18:27.296N 64:26.442W 3 February 2008 BVI
Week ending 3 February 2008 BVI
The bracket for the autopilot on the pedestal was not ready, so it was just an out and about day.
Andy finished fitting the autopilot and we were going for a sea trial, but because of the bridge I opted for a lagoon trial. We went to the clearest area in the lagoon for the space and also it was the cleanest part so I ran the watermaker briefly to keep it going. Everything was ok except there was no wind information to get the autopilot to sail to a wind angle. I left Andy the dinghy so that he could finish up and I went to play dominoes.
I was taking my new computer and my old computer to France. I wondered why people were in wet weather gear. I soon found out. The lagoon was very choppy and rough and with two computers I was not happy. It was a very long way, I was soaked and it was a toss up whether I was happier to see the Marigot dinghy dock than I had been to spot Barbados after the crossing, probably Marigot won because of the computers. John helped me with the computer and so I gave the old one to Jack. Bruce later said that I should know better than not to keep a spare of everything, but at this rate I will be towing a spare boat behind me. The computer backs up the chart plotter, that will have to do.
Time to leave St Maarten , I have been here 6 weeks. I checked out and was not going to make the 9am bridge. I took the engine off the dinghy, changed the head on the generator for water mode and put the rudder on the windvane. I was struggling over the side of the dinghy in the most polluted part of the lagoon when my friends the Coastguards came by and asked if there was anything they could do. Not unless they wanted to do this for me. I did not want to risk leaving it until I was outside where the water was cleaner, in case it was too rough. I made it through the 11am bridge with plenty of time and was very relieved to be out. I was going to take a buoy for an hour or so while I cleaned off the dinghy and got ready. I caught the buoy, but the handle came off the boathook, again. I had to stop a passing dinghy to retrieve my boathook for me. There was a foot of slimy weed on the bottom of the dinghy, but most of it cleaned off.
1.30 I set off. Everybody told me that I could set off much later and make it by the morning, they also told me that it would be downwind all the way with favourable current. The wind was 15 to 20 knots, with a big cross swell and I had quite a few rain squalls. I was close hauled most of the way, with the wind on the beam sometimes, but never farther back than that – never rely on anything you are told. At 4pm there was a lull and it is always difficult to know how long to wait dawdling along or do I take alternative action. I waited long enough and so I took the sails down, locked the hydrovane rudder and the vane, took the generator out of the water and put the engine on. Obviously as soon as I had finished there was a squall and then I had to reverse all the above and go back to where I was, just didn’t wait long enough. There was quite a lot of traffic overnight and the wind changed direction quite a lot, so that kept me occupied. Horatio helmed all night, I just had to tweek him and the sails.
It was cold and wet and in the cockpit I had cushions, a fleece, raincoat and sleeping bag. When the squalls came the need to get some sail down was uppermost and I, the cushions, the fleece and the sleeping bag got wet, but the raincoat was still snug under the sprayhood. I do not like this hot during the day and cold at night, like the desert; I don’t think I want to come back as a camel.
As usual on a first trip after sitting about for weeks the night was hard to stay awake through, but I had half hourly alarm calls. It was too rough for me to bother to make anything to eat or drink and too cold and uncomfortable to fall asleep. It was not that bad, but I was glad to see the morning light and with it the islands.
6.45am I was about 15 miles away from the islands and had to put the motor on and motor sail the rest of the way, it still took 5 hours.
11.45 18 27 296N 064 26 442W Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands. I checked in. The water is beautifully clear, I had a shower, should I have thought of going in the water.
5pm Bluewater Cat pulled in beside me on the anchorage, they had left at 4.30 this morning, but they go a lot faster than me. They had a broad reach most of the way, which is more like what is normal.
The place to go is The Baths, big boulders at the beach. We could have taken the boats, but the red flag was up, which meant do not use the moorings and so we walked. There were boats on the moorings. The water was decidedly cool and I would not have gone in without my wetsuit. I snorkelled and the water was totally clear and there were some colourful fish, some a foot long, right there close to the shore. We went into the caves made by the boulders and there were pools inside. There is a 20 minute trail, described as challenging. Walking, climbing, swimming and crawling, we passed on that, I think the crawling put us off. The sign also said that you had to be prepared to supervise young children, we did not have any, did they hand them out as you went in.
We went back to the boats and set off at 2.30. I was not sure where we were headed, I was just going to follow Bluewater Cat. We soon realised that Norman Island was too far for me to reach before dusk and stopped off at Cooper Island. 18 22 911N 064 30 966W The anchorage here is all taken up with mooring balls and we anchored at the far end. Jimmy had caught a Mahi Mahi yesterday and that made a very nice BBQ dinner.
The currents and winds are making all the boats dance in different directions. I was just about ok, but Jimmy had to reanchor about 3 times in the dark, I felt a bit bad as I got in after them. I have had to stop the wind generator as it is making a strange noise, I will have to check it in daylight.
Sunday 18 19 114N 064 37 127W
Off to Norman Island. Good downwind all the way and sailed most of it just on the genoa. I was coming to the pass between the rocks and decided to take the sail in, but something was stopping it. The small island was getting closer and the water was getting shallower, but the important thing is not to panic. The furling line had got caught round the bow cleat, that sorted and the sail came in.
Bluewater Cat was just behind me and we anchored, I was among the mooring buoys, there is no room left for anchoring under 20 metres outside the mooring field, which is now the entire bay and that seems unfair as it is not a marine park, but just private people making money.
Jimmy and I went snorkelling. There were lots of fish and we went in the cave with a light, I was not sure what there was in there to see. Jimmy shone his torch up and another man said, do you see any bats?, I had not thought of that. Back outside we saw cuttle fish, which are very strange creatures. A couple were diving, but they did not really have any advantage over us as the water was clear to the bottom, but I did swim through their bubble trail which tickled. There was a large catamarran feeding the fish and there were hundreds of large yellow fin snapper under the boat and two baracudas. The baracudas swam away and then one came past me a few feet away, they are ugly. We also saw a spotted eagle ray which was rather cool.
Later we hiked up the hill to overlook the anchorage and the bays on the other side of the island, not somewhere to take a yacht into.
After a laze on a sun lounger we came back to the boat. I took the wind generator apart and found the plastic part of the cog was worn virtually flat, I think it used to have teeth. I shall have to get a new one of those somehow as soon as possible.