9th December 2010 - blog up until Norman Island - more to come

Brian & Loretto Linehan
Thu 9 Dec 2010 15:55
I am posting this blog as it has been written for some time but stayed
unposted due to lack of internet connection. We now have good connection
so it is being posted but there is more to come as we have now moved on
from Norman Island and are in St Barts. So watch this space.

Yes, I’m back. Sorry for the delay in writing further but (1) I got fed
up writing “we’re still here” and still nothing happening and (2) we
seemed to be getting either no news or just bad news about the bow
thrusters that I thought “what’s the point” and decided not to put pen to
paper until something happened.

And yes it has – I started this blog while sitting on the boat as we
sailed from Hampton, Virginia, USA, to Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
We had left the USA and were in international waters approx. 300 miles
from our destination.

I am now on the boat at anchor Norman Island in the BVIs finishing this

I’ll bring you up to date on what has happened over the past four weeks or

October - Oxford:
We lived on the boat while it was out of the water for approx. 3 weeks
while the rest of the work was done and we waited on the return of the bow
thruster. This made life interesting as entry to the boat was via a very
long ladder. The dog was brought up and down via a very large bag to
which he got accustomed very quickly. But life went on as normal with
schooling, shopping etc. We had a lovely evening with Steve and Laird,
friends from the boatyard and their daughter, Katie, who had made friends
with Cliona and Ciara over the four months we spent in Oxford. They
climbed the long ladder to join us for dinner one evening. And we also
spent a very pleasant evening with Richard Griffith, a boat neighbour, who
is an absolutely fantastic storyteller – you practically live the stories
as he tells them. Richard lives on his boat, Rosalind, which is a
converted 1903 luggar and absolutely reeking of history.

On Friday 22nd October the yard treated us to a pizza lunch with all the
team from the yard - speeches from Mitch, the yard owner, thanking us for
our custom and from Brian who thanked the yard for all their hard work and
especially their great attitude and good spirits. We were all presented
with gifts, including Bono.

But unfortunately the Monday did not bring the bow thruster and finally on
the Tuesday Brian told the yard to get it back unfinished. Graham, Dave
and Jason worked late into the night on Tuesday to replace the unfinished
thruster into the boat so that we could leave on Wednesday.

Leaving Oxford:
Wednesday was very busy preparing the boat to leave Oxford for the final
time. We were joined by the first of our crew for the trip to the
Caribbean – Jon, a friend of Zoe (who is the daughter of Aideen, Eleanor’s
cousin who lives in France). Jon just finished High School and is taking
a year off to sail. Soon it was time to slip our lines for the final
time. The water was flat calm after a storm had just blown through – the
water wonderfully still, reflecting the setting sun. We all felt very
emotional leaving Oxford which had been our home for four months and very
sad at leaving our new friends.

Well now a new chapter had begun.

The Rally
We travelled down the Chesapeake overnight arriving in Hampton, Virginia,
at approx. 10am. After an interesting time docking (remember no bow
thruster) we checked in with the Rally organisers and set about getting to
know our new environment.

The Rally offers the advantage of getting to know other similar
like-minded people who all have the same aim in mind – getting to the
Caribbean safe and sound. This meant that finally (no offence to any
family, friends back home) I could talk to other women who knew exactly
what I was talking about –discussing the ups and downs of sailing with
husbands/families. There were also talks organised about weather,
routing, sailing in the Caribbean, medical issues etc so a lot of
information was given out and discussed. And every evening there was
drinks organised so that everyone could meet up and get to know each

We were also joined by our other two crew members with whom we had made
contact via the Rally organisers. Richard and Eric had both done the
journey on previous occasions. Eric is very enthusiastic about celestial
navigation and has an indepth knowledge of the stars, biology (he
collected plankton on the way down for the girls to see) – actually he was
a mine of information on most things. Richard, a published author, has
lived a fascinating life – living and exploring South America, living in
Mexico and the Caribbean - and is currently writing two books based on
his experiences. Richard has also been heavily involved in the
recreation of the original settlement at Jamestown where the settlers
arrived (remember Pocahontas) and he has sailed the larger of the three
replica ships they have moored there. He treated us to a tour of these as
well as a tour of the replicas of the settlers’ town and Indian
settlement, where they have recreated how the settlers and the Indian
natives would have lived at that time. Jack was very impressed by the
musket firing demonstration. The guides are so good, all dressed in
exact clothing as per the era and are so knowledgeable about the history
of those times. It was a great day – a pity we did not have more time as
we only scratched the surface of what the area has to offer.

The Rally also provided good weather information on crossing the gulf
stream and deciding the best route to take down to the Caribbean.
Unfortunately the original designated start date, 1st November, came and
went as hurricane Tomas delayed our departure. Finally on Monday 8th
November we took in our lines and fenders and departed the USA.

The Journey

It was very exciting leaving Hampton that morning. The first half of
Monday was fine but unfortunately the wind and sea just combined to give
an extremely rolly ride. The sea began to roll steeply – left/right,
left/right – constantly. Myself, Ciara and Jack succumbed to mal-de-mer
and it took at least until Thursday evening before I felt I had got my sea
legs. A very unpleasant experience. Thank God we had crew because I
didn’t have to stand a watch and was able to rest when I felt bad. I had
also prepared five frozen dinners which meant that all I had to do was
move them from the freezer to the oven.

We rounded Cape Hatteras at approximately 2am Tuesday morning but still
had no let-up from the rolls. The swells were approximately 30-40 feet
with the wind gusting up to 50knots. The swells would catch the boat
whooshing her over to one side and then the other. The gulf stream was
crossed at apppoximately 9am on the Tuesday but still no let up! But the
further we went east/south the bluer the seas became.

From Friday, although the sea continued to roll it wasn’t as constant nor
steep and the weather started to get a little warmer and more pleasant.
And the stars at night – absolutely stunning.

During the day we had fishing lines out constantly. On the Sunday approx
8am Jack gave a holler – his line had snagged something. We all expected
the usual haul of seaweed which had been our only result so far but our
luck had changed. Jack pulled in (with Brian’s help) a Wahu (hopefully a
picture will be uploaded soon). Brian had to do the radio net (every
am/pm each boat called in with it’s position co-ordinates) and so the
whole fleet celebrated with us. And that evening we had really
mouthwatering fish cooked on the bbq.

Land Ahoy
Finally we saw the humps and bumps of the BVIs in the distance. As we
approached the islands the sea became bluer and bluer and clearer, a small
islet surrounded by white sand greeted us – straight out of a tourist
brochure! And on Tuesday 16th November we arrived at Jost Van Dyke to
check in with customs/immigration and celebrate with a burger at the
legendary Foxys. Then on to Nanny Cay marina on Tortola to join the rest
of the boats.

Nanny Cay – the final days of the Rally
At Nanny Cay the Rally organisers had drink parties in the evening
culminating in a party on the Thursday evening with prize giving. Each
yacht was presented with a pewter plate to mark the achievement.

Then there was the Fishing trophy awarded not to the boat with the best
haul but to the best written account of the fishing achievement. Davis,
who adjudicated, began his speech by commenting that sailors like
fishermen are very familiar with telling tall tales and embellishing their
achievements when recounting their stories. But he said that on this
occasion it was fitting that the award should go to the fisherman who did
actually, truly, land a fish that was taller than him and so the award
went to Jack. Well we were astounded – this was not expected at all. And
Jack jumped up (he had worn his pirate outfit complete with cutless and
looked soo cute) and he almost grabbed the award from Davis. He was so
happy and constantly reminded people that he caught a fish and all Daddy
caught was seaweed!

We had made good friends in Hampton with three boats in particular, Rhythm
(from Canada) – Peggy, David, Olivia (14yrs – Cliona and she were
inseparable for the whole time in Nanny Cay) & Joey (17 yrs -whom Jack
adopted as his older brother) and Starbound (from the US) – Heather,
Jimmy, Scarlett (8yrs) and River (2yrs) and Indulgence – John, Lorri,
Jasper (12 yrs) and Georgia (10yrs). We all had a great time celebrating
our collective achievement and hope to meet up with them on our travels in
the Caribbean.

The Journey Continues
On the Saturday we left Nanny Cay intending to sail to St Martin – a
distance of approx 90 miles. But unfortunately the weather had turned and
the wind had got up quite a bit. We went about a third of the way and
decided to turn back. The nearest island was Virgin Gorda so we picked up
a mooring near the Bitter End Yacht club and spent the night there. The
next day we went to Spanish Town in Virgin Gorda where we checked in again
with customs/immigration and spent three nights at the marina there. The
weather was fantastic, a bit windy but warm and sunny. We spent a lot of
the time just watching the various boats (both charter and private) come
in and out of the marina. Spanish Town did not live up to its tourist
book write-up (a common thread we are finding in the BVIs) and there is
not a lot to do in the town. But the marina itself provided enough

On Wednesday we left there and sailed the short distance to Marina Cay.
This is a tiny island surrounded by the bluest sea over a reef. Again
picture postcard stuff! After ensuring the anchor was bedded-in we took
the dingy ashore and Jack and the girls spent a very pleasant hour or so
building sandcastles and paddling in the sea.

Thursday morning we left Marina Cay intending to go to another bay but we
heard our friends from Starbound and decided to join them at the Bight on
Norman Island. This is supposed to be the island which inspired Robert
Louis Stevenson to write “Treasure Island” and the Bight itself provides
a really sheltered, beautiful anchorage. So we dropped the hook again and
took ourselves ashore to enjoy a drink at the only establishment on the
island while Jack, River, Scarlett and the girls enjoyed playing in the
sand and watching the many fish underwater.

On Friday we were joined by Indulgence and that night had a great meal on
board Asteroid with all the crews. Sunday brought Rhythm to the Bight and
we shared another great evening with friends, reliving the rally and
discussing future plans over food and drink. Unfortunately it was the
wrong night to have a drink too many. About 3am I heard a dingy roaring
around out boat calling out “Asteroid” – I was about to yell out the
window giving the people a piece of my mind about waking us up, thinking
they were late night revellers having a bit of late night excitement.
Then I realised it was Jimmy from Starbound. “You’re dragging your
anchor” he was yelling and then it was all hands on deck. Trying to raise
the anchor, keep the boat into the wind and away from other boats at 3am
is a challenging exercise. And then we remembered our dingy – we had gone
over the painter (rope that holds the dingy to the boat) and it had
decided to do a runner away from us. Luckily Jimmy was still out and
about and he rescued it for us. We got our anchor set again and then
second part of the excitement started – Starbound now found they were
dragging and they had to repeat the anchor exercise. And they had a
beautiful small wooden boat attached to their boat – this flipped and
Brian then returned the rescue compliment. By 5am the anchors were all
set and various dingies rescued. We spent the rest of the night in the
cockpit to ensure that all was safe.

I am now in the cockpit again watching our path on the radar screen. We
have an anchor alarm set but hopefully we will have an uneventful night.