Detomo's Abroad

Detomos Abroad

Archive for December, 2014

The Great Caribbean Sailing Adventure (GCSA) of 2014 – Part 5

December 24, 2014 3:54 pm

It is now Friday morning, October 10th, and our great Caribbean adventure has the remaining four of us, Peter, Nikki, Julie and Rocky, in Phillipsburg, St. Martins with no schedule to keep and only our whims to drive us. After collecting groceries and boat fuel, and checking in and out of the country, we reorganized and cleaned the boat and began a leisurely “sail” to Anguilla. Unfortunately, the wind was still from the west, requiring us to motor-sail part of the day, but this allowed Rocky to catch a 3’ barracuda, which we filleted on the back of the boat in preparation for an upcoming dinner. After arriving in Road Bay, Anguilla, we took the dingy ashore to a restaurant named Roy’s, where we ate dinner and met Roy and his daughter, our waitress, Clara – a British family that had been running their business there for years. That night, after returning to the boat, we prepared for the long crossing back to the BVIs by wrestling the motor off the dingy onto the back of our sailboat, and settling in for an early, quiet night.
We rose early, before dawn, the next morning, pulled anchor and set off for Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, arriving 11 hours later at Gun Creek Bay to seek out Customs to check-in. However, the Bay looked deserted, and so we moved the boat to nearby Leverick Bay to anchor for the night. Since Pusser’s restaurant ashore wasn’t open, we ate a dinner of barracuda and chicken on board, and called it a night.

Rocky caught a Baracuda

Rocky caught a Baracuda

The next morning, we went ashore to shop for a few groceries and check on the weather forecast, as a storm named Gonzalo had formed to the East and was heading into the Caribbean. After breakfast, we sailed to Spanish Town to check into the BVI – our final country and the home of the Grande Plaisance III. Then, we sailed around the corner and picked up a mooring ball at The Baths – a series of large granite boulders scattered along the shore – that form a series of trails and tunnels that eventually lead to the top of the bluff. After tying up our dingy on a swim area buoy-line, (no beach access for vessels), and swimming to shore, we took the trail and visited our historical favorite spots along the way, (Dave’s Living Room, Swim Model Boulder, The Window), and proceeded to The Top of the Baths where we enjoyed drinks and appetizers and the wonderful view.

In Dave's Living Room at the Baths - Julie, Rocky and Nikki

In Dave’s Living Room at the Baths – Julie, Rocky and Nikki

After returning to the boat, we sailed to The Bight at Norman Island – an historic site where the inspiration for Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” came from, and the home of Willy-T’s – a floating ship that doubles as a night Club and bar. We anchored a short distance from Willy-T’s. That night, we put on our best party clothes at went to Willy-T’s for drinks and burgers and were met by a huge growing crowd of visitors and locals who speed-boated over from Tortola. As usual, the crowd was drinking and dancing, jumping off the second-story dance floor and partying like there was no tomorrow late into the night. After contributing our fair share to the party, we dragged ourselves back to the boat for a few hours of sleep in what was left of the night.
We awoke the next morning, Monday, October 13th, to the bad news that the storm, Gonzalo, was now a hurricane and it was headed our way. After checking in with the Charter Company at the Marina, we were instructed to bring the boat into the slip to sit out the storm. We sailed that morning to the boat’s home port – Hodges Creek – where we boat the boat into a secure position at the dock, and prepared it for the impending storm. Meanwhile, we checked into a room at the Marina’s hotel where chaos was breaking out as frantic sailors came in search of rooms that were in very short supply. After battening down the boat (tying down the boom and sail, removing the bimini’s and cushions, removing perishables from the refrigerator, setting the anchor, etc.) we headed off to Pusser’s restaurant for dinner and drinks, before returning for an uncertain night at the hotel.
That night the rains came and the winds blew, but we were lucky and the hurricane passed a good bit to the north of us, leaving us with a beautiful morning sunrise. Peter and Rocky started putting the boat back together while Nikki and Julie headed to town for our last big supply run. After getting ice, water and fuel, we were back on the water before lunch and heading to Peter Island where we picked up a mooring ball, preparing to hook-up with the first night of the Interline Regatta people at the Ocean Beach Club. However, we soon realized that the hurricane closed the Club, and that the party was moved to Willy-T’s back at Norman Island. We quickly moved to the new location, picked up a mooring ball, and soon found ourselves surrounded by vessels already in the area for the upcoming Regatta – an annual sailing race between airlines that bring a large number of pilot’s, stewardesses and partyers to the islands. That night, we were back in our familiar places aboard the floating club, where the party took a more sedate and relaxed attitude in spite of the fact that it was Toga theme night. We met people, danced a bit, and closed the party up before returning to our boat for the night.
The next morning, we had a big breakfast on board, and then left to sail to Sandy Island – a small, isolated but beautiful island in the middle of Drake Channel. Once there, we struggled to get a mooring ball or to get our anchor to hold, so after a good swim to the island, a bit of floating on rafts off the stern and lunch, we left to head to Cane Garden Bay, the next stop on the Interline Regatta’s nightly ports. We arrived early, but not so early that there weren’t already a considerable number of vessels already there, and we hurried to pick up one of the few remaining mooring balls in a good location. While there, we observed a couple alone on a 34’ sailboat struggling to pick up a mooring ball, ending up in the water to rescue their boat hook. It then became apparent that their dingy motor would not start, and so we went over to offer assistance. The couple, Mickey and Denise, were a fun pair who joined us when we went ashore to attend the Interline Regatta’s nightly themed party (80’s night) at Quitos Gazebo Beach Bar & Club. The night was filled with meeting new people, dancing and exploring the local club. Mickey was a Fedex pilot, and Denise worked at UPS. This was their first sailing adventure, and they only just got onto their charter boat because of the hurricane delays. We made a modest night of it, and returned our new friends to their boat before retiring ourselves. In the morning, we finally got a day of good wind, and spent the day sailing before heading for Marina Cay for the night. During the day, a few wind gust came up, and we encountered a bit of adventure when the port genoa line snapped leaving us scramble to get the jib back under control. After substituting an extra dock line for the broken line, we reefed the sails and went into the port where Rocky broke the boat hook while trying to hook onto a mooring ball. After finally getting settled in port, we were surprised to see our new friends, Mickey and Denise, come into port, still without a working dingy. We enjoyed drinks and snacks with them before all of us heading to shore for dinner at another Pusser’s Restaurant. On this night, The Interline Regatta is having its Race Kickoff back in Road Town, Tortola, and a place we would rather avoid. And so, instead we spend an excellent evening in a quiet harbor, among friends – new and old!

Peter & Rocky

Peter & Rocky

The next morning is a beautiful day, but a sad one, as it will be our last full day on the boat. Today, we set sail for Savanah Bay, a tricky isolated bay that only has a narrow entry between the reefs. After negotiating our way in, we set anchor and enjoy the time swimming, snorkeling and eating lunch, before pulling anchor and heading off to The Bitter End, the last port to the furthest east of the BVI. On the way there, we gauge our sailing as we can see the Regatta racers maneuvering in the distance, as they are heading to the same port. WE beat them there and take up a prime location on a mooring ball near the Bitter End Yacht Club. After dinner at the restaurant on Saba Rock, a tiny island in the middle of the narrow channel, we dress up and head to the Yacht Club for the nightly Regatta party, and who do we meet, but our friends Mickey and Denise – fully dressed for “Viking” night. That night, the party is in full swing, and it is late when we say goodbye to our new friends and call the night over.

Mickey & Denise

Mickey & Denise

The morning is Saturday, October 18th, and after we release from the mooring ball, we begin our last sail back to Hodge’s Creek to turn the boat back in. The check-in goes quickly, and we are packed and in the taxi to the Ferry Dock before noon. After checking in at the Ferry Dock for the 2:30pm Ferry, we walk across the street for a last local meal at the Road Town, Tortola Pusser’s restaurant. We toast a final BVI toast before boarding the Ferry for our 1 hour trip back to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In St. Thomas, we taxi to our hotel on the beach near the airport, where we swim in the pool and share dinner in the restaurant with a wedding party celebrating their “big day”. The next morning, it is up and out at 5:30am for an 8:00am flight to Miami which arrives back in the U.S. mainland at 11:00am. It is then a 90 minute train ride back to Palm Bay to Peter & Nikki’s Condo, where we say our sad goodbyes and finish our nearly-6-week Great Caribbean Sailing Adventure. What everyone agrees on – What a Great Trip!!

DCIM100GOPRO

The Great Caribbean Sailing Adventure (GCSA) of 2014 – Part 4

3:40 pm

It is Friday morning, October 3rd, and our new group of 8 set off under good skies and 7-10 knot wind conditions. Unfortunately, these conditions were not as appreciated by some of our “crew” and a few bouts of seasickness needed to be fought-off. We left Marin, Martinique behind at 9:00am intending to sail all day to Guadeloupe, but decided to sail more “gently” and call the day short by coming into port in Dominica for the evening. We arrived too late to check into the country, but grilled shrimp and chicken on-board and enjoyed a quiet night. The next morning, we left Dominica before 8:00am and decided to head for Isle de Saintes, off the southern coast on Guadeloupe. We had missed this stop on the way south due to having to make port for mechanical repairs, and the good weather now dictated we take advantage of this stop on the way north. After setting anchor in early afternoon, we jumped off the boat, swan in the bay, and enjoyed a lunch on board before setting off to visit the local town. We took the occasion to check into the country of Guadeloupe, and shopped along the beautiful, quaint French town. Back on board, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset, good company and friends.

Jeff at the Wheel

Jeff at the Wheel

 

The next morning, we left at sun-up and headed for Montserrat. Along the way, we stopped at the port of Deshaises along the west coast of Guadeloupe for lunch. Later in the day, the sail past the southern coast of Monserrat with the sun over our left shoulders, gave a clear view of the volcanic eruptions from 2 decades ago. Giant ash and lava flows from the mountain top all the way to the sea and burying the former capital town were as clear as the smell of sulfur in the air.

Montserrat

Montserrat

We arrived at Little Bay just before dark, but were disappointed to find that our “friend” Pont was not available to open his restaurant. Instead, we negotiated with a local vendor for beers and fish and chips, which she cooked one at a time in a skillet, while we avoided the blasting music and voracious mosquitoes. All in all, the meal was quite a bargain, despite the wait, and we regretfully made our way back to the boat only to endure a very rolly night in port. Whether it was the rolling seas or just an untimely accident, that night Julie and Rocky were surprisingly awakened by the fiberglass roof of their cabin coming unfastened and falling down on them. After a bit of ruckus and a refastening of the cabin roof, the rest of the night went quietly and quickly. However, the morning brought us a wind shift out of the north, forcing us to motor all day into the wind through rough seas, on our way to Antigua. Along the way, Rick brought us a bit of excitement as he hooked up a beautiful 30” blue & green Dorado, which he cleaned on the back of the boat and delivered into our freezer.

English Harbour, Antigua

English Harbour, Antigua

Upon reaching English Harbour in Antigua, we initially dropped anchor in the bay, where we snagged on an old rope from the bay’s bottom. After cutting ourselves loose, we took the boat up to a docking at the wharf where we had easy access to shore, power and water. English Harbour was a wonderfully, historically restored port that served as the headquarters of the British Navy for over a century. We marveled at the many displays and buildings, and after purchasing much needed supplies, arranged for dinner at a local pub. That evening, in the quiet of the falling darkness, local fisherman came to the wharf to try their hand at catching local fare. One young, inexperienced couple were learning their way, when disaster struck, and they dropped their rod and reel over the side of the wharf. Rocky reacted quickly, and fished the gear from the water before it sank returning it to the grateful couple.
Come morning, we were awakened by the bleating of a group of wild goats that came down from the hillsides looking for low-hanging tree branches. After a breakfast from our now-favorite pub, we continued our sail north to the island of Barbuda. Along the way, fisherman Rick caught a 4’ barracuda which we cut loose in respect for the size of his teeth and our personal safety. Arriving at Barbuda, we negotiated a long, extended network of reefs to come up to the beach bar shore on the west side of the island. The island is large and low, with a huge lagoon immediately across from the sand bar where we stopped, and with the capital town of Codrington along the mainland on the other side. Since it was late, we admired the deserted pink sand beaches from the boat, anchored in a sandy area, and settled in for a dinner of our caught fish, chicken and rice.

Debby and Julie relaxing in the calm blue waters of Barbuda.

Debby and Julie relaxing in the calm blue waters of Barbuda.

The next morning awoke us to absolutely no wind, and so we decided to stay the day before continuing our journey. We took the morning to explore the pink beaches, check-in and gather supplies in Codrington, and talk with the locals about setting up a catered dinner onshore. After repositioning our boat closer to the middle of Barbuda’s famous 16-mile long continuous beach, we watched as a barge brought heavy digging equipment to the beach to cut a channel to the lagoon, and found our attention caught by a local lagoon fisherman frantically waving to us from onshore. After taking the dingy over to see what he wanted, we learned that he wanted to sell us live, fresh lobsters for $5 per lb. We all agreed on two 1 ½ lb. lobsters each which we parlayed into 17 lobsters for $110. Peter then negotiated with the local vendor who was cooking us a catered dinner ashore (fish, rice, potatoes, plantains, fruit, vegetables, bread and tea for $25 each) to add in and prepare the lobsters, and we settled into a local hut ashore for our huge feast. Although the food was wonderful, once dusk hit, the mosquitoes attacked in-mass, causing us to collect our huge quantities of leftovers and retreat back to our boat for nightcaps and the sunset.

Happy Hour (Circling left to right: Rocky, Nikki, Debby, Mary Jane, Jeff, Peter & Rick)

Happy Hour (Circling left to right: Rocky, Nikki, Debby, Mary Jane, Jeff, Peter & Rick)

Unfortunately, the next morning, (Thursday, October 9th), bought wind out of the west – directly from the direction we needed to travel, but we were now out of time, and we needed to get to St. Martins by the end of the day. We left early (5:30am) and spent the first half of the day motoring west, and tried to motor sail the rest of the way, arriving in Phillipsburg, St Martins after dark. We carefully slipped into the bay between the many dark anchored boats, and found a place to settle. Once anchored, we said our sad goodbyes, and Rocky ferried Rick, Mary Jane, Jeff and Debbie, and their gear, ashore. Not to be boring, Rocky got into a verbal confrontation with the local Marina Patrol, and after apologizing and avoiding any serious consequences, returned safety to the boat which would now continue with only the four of us. That night, we had a spectacular meal of leftover lobster stir-fry, and settled back for the final leg of our Great Caribbean Adventure.