Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Farewell to Trellis Bay (for me)

Kyle out getting pictures of Trellis Bay, and the surrounding trails

[Kyle]On my last trip home, I only had one day. Maryanne and I took a relatively easy day hanging around Trellis Bay. In the morning, Maryanne took me out running on a route that included most of the trails on Beef Island. Afterward, we tramped all over the island and through the village taking pictures. Exhausted and hungry, we then had veggie rotis from the market and then had intended to go back to Footprint, but then we got sidetracked.

Another dinghy at the dinghy dock had been swamped and sank after one of its buoyancy compartments had flooded. We took it upon ourselves to bail it out and then drag it up on the beach to drain the compartment. The whole thing took us maybe two hours. I guess we were feeling industrious after our rotis.

Back at Footprint, we got to spend the evening watching charter boats run aground behind us on the shoal. We'd wave and yell and then people would acknowledge us and run aground without changing course. A lot of people seem to think that if they just pass close behind us, they will get through. They don't seem to notice that even we have our rudders up so there's no chance for their keel. One group in a dinghy even thanked us, saying the guy at the helm wouldn't listen to them. Then they ran aground. Better than television.

[Maryanne]We never really intended to stay in Trellis Bay, but apart from our sojourns when Kyle is home, we've made it home for Footprint. We got the tip from a fellow cruiser we met in Anguilla, and we are really happy we followed through. It is such a peaceful place to just hang out.

Since we know we won't be here much longer, and this trip home of Kyle's was so short, we decided just to hang out in the Bay. Without being in the least bit competitive (yeah, right!), we took a camera each and got photos of some our our favorite places - all within walking distance of the dinghy dock. Naturally I won, but I have put at least one of Kyle's shots in the photos below (But all the good ones are mine :-), gees, I'm such a good sport.

Trellis Bay photo shoot - A taste of this peaceful bay

Where are you from?

[Kyle]One of the odd juxtapositions of my job as an airline pilot is that even though I work in a large company with thousands of other flight crew members, almost every time I go to work for the week, I find myself working with other people who have also worked at the same company for years, but who I have never even seen before that day. Occasionally, I will recognize somebody’s face as one that I have exchanged nods or hellos with a few times, but that is the extent of our relationship. This is in part because none of us work the same hours and also because we are physically separated from each other by hundreds of miles most of the time.

This makes for a few awkward moments at the beginning of the week as we size each other up and try to figure out what the trip is going to be like. This process is prolonged by the fact that the time that the airplane is on the ground is a very busy time for each of us, with the pace of work being generally too hectic to partake in much socializing. I have to input the flight plan and do various systems checks, the First Officer also has to do system checks, plus the pre-flight inspection and the bulk of the paperwork. The Flight Attendant is busy checking the cabin safety equipment and then greeting the passengers. Several briefings are exchanged so that we can all be sure of being on the same page. What this often means is that the first time I am able to engage in any kind of small talk with the First Officer is toward the top of the climb, when things have quieted down a bit. For the Flight Attendant, we may be able to squeeze some small talk in during boarding but, usually, it’s on the van ride to our first hotel.

As I’m sure it is with other groups of people, airline crews have a few standard questions we ask each other to break the ice. The most common seem to be “How long have you worked here?”, “What did you do before this job?” and, “Where are you from?” This last one may seem odd to people who work in a fixed location with everybody living in the vicinity and as a matter of fact, I don’t recall hearing that question asked before I got this job except on rare occasions, such as meeting a new neighbor or hearing an unusual accent .

It is this last question that gives me trouble. I never have a good answer, or at least a reasonably short one. Like the question, “How are you doing?” People are expecting a short answer and not a long diatribe about your life. This question has a few variations, namely “Where do you live?” and “Do you commute?” For airline people, commuting specifically means by plane from another city, as opposed to driving to work, which we call driving. Airline people actually ask each other questions like, “Do you commute or do you drive?”

Most people I meet seem to have followed a standard pattern. They grow up in an area, move out of the house to somewhere in the same area, maybe they leave for a few years to go to University but they’re soon back in the same town getting a job, buying a house and raising a family. Occasionally, they grow up in one area and relocate to another, which eventually becomes the place they’re ‘from’. For most crews, working out of town is an aberration and the commute allows them to live in the place they consider home. If somebody says they commute from Greensboro, it is likely that they’ve spent the bulk of their lives in and around Greensboro and intend to keep doing so. My last First Officer, for example, grew up in the Washington, D.C. area but now lives in Charlotte, N.C. He’s not sure whether he’s going to stay in Charlotte permanently or if he’ll go back to D.C. My Flight Attendant grew up in Alabama but has decided to move to Nashville permanently.

I haven’t really followed that pattern. I did grow up in the Denver area. When I was young and imagining what my life would be like, I just assumed most of it would take place in Denver. This was less because of an attachment to Denver as home than it was just my not understanding that anything else was even a possibility. For what it’s worth, I feel no attachment to the Denver area and haven’t done so for a very long time. I spent most of my childhood there in and around the mountains to the west of Denver. Denver itself has become unrecognizable to me in the two decades since I lived there last. The place seems to be all McMansions and huge, sprawling malls. It could be any city of a certain size in the U.S.

I did spend a lot of time all over the mountains to the west of Denver and I do feel a special affinity for the American West. Any time I am where mountains reach into the sky, I do feel like I’m where I’m from. It matters not whether I’m in Arizona or Colorado or California or Oregon.

Since leaving the Western U.S., I’ve lived in lots of places that were just places to live but it still could legitimately be said that I lived there. Now that Maryanne and I are out cruising, we find ourselves in the strange position of living lots of places, just not officially. Right now, we ‘live’ in the BVI but we don’t have residency status within the country. To them, we’re just tourists who they think have stayed awfully long. Unlike a lot of cruisers who may have kept a house while they took a year or two off to go cruising, Maryanne and I don’t have another house. The only place that we have to live is aboard Footprint. For me, home is anywhere both Maryanne and the boat are. I’ll arrive at a place we’ve been for only a week and when I get on the boat with Maryanne, I feel the relief that anybody feels when they go through their front door at the end of the day and know they’re home.

The most accurate answer I’ve been able to come up with to the “Where do you live?” question is to say that I live on my boat. If the boat ‘lives’ somewhere, like when we had a contract for a slip in Portsmouth, it could be said by extension that we lived in Portsmouth. Now we just anchor a lot of places that we visit in the boat on which we live, so there’s no good answer, at least to those trying to figure out where to place my personality geographically.

The problem, I think, is that most of society is not made up of people who are nomadic and so the language we are used to using assumes that Maryanne and I live somewhere permanent or that we’re only out temporarily and will finish soon and go ‘home’. When we have been out with other cruisers, however, we get questions like “Which boat is yours?” and “Where have you been?” to which we do have quick, easy answers.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Home To Trellis Bay

[Kyle]Since our trip from Benures Bay to our “home” in Trellis Bay was supposed to be a long one into the trade winds of up to 25kt and against the swells, I made sure we got an early start so we could make generous tacks and complete the journey without having to push the boat too hard.

The anchor was up just after sunrise. I may have purposely come just a little too close to Grumpy’s boat for his comfort (remember he has a wide exclusion zone) on the way exiting the bay (not close enough to be unsafe mind you). This, of course, caused grumpy to come booming out into his cockpit (fully nude of course), screaming obscenities at both of us, and suggesting we get sailing lessons. I had a nice cathartic scream back (our apologies to the others in the anchorage who may have still been sleeping). Even then, Maryanne was still hoping to wear him down with an exchange of kindness, but failed to get any conversation in over the screaming.

With grumpy purged from our system and a content and righteous smile on my face, we entered the channel between Norman and Peter Islands for the trip around the East side of Peter Island. (Peter Island circumnavigation – check!). We tacked back and forth and eventually found ourselves in big swells in 1500’ of water off the island shelf before tacking back into Sir Francis Drake Chanel and returning to our usual spot in Trellis Bay beside the Last Resort Restaurant. We’d made such good time in the strong winds that we actually managed to have the anchor set by noon, in plenty of time for the afternoon show.

Maryanne had been talking to me for a while about the entertainment value of our particular anchorage, but this afternoon as the charterers arrived to anchor and moor for the night, I got to see the show in full swing. Our first exciting episode involved a SunSail charter boat trying to pick up a mooring. Time after time the skipper would almost get to the mooring and then bring the boat to a stop too far away, or drift off, or pass by too fast. At first it was hilarious, but we soon began to feel pity, but the time they were successfully attached to the mooring (about the 8th try) we were rooting for them like the underdog in a world championship. Two more misses and I’d have swum over and handed them the pennant myself. Poor guys. To their credit, they remained calm and collected the entire time, never once shouting nor losing their cool. Hey, you have to learn somehow! Way to go guys, you earned those rum drinks.

Next was the dinghy show. Footprint is anchored just on the edge of an infamous shoal. The anchor is in about 9’ of water but the stern in about 2.5' of water. Beyond that the water quickly shoals to ankle deep. When I jumped in to check on the anchor I was standing in my fins in thigh high water, a few steps further and the water is ankle deep. This is, of course, too shallow for most dinghies with an outboard motor and we would occasionally see people take the “short cut” to the dinghy dock only to have their propellers grind, engine stall, followed by confusion, realization, and then a hasty exit under oars or by jumping out and pushing. ON a few occasions we notice an imminent event we try to wave people out of danger, but usually they continue on in confusion of our intent, before the realization hits them when they run aground.

A week or so ago, while I was at work, I was actually on the phone with Maryanne and got to hear her half of a conversation as she tried to warn a monohull about the shoal. They heard her but were convinced they could squeeze through, it grounded. Maryanne tells me that this particular spot of ours is good for about 3-4 dinghies a day and 3-4 big boats a week. Way better than television.

I’m off to work now, and won’t be sailing again until our exit North from the Virgin Islands next month.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Benures Bay, Norman Island, BVI

Footprint in Benures Bay

[Kyle]Our first morning in Benures Bay, I decided to dive again on the anchor to check it was secure. The first thing I saw upon jumping into the water was an 8’ barracuda with 2’ of jaws. That was a little unnerving, but he seemed content to leave me alone. Barracuda aren’t inherently dangerous if you leave them alone, but you certainly don’t want to provoke them, pretty much the same way you’d treat bees. I lingered for a while and eventually he moved slowly off and I felt comfortable checking on the anchor. I was not completely happy, the bottom was not ideal, so after a brief consultation with Maryanne we decided to move to a better spot. On the way back to the boat, I found myself distracted by a sea turtle, which I swam with for a few minutes before returning. Back at Footprint, I found the barracuda had returned to its post, so I got out of the water very carefully.

Since the only two boats left in the anchorage at this point were Grumpy and Footprint, it was pretty easy to motor over and find a good secure spot for our anchor, still well clear of Grumpy. Maryanne and I then piled in the dingy to set ashore for a hike along the island’s primitive roads.

Views from Norman Island Hike

We enjoyed some great views from both sides of the island along the peaks. We kept cresting hills and finding new bays and even more road/trail, which we both decided we had to keep following. This lasted most of the day. We were surprised to find that although our bay (Benures bay) only had 4 or 5 boats each evening, the adjacent bays (the Bight, and Soldier Bay) were jam packed with occupied moorings and a cruise ship day kind of feel. [Each has a fairly famous bar, which attracts plenty of visitors].

At one of the prominent look out points over our bay, Benures Bay, in the mid-afternoon as boats were arriving for the evening, we noticed that every time a boat approached the bay, Grumpy would leave his cabin, stand at the highest point on his boat, completely naked, and full frontal view, silently staring until the visitor backed off to a more distant anchor spot or left the bay entirely. We witnessed this 7 or 8 times, the only time he came out of his cockpit was when he realized a boat had entered “his” bay. We were really starting to not like this guy.

We continued our walk and eventually found ourselves back at the dinghy and rowing back to Footprint. We heard grumpy yelling at a new arrival about their generator “polluting the environment”. Interesting since we know he ran his engine for 2 hours the previous night. As the anchorage got more crowded and people were necessarily getting closer to grumpy, once the nudity didn’t work, he’d make one excuse after another for why people could not be near his boat. We really, really didn’t like this guy.

[Maryanne]Oh Grumpy! You’ll notice we do not disclose his boat name (it was from Florida). I’m not a particular fan of male nakedness, I’m really not that bothered, each to their own and all that, but this guy was only using it in an aggressive manner. He was rude, unfriendly, and deliberately alienating everyone. Even topless sunbathing is illegal in the BVI, so he was clearly pushing legal limits in addition to common decency. Cruising is a family activity and he was chasing off boats with kids aboard - a totally unreasonable man.

Originally, I’d deliberately directed Kyle to the spot beside him to anchor since he was flying the burgee (flag) of the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA). We are also members, also flying our burgee. The point is the SSCA is a club, designed to help you meet and befriend fellow cruisers, why on earth would you join such a club AND fly the flag if you wanted to be left alone?

[Kyle]All hot from our extensive walk, we were keen to jump in the water again and snorkel the reefs of the bay. From our previous visit, we knew it to be full of fish (as did the many resident pelicans). As it was nearing sunset the fish were again schooling in large numbers. Veritable undulating carpets of fish were completely obscuring the seabed below. Deeper water had larger and more widely spaced fish (mostly tuna) and as the water shallowed, the fish became smaller and more tightly packed. Every now and then, as I was swimming along in the shallower water, I’d feel a splash and look to the side and see the bottom half of a pelican scooping up a beak full of fish. This site has lots of different corals, anemones, urchins, sponges, and mollusks, along with an abundance of grass patches acting as nurseries for the smaller fish. It really is a cool site to snorkel, no wonder the pelicans love this spot.

Pelican balances in a tree keeping an eye out for his next easy meal. Benures Bay, Norman Island

The beach nearby seemed to be home to about two dozen pelicans and a handful of boobies, none of which needed to travel more than 25’-30’ for plenty of food. Once back at the boat, we rinsed off and had dinner in the cockpit along with a cheap bottle of nasty Spanish white wine. We slept well that night after our long hike.

Sunset at Benures Bay, Norman Island

Saturday, April 18, 2009

To Norman Island, BVI

[Kyle]From Sopers Hole on Tortola, I alternated back and forth about starting the motor to be sure we were safely anchored by sunset. As we got closer, it was clear we’d make it in under sail. The anchorage had four other boats in it. We picked our spot and sailed towards it. We intended to drop our anchor just astern of one of the other boats in deep water, and then back down another 150’ or so.

We got within shouting distance of the boat and the man told us (somewhat grumpily) that he had 130’ of chain out. Maryanne asked him to point out where his anchor was so we could be sure to be clear of him. We dropped the anchor in what we believed was safe water and as we were backing down (under sail still), he shouted out that we’d just dropped our anchor on top of his and we’d definitely bang into each other. Confused, (he was now indicating a completely different place for his anchor) we had no choice but to haul up all that chain. Maryanne voiced her confusion, but grumpy said his line hadn’t stretched out yet… Since the etiquette in an anchorage is the first boat has right of way, and we had no way to tell for sure where his anchor was, we were forced to luff the sails and pull up the anchor by hand, sail to another spot (this time really well clear of grumpy) drop anchor and back down under sail again. Both times, beautifully executed (if I say so myself).

As we were sailing past another boat towards our 2nd anchor spot, the skipper called out and joked that they too had been “run off” too by grumpy, but using a much more traditional method – he had just hung out on deck “adjusting his sail cover” butt naked and full frontal to the “offending” boat. It was pretty clear that grumpy wasn’t so much concerned about his anchor but just didn’t want anyone nearby – what can you do? Hmmm.

Sopers Hole – more customs and Immigration.

Maryanne chooses now to read aloud "At the Mercy of the Sea", a true story of an out of season Caribbean Hurricane that took he lives of several sailors caught out at sea. Thankfully, our weather has been much kinder, but now I have more things to worry about (on top of how we might be treated in BVI customs and immigration)

[Kyle]This morning we needed to return to the BVI and check in at Sopers Hole. This was the only port of entry in the BVI that we had not yet used, so we had our fingers crossed for friendly staff. The sail was gorgeous and the area around Sopers Hole was absolutely stunning with high steep islands closely spaced. It reminded me in some ways of the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.

We found space at the customs and immigration dock to tie up Footprint. The first thing that greeted me as I entered Immigration was a cold, unblinking stare. Oh, Crap! The immigration woman was the same lady from Jost Van Dyke - the really mean one that complained we gave her a headache. She seemed to remember she didn’t like us, but was struggling to place us as we walked in. First, however, we needed to proceed through customs (the guy sat beside her). He was friendly but official and didn’t seem at all concerned that we would have been in the country for more than 30 days with Footprint. Charge: $15.50 for entrance for one more month. Stamp, stamp, done. Next: Immigration. The woman looked at Maryanne and said, “You’re the one with two passports aren’t you?” Maryanne smiled sweetly, said yes, and pointed out that she was using the passport that the “nice” lady suggested last time (so as not to cause any further “headache”). After a few moments of silence she gave us our passport stamps and we were declared free to go. Done. We made a sharp exit.

For the rest of the day we had lovely upwind sailing in flat seas tacking up the Sir Francis Drake Channel to our anchorage at Benures Bay, Norman Island.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cruz Bay, St John, US Virgin Islands

[Kyle]The day was planned as a long day. We needed to sail around to the other side of Jost Van Dyke to clear out and then head over to St John in the US Virgin Islands to clear in.

Once morning arrived, we found our squid friends still living beneath the boat and the rudders. Concerned about chopping them up with the propeller, we decided to sail off the anchorage. Unfortunately, since the anchorage is deep, we had about 250 feet of rode to pull in with our manual windless against a fairly strong headwind. It was sweaty work but eventually we got the anchor aboard and the boat headed downwind to our next stop. On the south side of Jost Van Dyke, we found the customs dock full, so we had to anchor and setup the dinghy to row ashore to Customs (an unwanted addition of time). Once ashore we both exchanged a look, we were not looking forward to this, Jost Van Dyke is where we had found really rude customs and immigration previously. We practiced our best smiles, and went inside. Here we were greeted by 3 new (to us) officials – all friendly. They offered us the forms we needed without attitude. The immigration man even offered a good afternoon without provocation from us :-). That’s more like it. In true BVI fashion, however, we were told by the officials that Footprint was not allowed to stay in the country for more than 30 days total (not concurrent) in a year, without paying the $200 temporary importation fee. Also, we were told that despite Maryanne's legitimate visa extension, she had stayed too long and on return would only get a 1 day stamp in her passport. She would then be expected to report to immigration in Road Town for another official extension. Every time we’ve been to customs and immigration we’ve been given a different version on the regulations regarding our stay. We’ve always been honest about our intent. Since we were not planning to clear back in at the same port, and thus suspected we would get yet another version of the story, we just smiled and said thank you for the information.

Sail between BVI and USVI - islands everywhere...

Having successfully cleared out of the BVI, we rushed back to the boat, stowed the dinghy, pulled up the anchor, and headed for St John, USVI. It was a beautiful day for sailing in warm, nearly cloudless skies across the straight to the island of St John. We had 360 degree views of the tall green islands We had flat seas. It just does not get any better than this. Maryanne even read aloud to me from our latest book. The customs dock was again occupied, but we waited about 30 minutes for it to free up. Once inside, we quickly cleared in and out for the following day. The officers were very nice as in our previous visit – easy. After that we stopped for much needed water (we were down to about 8 L in our tanks… very very low). Finally we anchored in the small Cruz Bay harbor and were able to anchor in about 2.5 feet of water with about 25’ of chain, we LOVE our shallow draft whenever we find an otherwise busy anchorage.

Scenes from Cruz Bay, St John, USVI

Maryanne was concerned about getting to the post office before they closed, and we were uncertain what time that might be, so we did a super fast “done sailing” checklist and rowed ashore to find the post office. We had arranged for a delivery via “General Delivery”, and when we found the post office it was waiting for us – huge relief. The post office staff were also very nice. We obtained a map of the island and town from a friendly guy in a tourist office booth, and since we still had a few hours of daylight left, we decided to find a hike/trail to explore (The US Virgin Islands, and St John in particular is around 80% national park). The (again, very friendly) people at the National Park office suggested a 1 hour each way walk to the nearby Honeymoon Beach. It was a nice hike, with good trails and plenty of shade as well as occasional views of the islands and bays – although it was also hot.

Lookout over cruz Bay

We eventually exited the trail at honeymoon Beach, which was a typical Caribbean beach of soft white sand and palm trees with views of St Thomas in the distance across Pillsbury Sound. Maryanne, in typical explorer fashion, was eager to see what was around the next corner, so we joined the dirt road slightly inland and discovered Caneel Bay (a very swanky resort, way out of our budget). We ambled around and enjoyed the expensive views. We were hot and thirsty, and had hoped to find a small store to purchase a soda for the walk back, but no luck. The only way to get a soda in the resort seemed to be to order one and have it delivered from the bar by a waiter with a napkin draped over one arm. In the search for the soda, we did find some lovely old ruins of a sugar mill converted into a beautiful restaurant with stunning views. We were tempted to stay until I saw the prices on the menu. We hit the trail back to Cruz Bay.

Honeymoon Bay Sandy Beach, and the restaurant in Caneel Bay resort

I’d seen a Mexican restaurant called Margaritas in Cruz Bay and this kept me going through the long hot walk back. Once off the trail, we popped into said restaurant and I ordered a grande margarita. I was shocked when I was delivered a glass the size of my head (unfortunately with very little alcohol). The food was delicious, although expensive.

Kyle is excited to receive his giant Margarita

[Maryanne] Margaritas was a tatty back street restaurant where the menus were food stained and ripped. I wasn’t so keen to eat there but at least expected a reasonably priced meal out. No such luck; beers (unpriced in the menu, were $7 each – we’ve been paying $4 in much more remote and less inhabited islands) and the dishes were about twice the price we’d expected. The waiter was way too smarmy for my liking, but even I’ll admit the food was really really delicious. Having enjoyed our food, we decided to try a different bar for after dinner drinks.

[Kyle] We found a place on the waterfront with a view of Footprint and asked Dan the bartender if we could have a frozen mudslide – he persuaded us to take one of his similar specials which unfortunately we can’t remember the name of, but it was so delicious we had two each. He shared with us that the virgin version of the drink we so enjoyed would be just chocolate and ice – that was a lot of alcohol for only $7 a drink. No wonder we can’t recall the name of the bar or the drink.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jost Van Dyke, BVI (again)

[Kyle]We finally left the Cane Garden Bay anchorage just before noon for the short sail to my secret anchorage on the uninhabited North Side of Jost Van Dyke (remember: pronounced Yost Van Dike). This particular anchorage is not mentioned in any of our guidebooks, and the only indication we had was one chart that labeled it as “anchorage”. We’d sailed around Jost Van Dyke on a previous trip and it seemed to be well protected and completely deserted. I was looking forward to some time away from the crowds.

Once we got there, however, we found it to be completely untenable as an anchorage – the one small patch of sand in the middle of the anchorage was very deep and was so small that there was no way we could lay out enough chain without damaging the adjacent coral. With sunset approaching and knowing we had limited time/options, we headed to the next cove – the same situation. Then the next cove, our 3rd cove, had just a large enough patch of sand in deep water to securely anchor and stretch the rode out entirely over sand so as not to disturb the fragile coral. It took a great deal of care to get the anchor to touch bottom in exactly the spot we wanted while trying to maneuver the boat above in gusty winds. Eventually we were happily anchored, confirmed with a quick snorkel trip to verify. Footprint hovered just over the edge of coral shelf below.

Sunset off Jost Van Dyke

Maryanne and I were so wound up from our anchoring ordeal that we stayed up well into the night chatting in the cockpit. Once it got really dark we noticed some interesting bioluminescence of the side of the boat – strange patterns of flashing and swirling. Maryanne thought it might be squid or cuttlefish but I wasn’t sure. A north swell rolled in and we had an uncomfortable rolly night; I was beginning to question my anchorage choice, but we were not going to move until at least the next day.

Our 2nd day on the North side of Jost Van Dyke, I got it into my head over morning coffee that I was going to scramble my way up through the bushes to the top of the hill and get a picture of Footprint below. Maryanne took one look at the hill and decided to stay aboard and read for the day. I decided I’d get to the beach by swimming to shore with my shoes/equipment in a dry bag. Maryanne was kind enough to accompany me on the long swim to the beach and ensure I got off safely, and then she would return to the boat and monitored the radio (she insisted I had the hand held just in case I needed help). Once we got in the water, we were delighted to find swimming under the boat a group of about 3 dozen little squid.

Resident Squid family stays with Footprint in Jost Van Dyke

Maryanne and I both love squid as cute and amazing animals, they are very intelligent and have a sophisticated means of communication with their flashing multicolor light shows. From observing them for some time, it also seemed that they use their tentacles for conveying expressions; everything from stretching them out to the sides to curling them back over their head like a pompadour (hair style), to the most common which was the bushy mustache look where the tentacles just hang down. I could have spent hours hovering nearby watching them, but I was on a mission to get to the beach.

The landing on the beach was especially treacherous; it was coral almost all the way with the last bit being fist sized cobbles. Maryanne landed first and I’d just managed to get a hand on the rocks and pull myself above the water when I got hit by a succession of waves that threw me further up the beach. I was already not looking forward to reversing the journey to return to the boat. I was very worried about Maryanne, but she seemed to get back in the water and to the boat safely while I started climbing. Maryanne was skeptical about my ambitions to climb, but I assured her that there must be at least goat paths that would get me up there, she gave me one of those Maryanne looks and said something like “you know how tall a goat is, don’t you?”. The scramble almost immediately seemed like a bad idea. The hill was very steep and out of the wind was very hot. Half the plants were bushes with thorns, and the other half were cactus. I would occasionally reach out to grab at something to prevent myself from sliding down, only to end up with a handful of needles. I did eventually make it to the top, however, and was rewarded with 2 things: the first was broad views of the surrounding islands including lonely Footprint below, and the 2nd was a dirt road.

View of Footprint from Kyle's hike in Jost Van Dyke

I radioed Maryanne that I’d be a little while and I decided to see where the road led (at least as far as the next hill). It was a searing hot walk in the midday tropical sun, but I was rewarded at the top of the next hill with long sweeping views of the entire Virgin Islands – well worth the hike I thought. I was able to find my way back to the beach without falling off anything and then only had to get back through the surf and on to the boat.

Before I’d left for the hike, Maryanne had coached me on how to time the waves to get off the beach without getting beat up, and it worked beautifully. Thank you darling. Once I got back to the boat, I was happy to find our resident squid were still there. Even though I was exhausted and dehydrated, I was dying to get back in the water and start to explore the coral and play with the squid. I came aboard, drank half a gallon of fluid and was right back in the water. Maryanne was still engrossed in her book, so I went off to explore alone. The bay was filled with coral and fishes of all types. As I swam towards the edge of the bay, I went over steep peaks and valleys of coral teeming with fish. On the south side of the bay, I was swimming around some of the huge boulders at the base of the cliffs when a 6 foot nurse shark came gliding out of a hole towards me. She was much bigger than anything else around and certainly got my attention, although not acting in any aggressive way. She seemed to be patrolling the caves and trenches in slow lazy circles. At a couple of points she swam about 2’ beneath me. The skin was beautiful; orange fins and a metallic purple body. I decided I had enough adventure for the day and started to swim back to the boat, only to be shadowed by the shark (a little unnerving). I swam back to the boat to get Maryanne, and found the squid still there, hovering in the shadow of Footprint. I convinced Maryanne to come with me to the cliff wall and see the shark. We never did find her again, but Maryanne did spot a spiny lobster, sea turtles and lots of really large fish. The sun was setting, and we headed back to the boat and spent the last 15 minutes enjoying our resident squid before dinner in the cockpit. The swell had died down and the anchorage much more comfortable so we had a very comfortable night, just us (and the squid) in our own private world.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cane Garden Bay (again)

Cane Garden Bay

[Kyle]For our 2nd day of sailing, we planned to go the short distance to Cane Garden Bay on Tortola. To extend the sailing, we circumnavigated Guana Island first, which made for some lovely downwind screacher sailing (the screacher is our light wind sail) past green hills and white beaches until we turned on the motor for the tricky entrance into Cane Garden Bay. By the time we got the anchor set it was still only mid-afternoon. I did the obligatory anchor check with the snorkel gear, which turns into a half hour excursion as I get distracted by the wildlife. Still recovering from work, we spent the rest of the day relaxing aboard.

Maryanne, however, (Maryanne, not me folks) was itching to go for a run, so the following morning we set up the sailing rig (more stalling) and sailed the Portland Pudgy to the dinghy dock. Maryanne chose a flat in-town route, while I headed over the hills to the adjacent Carrot Bay. The hills here are CRAZY! I guess since they don’t get snow or ice they figure they can build the roads straight up and down, a switchback is really bad news with the pavement becoming almost vertical on the inside of the turn. I made it over to Carrot Bay, but the worst part was having to turn around and return over the same hill once I was already exhausted and sore. I swore afterward (as I always do) that I’d never run again.

Carrot Bay scene

I was game for returning to the boat and collapsing, but Maryanne wanted to see the Callwood distillery; allegedly the oldest continuously operating rum distillery in the Eastern Caribbean. When we turned up I wasn’t sure we had the right place, it was very run down looking but there were homemade “Callwood Distillery” signs that helped. We entered and found a guy decanting rum into bottles, and asked him if we had the right place and was it correct they did tours? Yes. He returned to filling his bottles and after a long uncomfortable silence Maryanne asked if we were in the right place for the tour, we were told to come back later (after school was out) as someone else does the tours. We took a walk around the building and the small grounds to take some pictures. As we were getting ready to leave, our tour guide was there!

It was an excellent tour of a ramshackle conglomeration of outbuildings – we were amazed the equipment was still in use, and the building still standing. I had the feeling an Ozark mountain moonshine shed would be in much better condition by several orders of magnitude. When Maryanne remarked that the place looked as though it was about to fall down, the tour guide, totally straight faced, replied, they were maintaining the “authentic” nature of the distillery. To us it looked as if they were not maintaining anything, and we were amazed it was still standing. It turns out that our tour guide, Mikey, was very knowledgeable, and although still at school, seemed to be actively involved in the process, he was friendly and likable. The tour ended with a generous sampling of the various aged and spiced rums – pretty good. We purchased a bottle for 10 year old dark rum for the boat.

Callwood Rum Distillery - Rum from sugar cane in Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI

[Maryanne]Apart from a small patch of sugar cane for the rum, the area around the distillery also had a number of different fruit trees, bread fruit, banana, and various others, the guide also pointed out an almond tree. Later that day, with my new found knowledge, I spotted an almond tree in the graveyard and I collected a few fallen almonds to try them out. They have husks like a coconut, and are really difficult to break open (there may well be an easy way but we didn't find it). I eventually handed the job to Kyle and he bent one of our good kitchen knives getting into them! Still, fresh, raw almonds do taste good – worth the effort.

Fresh Almonds

[Kyle]We finished the day wandering around the town (a delicious ice cream, checked on fuel prices, etc). It was surprisingly quiet and low key considering the number of boats in the anchorage (mostly rafted up power boaters from Puerto Rico)

The next morning, I was extra eager to get to our next anchorage which I knew would be deserted. However, Maryanne wanted to go for yet another run. In spite of my insistence that I’d never do such a thing again, while Maryanne repeated the flat town route, I headed back up the same hill that had nearly killed me the previous day. This time however, at the fork in the road, with a choice of down or more up, I chose up.

Cane Garden Bay - View from Kyle's run

This eventually got me almost to the top of the highest hill in Tortola. Luckily, I’d taken the camera so I have proof and great pictures for all my altitude effort. Something weird was going on in Cane Garden Bay once we’d finished our runs. I came around the last overlook and noticed that the entire beach was set up with chairs and awnings. Maryanne said that unlike the day before, the tourist office was now open, there was a public market (t-shirts and tourist tat), the public restrooms were now open, the place was transformed. Once we saw the busses start to arrive, we realized. CRUISE SHIP DAY – our cue to leave. How sad that the cruise ship tourists never got to see the sleepy true nature of the town. It looked as though all the kids had the day off school to run the various tourist attractions (jet skis, banana boat rides, etc).

There are a number of boats for hire in Cane Garden Bay and it seems the birds know which ones are unlikely to be disturbed

Sunday, April 12, 2009

White Bay, Guana Island, BVI

Guana Island, we assume, gets its name from this distinctive rock outcrop.

[Kyle]After a loooong stretch at work, which included some of the worst days I’ve ever had flying (delays, grumpy passengers, grumpy agents, no fun), I managed to get home to Tortola half a day earlier than I’d expected. My flight from San Juan had been delayed due to a fuel pump failure, so I called Maryanne and told her I’d be late. Somehow however, we managed to arrive at the originally scheduled time and I cleared customs surprised to not find Maryanne waiting for me. I then remembered that I said I’d be late, so I started walking towards the dinghy dock thinking I’d meet her on route. What I found at the dinghy dock was the dinghy, but no sign of Maryanne. On the way, some local drunks tried to encourage me to go to the bar, sure I was lost; I persuaded them I was not lost, I was just looking for someone, and I had no desire to get drunk with them, particularly since I was in uniform – dying to change into something more comfortable. I turned around and walked the 2 minutes back to the airport and found Maryanne in the waiting area, still waiting for my plane to land. Oh, and did I mention I had a 28lb backpack on my back, full of all the items Maryanne had arranged for me to bring back to the boat. No big deal. I was glad to see her, and it was SO nice to be home.

Guana Island's White Bay. Private but pretty to look at

Since we had a surprise “extra” day, we decided to travel to White Bay on Guana Island, which was just a couple of miles away. We spent the night there rather than yet another in Trellis bay. White bay is on the private Guana Island on which trespassing is forbidden. However, they have a beautiful blinding white beach to anchor beside and of which to enjoy the view, plus an unobstructed view of the sunset; a nice alternative to the more crowded Trellis bay. Our guidebooks mention White Bay as a minor but pretty anchorage. However, once we got there, we found it nearly impossible to avoid anchoring in the coral bottom. Worse, the bottom looks like sand, and the areas of coral are highly camouflaged. If it were not for our draft and our ability to tuck into very small spots, I doubt we’d be able to do it, we don’t recommend Guana Islands’s White Bay – go elsewhere and avoid damaging the coral. Once secured, however, we enjoyed an easy day of getting caught up on sleep, and returning to island time.

I had an enjoyable snorkel almost to the forbidden beach, the highlight of which was seeing a sea turtle patrolling the anchorage for its dinner. Maryanne and I both made a special effort to be paying attention at sunset, and were fortunate enough to both see the elusive green flash. A perfect ending to my first full day home.

[Maryanne]Today was Easter Sunday and Kyle had kindly managed to find space in his luggage for a decent supply of chocolate... Mmmm, very yummy. A view is so much better with chocolate.

Friday, April 10, 2009

OK, Dough K!

[Maryanne]Kyle's away so I get to really mess up the boat. More recently I decided to mess up the galley a bit, I needed to redeem myself from my prior bread failures. Regular readers may recall my last attempt. Now I still blame this previous failure on bad yeast, but even when I'd purchased new yeast I was stalling "just in case" it turns out I've lost my touch and just can't make bread. I checked over a few recipes, averaged out/combined them all into a "this will do" mix and just got to making my bread. This time I used the oven (which is a little bit temperamental to say the least) but it worked. The difference in the yeast was obvious from the bubbling cup I mixed it in, to the rising bread.

VOILA! A perfectly edible (but blurry) loaves.
Now I just have to learn how to steady the camera too!

The galley was suitably floured up once the experiment was over. One loaf was completely gone before I even got to clean up - DELICIOUS. :-)

Next in the plan is to try the stove top method again and start making some bread with extra flavors: Honey bread, herbs, etc. Good news is that we now know we can have a good supply of fresh bread on our next passage.

Aside from such experiments I've had visitors recently - Kyle and Tina were cruising around the BVI for the week on their boat "Far Cry". We briefly met Kyle when we were getting fuel in St Maarten, and we've also been in touch through Sailnet.com forums. Kyle and Tina were kind enough to keep me company for an afternoon, and let me join them for dinner at The Last Resort - just a stones throw away from my boat. They were great company, and it's always nice to have visitors.

Talking about "The Last Resort", most mornings I get to see their 3 black labs decide they want to go ashore from their little island - so off they trot, part wading, part swimming to the beach. They are great fun to watch, 2 always want to get in a fight and the 3rd looks so bored with it all.

Dogs from the island head ashore for their daily wander

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Gli Gli - traditional Carib boat

[Maryanne]Anchored in Trellis Bay, along with Footprint is a 35' wooden boat called the Gli Gli.

This handmade Carib Indian canoe (a dugout or a pirogue) was built in Dominica (Construction began on the full moon in early December 1995); built by Caribs with knowledge and expertise of the traditional boat building skills. Whenever they can raise enough money, they take the Gli Gli on an extended journey where it acts as an ambassador to and for the Carib peoples; it has proved its seaworthiness several times over. They are currently raising funds for a trip to Belize. In the mean time they take out day trippers and provide a traditional Carib meal as part of the experience.

On one of its many voyages, in 2007 it was moved (see full report) from English Harbour in Antigua to Trellis Bay in the British Virgin Islands, and took almost the same route that Footprint did.

Carib culture and History is really quite buried and ignored across the Caribbean, where most guide books and tourist focus on the beaches, and if there is any exposure to the islands' history at all it is most likely the European and then the Black Slave history. In many islands Carib populations have long ago been driven out or killed off (mostly by European settlers, often in bloody massacres). Gli Gli is keeping just part of that Carib culture alive and in view. Great job. One of the key founders of the Gli Gli project is Aragorn, who owns and runs the Trellis Bay artist studio where a host of other Carib skills are on display, I'd encourage all visitors to take a browse and chat with the artists there. I've been bumping into John Francis on my morning trips ashore. He's Carib - a quiet and kindly man. He seems to have so many skills, including making copper sculptures. He's a musician, a spokesman and activist on Carib issues, AND often aboard and training on the Gli Gli sailing trips. That's a guy who makes a difference in the world. Bravo.

For the most part Gli Gli seems to stay anchored in Trellis Bay, but today it went out with a good crowd along with a support boat - she looked pretty impressive. That inspired me to share with you all these pictures of this great Carib ambassador. You can read much more about it in the Gli Gli Canoe web site.