely be somewhat longer.

Yesterday was another great sailing day. The wind through Thursday night dropped to about 15 knots and was still out of the North. As we wanted to keep the boat moving and sail SE, the best sail combination for us was to hoist the cruising spinnaker, which is what we did around 0900 after everyone was up and had breakfast.

Once we hoisted the chute, we had a great day’s run – making between 8-10 knots throughout the day. With the wind piping up later in the afternoon to about 22 knots, we had a short incident when the snap shackle on the spinnaker sheet opened. The sheet fell to the water and the sail began flogging like crazy (picture a 1300 square foot flag flapping in a 40 km/hr breeze). I got Ian to come take the helm whilst I ran forward to douse the chute into it’s sock. Dwight had retrieved the errant sheet and brought it forward to re-attach to the clew of the sail. That sorted, I pulled up the sock again and we re-launched the chute and continued our downwind romp.

However, an hour later, the shackle snapped open again and we had to repeat the fire drill. This time however, we decided to keep the chute in its sock and save it for another day.

We then rolled out the genny and continued sailing at about 8 knots throughout the night in a 22-25 knot breeze. This would have been another perfect night of sailing, except that the seas were growing to about 12 feet and the autopilot couldn’t handle the way the boat got tossed around by the waves. So, we hand steered through the night and continue to do so now. The crew has started to complain about this a bit, but I remind them that (a) sailing is a sport, and (b)there are limited other workout options on board so they should be thankful for this exercise opportunity.

Anyway, that’s all the news from here. Feel free to send us an email – just don’t send ours back to us when you hit “reply”. (ie: only send us text that you type, and of course, no attachments)

Cheers,
Colin

Nov 6 – We’re past halfway

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Around 10:00 this morning we passed the halfway point between Hampton (our start for the 1500) and Tortola (our finish in the BVI’s)

The weather has settled down and we’re enjoying North winds of about 15 knots. Yesterday, the wind was calm during the day and we motored for about 8 hours in order to keep the boat moving and charge the batteries.

Then last night the wind returned and we had a beautiful sail through the night – a broad reach with 15-18 knots of wind, all sail up, modest sea conditions, bright moonlight, and warm sea air. Pretty much a perfect sail.

In the morning, the wind died to about 12-15 so we finally got a chance to hoist the spinnaker. As we were preparing it, we passed close by another 1500 boat and hailed him on the radio and arranged for him to take some photos of us as we sailed by. Hopefully, we’ll see some nice shots when we get to Tortola.

Right now, we just finished some home made pizza and salad for lunch and we’ll sail through the day with the spinnaker (currently driving us at 8.5 knots) and then likely drop it at dusk.

Oh yeah… one last thing. We caught our first fish yesterday – a King Mackerel. It’s a pretty fish, and we enjoyed eating it – but the taste was a little strong for some on board. Everyone else is catching mahi-mahi, but I’m not sure that our tackle is strong enough to bring a decent sized one on board (I think my leaders are too light, we’ve already had a couple snap)

Anyway, it’s all fun. If current conditions persist, we should make Tortola by Tuesday and we’ll be dining on the proverbial Cheeseburgers in Paradise.

Cheers,
Colin

Nov 4 – Through the Gulf Stream and heading south

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Hi all,

We had a lumpy ride through the Gulf Stream, with waves in the 12-15 foot range and winds of about 25 knots. Sailing on a broad reach under full genoa and reefed mizzen, we were consistently making about 8.5 though the water and a little less over ground as the 2 knot Gulf Stream current pushed us north as we tried to head southeast. The combination of waves and wind was too much for our autopilot to handle, so we hand steered for about 12 hours. Needless to say, out arms were well exercised by the time we got through the 60 odd mile stream.

By about noon yesterday, the worst of it was over and the seas began to subside. The wind dropped down to about 17-20 and we kept sailing at around 7 knots.

Then, I decided to start the engine. First to charge the batteries, but also to clear any water that would have crept into the exhaust.

(Our engine, like most sailboats, has a wet exhaust system where the exhaust is mixed with water from the cooling system and both are shot through the muffler and out the back of the boat. In a following sea – like we had in the Gulf Stream – the waves can shoot up through the exhaust, then up through the muffler and then back down through the cylinder exhaust valves and into the cylinders. Water in the cylinders will categorically stop the engine from cranking. Period. By periodically starting up the engine, we can avoid this happening because starting the engine will send exhaust and cooling water up through the muffler and out the back of the boat.)

When I tried to start the engine, I got a single “CLUNK” and then nothing. I was too late. The water had done its damage.

After a few choice words were uttered, Dwight and I removed the fuel injectors and were greeted with water gushing out of a couple of them. We then cranked the engine (whilst fuel injectors were still out) and shot the contents of the cylinders about the inside of the engine room. We replaced the injectors, bled the fuel lines and then pressed the start button — “CLUNK”.

Obviously, more water remained. We repeated the process again. CLUNK. Then again. This time making sure that the cylinders were dry and also shooting a little WD40 in them for good measure. (FYI, diesel engines can run on WD40). Finally, she fired up and we all could breathe a little easier.

We had a nice dinner of beans, sausage, and mash – accompanied by ice cold Heineken – and then went into our evening watch schedule through the night.

By midnight, the wind picked up to 20 knots again and we had a beautiful broad reach sail under a full moon. This was the classic “Fair winds and following seas” conditions that people talk about.

As I write (~1:00 pm) these conditions continue, although the winds are moving around to the NE a bit, putting us on a port tack beam reach making about 8 to 8.5 knots. We’ve got two other boats in sight – one about 5 miles ahead that we’ve been gaining on since last night, and one about 5 miles behind that is falling into the distance.

In sum, the boat’s sailing well and fast. Spirits are high. Weather is warming up nicely (I’m in shorts and T-shirt). So far, so good.

Let’s hope it continues.

Cheers,
Colin

Nov 3 – Into the Gulf Stream

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Hi all

After a short weather update at 0800 yesterday (Monday 11/2), we cut loose from our dock, had a short pit stop at the pumpout and headed back out to the Chesapeake for the start of the rally.

We got out fairly early and saw many of the “Cruising Class” boats head out to sea. The Rally classes, however, had to wait for a noon start time. We took this opportunity to hoist sails, untangle lazy jack lines that mysteriously became tangled, and then sailed about for a while until the start.

At 1200, we got underway and all the rally class boats headed for the Bay Bridge Tunnel (half bridge, half tunnel) that divides the Chesapeake from the Atlantic.

By about 1300, we were out in the ocean and the fleet began to spread out as folks chose their courses. The wind was blowing about 20kts out of the North, so we set a full genoa and a single reefed main for some fast broad reaching.

We headed SE throughout the day and into the night as the winds grew to about 25.

Around 0200 this morning we entered the Gulf Stream. This characterized by 3 things:
1. The water warms up remarkably (When we left Hampton, the water temp was 16C. It’s now 31C!)
2. The 2 knot current starts to push you north (And we want to go south)
3. The meeting of north bound current with southbound waves makes for a very lumpy sea.

Since leaving Hampton, the boat’s been rolling nicely and is clearly in her element. Our boatspeed for most of yesterday was in the 9′s and frequently over 10 knots.

Right now (0930 Atlantic Time), we have waves of 12-15 ft or so, which makes for a somewhat lumpy ride. All aboard are well so far – although there has been a little ‘chumming’ the water for fish – although I can’t disclose the source as ‘what goes on Bojangles, stays on Bojangles’.

We expect these conditions to continue for another 24 hours or so and then the winds and seas will calm down. Stay tuned.

Cheers,
Colin