Saturday, January 28, 2012

Checking Out the Island of Anguilla

Interesting architecture
The Customs and Immigration officers were not only friendly, but also helpful. When we wanted to take an island tour, they called a cab for us. The Cruising books suggest the Anguilla wants to limit visitors. That is not what we found. They are actually trying to limit major development, but are trying to develop tourism to boost the economy.

We found the people very friendly and enjoyed the lack of crowds. It appears that they have allowed several high end hotels to develop their major beach areas, although all beaches are public. Several of the developments have fallen on hard times or run into issues with the government and have closed or stopped building. That leaves locals without work and with eyesores sitting on their prime property.

Fun paint colors give that island flair!
I noticed that the last name of the cab driver was also the name of the airport. When I inquired, he said the airport name was either his father’s or
grandfather’s name. There were several other establishments with the same name. Like all of these islands, the indigenous population is limited in the number of original families, but continues to grow with each generation.  Dennis asked many questions and the driver seems comfortable sharing the answers.

Beautiful Shoal Bay with sugar sand
We stopped at the beautiful Shoal Bay which the driver said is the number one beach in the world – not sure whose standard. It is truly beautiful. There is a new hotel there that is said to cost $2000 per night. I could not confirm it as we did not check in! Unfortunately, we are not allowed to anchor there so we did not get to enjoy that beach. Like most of the islands, the beaches are public so even though there is a private establishment, you can access the beach and use it.

Woman entrepreneur!
At Shoal Bay, I met the lady selling beads and things. She was disappointed when I told her that I make beaded jewelry and really did not need to buy anything. She did let me take her photo, but didn’t give me the great smile she had. I also had to promise it was not going to be in a magazine!

Old stone church
One of the stops we made was at an old stone church. It is the oldest church on the island and is Catholic. The photo I took of the newer and larger church did not turn out so I don’t have the comparison. Even though the new one is more modern, it still looks like an old large church build of a different type of stone.

Two episodes of the Bachelor with Brad were filmed here Valentines Day 2011, including the Rose Ceremony aired in November. Also the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue was photographed here. The guide book says that has brought a lot of interest to the island which should increase their tourism.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Sunny Sunday in Anguilla

How's this for a beautiful beach?
Anguilla is a low lying island somewhat off the beaten path. Most cruisers sail from the BVI directly to St. Martin/Sint Marteen. Anguilla is only a few miles from St. Martin and can be seen without binoculars. It is one of the Renaissance Islands that include St. Martin and St. Bart's. Anguilla is British and has an interesting history. The native Anguillans were not happy being governed by St. Kitts so a rebellious group attacked St. Kitts - aided by two American mercenaries. It turned out to be a fiasco with a shoot out at the police station. No one was hurt, but after that St. Kitts never wanted to challenge the Anguillans! After some Americans helped finance Anguilla's recover in 1969, Britain was afraid the island was being taken over by the Mafia so they invaded. Armed men only found small boys and goats and were embarrassed. After it all died down, the Anguillan people got what they wanted: to be under the administration of Britain!

Elvis' Beach Bar
The cruising guides suggested Anguilla was exclusive to the rich and beautiful and was not interested in cruisers anchoring off their island. However, we found that not to be true. Upon arrival in Road Bay, we welcomed the sight of beautiful turquoise water and white sand beaches. And they were very welcoming to us! And we are certainly not the rich or famous!

The area known as Sandy Ground at Road Bay is a beautiful beach, and like most in the islands, is lined with beach bars and restaurants. Just as in Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, the bars take turns throughout the week providing great music. The beach here is white sand and turquoise water just like you see in the travel brochures!
Good listening at Johnno's
Since they have several beautiful cays for cruisers to explore, they limit the overnight anchorages to just two: Road Bay and Crocus Bay to the northeast. You are not allowed to anchor overnight in any of the marine park areas: Sandy Island, Prickly Pear Cay and Dog Island. And you need a cruising permit to visit those areas. Since we were not planning to stay long, we did not cruise to the marine parks, but would definitely come back again to do so.
Sunday Jazz at Johnno's    
We spent Sunday afternoon exploring Sandy Ground and the Salt Pond behind it. Johnno’s had great music so we found a couple of seats, unfortunately right under the speakers! Dennis enjoyed a nice lunch while I tried not to think about food after my night of sea sickness during the overnight passage. Then it was a walk on the beach and around the small community and back to the boat for a night of rest and recovery. Several days of relaxation were welcomed as we settled into “island time”

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Good Night Moon!

Leaving the BVI for Anguilla
By the time Dennis finished cleaning the barnacles, it was time to head through Round Rock Passage and down to Anguilla. This was our first overnight sail with just the two of us. I have to admit that I was a bit anxious about the whole idea. Fortunately, there was a big, bright and beautiful full moon that rose in front of us and set behind us in the morning.

Other than five cruise ships at a distance passing between the Virgin Islands and St. Martin, we had the Sombrero Passage to ourselves. I was doing quite well on the first watch while Dennis slept in the cockpit. It was beautiful. I was sitting directly under the Big Dipper and it seemed close enough to touch. The sky was brilliant with stars. The breeze was warm and the winds 15-20 knots. The only negative was that they were on our nose so we motored. My watch was uneventful – thankfully!

Serving dinner in a "doggy bowl" under way.
Then I went below for a few minutes before taking my turn to rest. That was a mistake. Sea sickness hit me! And I was over the rail much of the night! I took my second watch while hugging a winch and facing downwind! Not a pretty sight! I hadn’t even thought about sea sickness and forgot to pre-medicate for it. Shame on me! 

It was a welcome site to see land and the sunshine when we dropped our anchor. I still did not feel like eating for another 48 hours. Next time I will be smarter - I hope!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Trying to Get Out of Dodge!

Checking out the wind instruments at the top
of the mast before heading down island.
We had planned to head down island as soon as we got the boat ready after arriving on New Year’s Eve. Once we had everything working – except the water maker, we were scheduled to leave on Friday. The weather report looked good; we planned for clearing out and the overnight sail. But someone didn’t tell Mother Nature! Friday was one rain squall after another. Every time it stopped and we opened the portholes for some air, another squall came over the top of the island!

Saturday morning was beautiful and it looked like a perfect day to leave. As we pushed off Dock A and headed to the fuel dock, there was a terrible clunking noise! It sounded like it was coming from the engine. Once we got to the fuel dock, Dennis and several other sailors diagnosed the problem which turned out to be barnacles on the prop! Dennis put on his snorkeling equipment and dove under the boat to confirm. Apparently, they found a good place to grow while we were back in Michigan.

Chief Barnacle Scrapper!
The next challenge was removing the barnacles before leaving the BVI. Since it is not safe to dive in a marina due to stray electricity, we limped out of the harbor and out into Sir Francis Drake Channel to put up the sails and headed to Virgin Gorda where we had to clear out of the BVI. It was a perfect day for sailing, too.

We had to rush to get to Customs and Immigration before they closed or we would be stuck for the week-end. We were able to secure a short stay in Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor while Dennis ran across a field to get the government office before closing. He made it and we cleared out! Next we anchored in front of the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor so he could dive under and scrap the prop clean of barnacles.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sleep: Grab It When & Wherever You Can!

Who's driving?
Sleeping on board can be challenging - especially during a crossing. Everyone has his or her own bunk or bed. Some are better than others in various situations. For example, the forward cabin has two really comfortable beds. However, the ride up there can be nasty in heavy seas. At least you can choose whichever side of the cabin where you would roll into the wall instead of onto the floor!

Bob grabs an afternoon nap on deck.
Note that he snuggled in on the low side.
The center cabin has two bunk beds. With their lee-cloths up, they are very secure. And being in the center of the boat, they are not a bouncy as the forward cabin when the waves are high. It is a smaller space so it gets rather cozy. But when you come off watch and are exhausted, who cares! Both of these cabins have the advantage of being far away from the engine and generator, too.

Larry snagged the same spot later.
Sherry is  bracing herself on the high side!
Our aft cabin is very comfortable with it's queen-plus bed. The lee-cloth hangs in the middle to keep one from rolling all the way across to the other side when the boat is heeling. It can be rolly depending on the waves, but not as bouncy. However, it is noisy when the engine or generator are running. Again, we are usually so tired that it doesn't matter. During a long period of motoring, the engine noise can become annoying. 

Even in the salon you need to hang on while sleeping
As a result, the best place that everyone tries to grab in on the settee in main salon. That is, if the heel is working for you. There is a lee-cloth for that location, too. Since it is dead center of the boat, it has the least amount of motion. 

Several times people tried sleeping on the floor of the main salon, but the side-to-side rock caused too much motion for sleep. On a nice day, the aft deck was a good location - as long as you had on your life vest and your tether was attached to the jacklines.As a result, we slept anywhere and everywhere we could manage!

Or tether yourself in place!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What Do You Do During a Crossing?

Sherry taking a turn at the helm. Look at the angle
of the horizon! How many degrees are we heeled?
Some of you have been wondering how we pass the time while on a crossing. After all, there are no docks or anchorages along the way. No towns to visit; no sightseeing. We just keep going once we leave the Chesapeake Bay and head out to the Gulf Stream. (That's right, we do not follow the east coastline south and then cut over!)

Of course, everyone has their time at the helm (as in steering with the wheel or managing the autopilot). I don't spend as much time at the helm as the guys since I manage the galley and the radio net. When the autopilot is working, the helm is not too difficult. But you do have to remain alert, constantly be checking around you, watching the sails and maintaining the course. We did come across a large wooden container floating off to our starboard. Fortunately it was during daylight and we missed hitting it.

Bob and Larry off watch.
In addition to good conversations, Bob was busy reading, reviewing a book and using his iPad during his free time. He publishes articles, too, so he was doing some writing. Bob and I have had many good discussions around the topic of leadership. And as an avid reader, he can recommend many books.

Larry enjoyed listening to music and often had his earphones in while at the helm. Sometimes I would forget that he was "plugged in" and chatter away with no response! Maybe he had the earphones in because I WAS chattering away! Humm... Larry also used his Kindle to read some of the 200 books he has downloaded. And he intrigued Dennis with his iPhone apps! Unfortunately, Dennis does not have any electronic devices that allow him to download games, apps, etc. since they are firm equipment. So he is a frustrated non-app user!

Dennis is checking the mainsail during a squall.
Dennis used his off-watch time to exercise, log, navigate, check the boat regularly, make repairs or adjustments and sleep. As the Skipper/Captain, he has the responsibility for the well-being of the crew and vessel. He read a couple of books, too.

I used my time to blog (even though the entries couldn't leave my computer until we reached land), plan and execute mealtime, do some housekeeping, review the navigation plan and enter information into the chart plotter, act as a radio net controller, read and sleep. I probably had more sleep than the men.

Bob's aft deck bucket shower
Some days we could spend more time below than others. On really rough days, you want to be top side. We took time to practice some maneuvers on calmer days: "heaving to", bathing and showering on the aft deck (I used the real shower below!) while the guys were on deck, etc. If the wind isn't moving you along, you might as well entertain yourselves! If you were following us on the tracker, you may have seen when we were actually turned toward Virginia in the middle of the crossing! It was just a "heave to" for lunch one beautiful calm sunny day.
Not a good day to go below!
Everyone is getting weary of the
huge swells and hand steering.

Once we were into the higher seas and heavier weather, it was more difficult to relax and use the free time. Everyone stayed alert to assist the helmsman and keep a watch on the sea and the sky. Since it was too uncomfortable to go below, we tried to nap with life vests and tethers on in upright positions! Not the best sleep, but better than none.

Is Larry playing Cat's Cradle or what?
Of course, there are some more entertaining times, too! It seems on each trip we manage to make a mess of the fishing line. Sometimes it just happens! Check out this mess.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Just What Is the Sargasso Sea?

Just one of hundreds of Sargasso seaweed
patches in the Bermuda  Triangle
The Sargasso Sea is an area in the central part of the North Atlantic Ocean. They say you can spot it easily because the currents move in a clockwise motion. I could not see the current direction, but I knew we where there when I saw the large patches of Sargasso seaweed floating on the surface for miles.

The Sargasso Sea is 700 statute miles wide and 2,000 statute miles long (1,100 km wide and 3,200 km long). It stretches from roughly 70 degrees West to 40 degrees West and from 25 degrees North to 35 degrees North. This means we have to sail through it as it is in northwest section of the Bermuda Triangle.

The Sargasso Sea is the only "sea" without shores.The ocean water in the Sargasso Sea is distinctive for its deep blue color and exceptional clarity, with underwater visibility of up to 200 feet. The color is indescribable in that it is a deep sapphire blue. I have tried to capture the color in a photo and it doesn't come close. You just have to see it for yourself!

The water in it is very warm and clear. This sea is filled with seaweed of the genus Sargassum,which floats en masse on the surface.The water is very calm even with the current. The Sargassum is not a threat to shipping, and historic incidents of sailing ships being trapped there are due to the often calm winds of the "horse latitudes" (named as such apparently because early sailors referred to sailing in the calms as "beating a dead horse") not to being stuck in seaweed.

The early Portuguese sailors used to blame the seaweed when their ships entered the Sargasso Sea and became becalmed, that is why they named this part of the ocean Sargaco which is Portuguese for grape because the bulbous floats on the seaweed looked similar to grapes to them.

Another strange thing about this part of the ocean is the lack of nutrients. Even though a good portion of plankton is produced in the Sargasso Sea area, there is still not enough food to attract commercially viable fish. Because of this, the area has become known as the floating dessert.

The floating seaweed has become the home to many small animals, these include small octopuses, along with tiny crabs and tiny shrimp. For some unknown reason eels are drawn from all over the ocean to meet in this place. This is where they mate, spawn and die. When the larvae are hatched they swim back to the waters off of Europe, the U.S. or Mediterranean. We saw many, many small octopuses (or is it "octopi"?). They look like large bubbles floating on the surface. Swimming here is not recommended!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year to You from Tortola

Happy New Year!

We are wishing all of our family and friends the best in health and happiness in 2012 and always!  We are enjoying the balmy 85 degrees of sun and surf in Tortola, BVI. The islanders celebrate with a lot of loud music, dancing, flame throwers, fireworks and of course, tropical drinks!

Some of the boats dress up for the holidays with flags. Others go all out and light up their boats with Christmas tree lights and other decorations. This one is two docks down from us. We  have not done anything to decorate since we just arrived at 6 pm on New Year's Eve. We are just enjoying all of the fun!