In Coral Bay on St John 18:20.49N, 64:40.51W
Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Thu 7 May 2009 23:56
After a quiet night in Rendezvous Bay we headed eastwards towards a very protected part of the coast of St John named Coral Bay, which has many pleasant and safe anchorages. We dropped anchor in one of the eastern most spots just off a deserted beach backed up by some shore side properties. Some of these were uninhabited and had seen better days and not a few hurricanes judging by their condition. A quiet night was in prospect although the local radio warned of a tropical depression spreading in from the west that would affect the weather over the whole of the Virgin Islands and quite a few miles eastward for a few days to come.. Winds of 30 mph were predicted along with some thunder and heavy rain. Lovely! As we were in one of the best protected parts of the Virgin Islands another day at anchor seemed the best option.
Well, it rained hard overnight but not much wind blew. The next morning though we awoke to extremely black skies. In fact there was no blue to be seen just various shades of black so we deduced we were in for a spot or two of rain. Next the LPG gas bottle ran out. We had last changed it whilst we were on the Atlantic crossing so it had lasted pretty much 2 months. It was now also raining hard - in fact torrential only begins to describe how it fell from the sky. It was as if most of the Caribbean had been sucked up into the clouds and was now on its way back down again. Unfortunately our gas bottles are situated in the forward deck lockers which in the torrential rain guaranteed a soaking to whoever volunteered to go forward, so regardless of whatever I might choose to wear with the exception of a deep sea divers suit it was the skipper that was in for the soaking on this occasion. So,having sloshed my way forward - I could have water-skied there was so much water pouring down the deck and having changed the fittings over to the newly filled gas bottle which we had just collected from the marina a few days before I paddled back to the cockpit where we tried to light the hob for a cup of tea. Nothing was flowing through the system. Even the oven wouldn't light. That was silly as I had lugged the gas bottle back from the marina to the boat where we virtually had to crane it onboard it was so heavy. Back to the locker again in the rain, removed the regulator and twisted the valve whereupon a gush of propane shot out proving that we had all the gas we needed but we couldn't get it to the stove. The regulator must be the problem - unusual but probable given we didn't carry a spare. (Sods Law of the Sea Rule 13 - Only equipment for which spares are not carried will generally fail at the most inconvenient time). Still we carried a spare emergency Camping Gaz bottle which we could plumb in (when the rain eased that is). During this time we were taking the opportunity to fill our tanks with the rain water which we do by damming the side decks with a towel so that the torrent of water pouring off the coachroof and foredeck was routed down the filler spout on each side of the deck. We took on almost 60 gallons during the downpour and had to stop when the tanks were full. This water we use for washing, showering and teeth cleaning, keeping our aft tanks for drinking water which comes either from potable sources ashore or from the watermaker we have on board which converts seawater into fresh by a system of black magic otherwise known as reverse osmosis.
During a lull back to the foredeck I went to change the fittings over to the camping gaz bottle. Back to the stove again - it still didn't work! Nor the oven. I tried the barbecue supply on the aft deck. Plenty of gaz there! In fact it blasted out at an alarming rate, just as if it were unregulated. Back to the locker again to inspect the bottle and regulator only to find that it wasn't a regulator. Silly Skipper had bought the wrong fitting back in the UK, so we had no emergency gas supply after all. The situation went from being an inconvenience to being unable to prepare any hot food except with the microwave which runs through the inverter and which our batteries are currently unable to sustain due to their condition. The rain meanwhile was again in full torrential mode making the situation even more depressing. We would have to find a chandlery in St Thomas and buy another regulator of some sort to extract the large quantity of gas we had available onboard.
Whilst Skip was getting drenched going backwards and forwards to the front of the boat No.2 was searching through some reference books. "Have you checked the air vent isn't blocked on the main propane regulator?". "There isn't one on this regulator - at least I cant see one" replied a wet and bedraggled skipper. A further inspection revealed a dark secret under the sticky label - an air vent. and it was blocked solid from being regularly drenched with sea water in the forward locker. A sharp bradle cleared the hole and after a 5 minute delay whilst the heavens threw another million gallons of water over the deck and the regulator was fixed onto the freshly filled gas bottle. It all worked perfectly, In fact it was then switched back to the supposedly empty gas bottle and that worked as well!! The day was looking up, full water tanks, even a cup of tea. But the weather remained unsettled throughout the day and through that night as the tropical low decided it rather liked the Virgin Islands and had sucked up plenty more water to ensure we kept our deck hatches shut and us nicely perspiring in the tropical heat below.
The following morning the weather remained unsettled just as predicted so we decided to move on to St Thomas in order to stock up for the forthcoming trip to the USA. We no longer needed a new gas regulator but did need plenty of food to cook with it and a supermarket was high on the list of priorities.