BVI trip report 8-18 Jul 03 (long)
BVI charter 8-18 Jul 03 with Tradewind Yachts 10 charter nights
Intro – This was my second charter as skipper, although my wife, Diane, has been crew for many years on Caribbean cruises. This was our best vacation in our 12 years together, despite some challenges and problems we encountered. Partly, that was because the cruise was fairly unstructured. With just the two of us on the boat, we had much more freedom to do what suited us at the moment.
Most importantly, we learned that we can work well together as a team; something we will need later when we do our own extended cruising aboard our own (future) boat. Hopefully, some of the details we list will help others in their own planning.
Expenses for 2 people -
Air tickets $1,020 Yacht (for Jeanneau 37) 1,535 Fuel 26 Mooring fees 125 Masc. taxes, permits 20 Provisions bought from home 80 Provisions - islands (incl. alcohol) 195 Restaurants/Entertainment 532 Car rental/gas 68 Taxis 42 Limo driver (USA) 100 Tips (masc.) 35 Email access 15 ________________________________
Total (excluding gifts) $3,793 Less than $1900 per person
Notes on expenses: We ate 3 dinners and 2 lunches ashore in 10 days. We drank modestly ashore for the most part. Many places serve copious amounts of alcohol for modest prices (e.g. 5 ounces of rum for $4), which is a good deal, but drinking ashore also runs up the expenses pretty quickly. Note that we had 10 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 7 dinners, and many beverages aboard for less than $300, while the ashore costs for 3 dinners, 2 lunches, and bar bills exceeded $530. Only you know what your budget is and what works for you.
Skipper’s Log –
8 Jul (Tue) Leave home at 0445 for Newark Airport; arrive 0555, breeze thru check-in and security; at gate by 0620 for 0730 flight via San Juan on American Airlines. Entrance into BVIs was even quicker than last year. We brought 5 homemade frozen entrees in a small ice chest into BVI; this time there was no request to pay duty. Very short taxi ride to TWY, arriving at 1400. Facility is small, not fancy but adequate with friendly owners/staff.
Our Jeanneau 37 (Sponge Cake) still had 45 minutes of last-minute repairs to the head, but this was not a problem as Diane provisioned at local Rite-Way market and I began the boat briefing. We were underway by 1530 headed for Trellis Bay. Strong winds (25+ kts) and heavy seas out of the east made it a long beat to turn the corner south of Beef Island. I am not a real experienced skipper, but I do understand sail trim, so it bothered me that I could not tack through less than 110 degrees. Actually, that was when conditions allowed for full sail (rare during this trip). When we had the headsail partially furled, the shape was so horrible that I could barely tack through 125 degrees – that’s pathetic. Add the leeway in there and you are making very little distance upwind. We finally decided to motor sail with the headsail furled (I don’t like using the engine to make way, but sometimes you just have to).
As we were beating around the southern tip of Beef, I was getting into my lecture mode and started quizzing Diane: “what if the engine failed right now?” Son of a beach if she didn’t quit within a minute! We were on a lee shore with no ability to claw off under sail and no engine to power off, so I quickly jibed into a deep broad reach to clear the point heading back toward our departure point. Once settled down, I resumed beating under sail toward Trellis Bay, keeping far off the point. I used the boat cell phone to contact TWY and luckily they were still there at 1800.
My plan was to make Trellis and moor or anchor under sail since it was going to be dark soon. We had a great ride under headsail alone past Marina Cay and around the rocks guarding the bay. I furled the headsail small to reduce power and flaked out the anchor chain (no engine = no windlass) and instructed Diane what to do with the helm and sheets. As we made the approach, we saw the bay was full. I did not want to chance maneuvering amongst all those boats under sail only (it was blowing 30 kts that evening), so we dropped anchor just 100 yards inside the rocks/buoy.
Never having done it before, I must say it worked flawlessly. We’re just damn lucky the holding in Trellis is excellent. Since we were not in a very protected spot, I used all 100 feet of chain and 50 feet of nylon even though the depth wasn’t more than 20 feet. Our plans to eat at the Last Resort were dashed since I was not leaving that boat in those circumstances. Needless to say, with the wind howling at 30+ all night, I did not get much sleep – in fact I slept in the cockpit with fenders at the ready.
9 Jul (Wed) The mechanic from TWY arrived at 0830 and proceeded to clear severely clogged fuel lines and filter. You hear stories about heavy seas stirring up the sludge in the tank – well know we know what they mean. While there, he also replaced the joker valve in the head pump, and after some browsing ashore, we were off by 1300.
Our intended destination was Savannah Bay on Virgin Gorda, but guess what happened after motoring for 5 minutes – the engine ran rough and had a vibration I didn’t like. I called TWY and told them were coming back to their base. A little while later, I called to say the engine quit completely and we were coming back under sail alone and would like assistance.
As we got into Fat Hogs Bay, I called again for assistance and they said we would get it as we got closer. Here is where the communication and my judgment broke down. I had no intention of bring the boat to the dock under sail and expected TWY to send a person in a dinghy to meet us and take charge. As we got closer under partial headsail alone doing about 2 kts, I noticed 3 guys standing on the dock waiting to take our dock lines. Well, we hadn’t even put out our fenders or lines, since this was going to be “their call.” As we were running out of options, I had Diane start to put out the fenders and dock lines, but were already too close. I couldn’t tack, so I jibed and missed everything safely enough, but was now running out of navigable water.
My actions and my hail for assistance finally got through; they sent a knowledgeable guy in a dinghy to take charge, but even he missed the approach, so he repeated my maneuver to clear the dock and then 2 other guys in separate dinghies came out to act as tugs and get us back to the dock. I honestly think I could have made a safe approach if I had planned for it, but trying to salvage it at the last minute was not smart. I should have dropped anchor off the dock when I saw they were not in position to assist. I relegated my skipper’s responsibility when I should have been more decisive – lesson learned.
The best part about all this is that Diane and I learned that we can handle all this without yelling at each other. We worked great as a team, even though she still needs a lot of coaching as to what to do and how to do it.
Options for taking a different boat were almost nil, and our boat (if serviceable) was by far the best of the few available options. The mechanic immediately tore into the fuel lines again and found once section plugged. I was concerned (as were they) that the sludge in the tank could make this a recurring event, but we decided to motor all the way to Cooper for the night and see how she ran. Fortunately, she never hiccupped again during the cruise, but that vibration was still there.
Our night at Cooper was restful on a mooring, with another delicious homemade meal aboard.
10 Jul (Thu) Up at 0630 to a beautiful morning. Departed for North Sound and arrived at 1400 due to the winds being somewhat NE and the horrible upwind capability of the boat. While better pointing would have been very nice, we love to sail so being underway longer was not a big deal.
We anchored in Drake’s Anchorage all alone. The resort is apparently abandoned for a few years, but it was neat walking the trails on the island and experiencing that feeling of seclusion. We were clothing-free most of the time aboard, and certainly enjoyed that secluded beach they call Honeymoon Beach.
11 Jul (Fri) Up at 0630 for more hiking ashore. Moved to Saba Rock mooring (to take advantage of water and ice). Had some Painkillers ashore – we found Saba to be beautiful, especially that little garden on the eastern side. We snorkeled the reef to the east, which was very rough that day, and found it to be pretty nice. Dinner ashore was the buffet. The salad bar was impressive, but the other hot buffet food was only so-so in our opinion. The carving station had lamb, pork, and beef – all were pretty good.
Some games in the cockpit with rum nightcaps and then to bed – exhausted as usual.
12 Jul (Sat) Up at 0530. Took on water at 0700 and enjoyed a great close/beam reach to Anegada (about 3 hours) with no more than 6.5 knots on GPS. Approach was tricky because of the missing nav aids. I’m glad Walker’s GPS coordinates were available to “replace” the missing aids.
Tried to anchor for almost 1.5 hours (yes, that is ridiculous, but we did not yell at each other, I swear). If we backed down on the anchor at half reverse, it seemed OK. Every time we went to full reverse, it dragged. I finally snagged the very last mooring with a little help from a fellow sailor in a dinghy, since the pendant was missing. I learned something about chafe, too, since simply looping the line the steel ring was not ideal. I checked it early the next morning and decided to move to a good mooring for the next night.
Took dinghy to Pam''s Kitchen (bought baked goods, chutney), then we continued our slow pace and just chilled for most of the afternoon, with cocktails aboard. I took a bottle of wine and dinghied over to the boat whose skipper had helped. He (Alain) was from Puerto Rico, and his two lovely female companions (Sol and Marta) also spoke enough English that we had a great time visiting – for 2 hours. By this time it was 1830 and time to get ready for the lobster dinner ashore at the Anegada Reef Hotel. We dined as a fivesome and had way too much drink, fun, and dancing.
13 Jul (Sun) Up at 0830. At 1000, we taxied to Loblolly Bay for snorkeling; with all due respect to others’ opinions, we found it very mediocre. The beach was good and the weather was comfortable, so we had a good time. We had met a honeymoon couple (Dave and Chris) in their later 40s on the taxi and they visited with us. We invited them aboard at 2000 for conversation.
We enjoyed the bar at the Big Bamboo on the beach and got back to the boat by 1800. I had promised to visit another boat (we met them at the airport), so off I went to do more socializing. It was now almost 1930 and I had not eaten yet. I dinghied back to our boat and found Diane had defrosted our dinner, but left it cold and untouched and she was sound asleep.
I grabbed a few mouthfuls, put it back in the fridge and got the boat ready for guests. At 1945 (or so), I lay down to rest my eyes and that was it for me until 2300. I later found that Dave had come by at 2030 and found me snoring, so he left.
14 Jul (Mon) Up at 0600; weather clearing and winds much lighter. We departed for Cane Garden Bay around 0900. With the lighter winds, it took us until 1430 to arrive, although we did heave-to for a short bit enroute (wink-wink, nudge-nudge). Got the anchor set well this time and went ashore to provision. Had dinner aboard, then a nap, and drinks aboard Olympe, Dave and Chris’s boat. Got to bed at 2330.
15 Jul (Tue) Up at 0700 on another beautiful morning. Light rain showers had been occurring every night, but last night there was a heavy shower. Great for washing the boat down.
We hired a car at 0900 and toured Tortola for the first time. It was a very neat thing to do – just driving those steep switchback roads is amazing, as is the view. We stopped in Road Town and did email and bought Diane a piece of jewelry. Had a delicious bar-size pizza for lunch. Snorkeled Brewer’s Bay – it was really very nice. Stopped in East End to buy grouper for dinner the next night.
We were back on the boat by 1430. Dave and Chris came back from their jaunt to Sandy Cay and we drove to Pusser’s on Frenchman’s Cay for dinner (not bad). On the way we passed Bomba’s Shack and can see what people mean when they say it is just a wild-looking architectural disaster waiting to happen! To bed at 1130.
16 Jul (Wed) Up at 0700; more rain showers last night. Returned car at 0900, then off to Sandy Spit and Green Cay off Jost Van Dyke. Beach was gorgeous and snorkeling was OK.
Sailed to White Bay (JVD), anchored, and went to Soggy Dollar Bar for Painkillers. Decided to spend night at Great Harbor, so off we went. Anchored there with no problem, made grouper, watched the stars and went to bed. Yes, I realize we did not even go ashore, but we were just too tired. We did see beautiful phosphorescent jellyfish that made blue light. They were like fireflies of the sea.
17 Jul (Thu) Up at 0600. Departed at 0800 beating against SE winds to the Indians past Little Thatch. Did not arrive until 1300. There were no moorings left, but Dave and Chris were there, so we buddied-up with them. That was the most fantastic snorkeling of the trip! Later, sailed over to the Caves and moored for a little more snorkeling.
Moored in The Bight on Norman Island; dinner aboard, then drinks on the Willy-T. We had nightcaps and live guitar serenade by Dave (he’s good!) aboard Olympe until 2330.
18 Jul (Fri) Up at 0700. Slipped mooring at 0815 and beat back to Fat Hog''s Bay (a very nice sail) by 1145. We picked up a mooring to attend to some matters, then docked at the fuel dock. Took only 9.3 gals for 10 days. Debrief was easy and quick, although I had prepared a list of 8 items which needed attention on the boat.
We had a great lunch at the Harbourview restaurant. Taxi to airport, check-in, flight to San Juan, then Newark were all just fine. All-in-all, a FABULOUS trip!
*** General Comments/Lessons Learned *** - We decided to forego the expensive, sometimes disgusting, showers available ashore and take showers aboard. That was a good decision.
- This trip was much more of a carefree, slow pace than last time. For lots of reasons, including the privacy, this was a superior experience for us.
- Fully brief the crew on the safe operation of “everything” they may have to touch. Ensure they don’t touch the things they shouldn’t. It is important for everyone on board to speak and signal with the same boating language to allow for the best communication and to help prevent problems.
- Keep calm and cool in all situations; you may need to use a stronger voice for emphasis at times, but yelling is never helpful.