Sunday, March 29, 2015

St. Martin

We have left BVI a week ago with plans to make it across the Caribbean Sea and sail straight to Grenada. We would like to be back in USA for the summer and so starting exploring the islands from Grenada and going back north would give us a better timing. Well, that was the plan! After beating into the wind for about 140 miles, we had enough and pulled over to St. Martin. We have been sailing into the wind hard at 45 degrees (this is the closest up wind that our boat is capable of sailing) for a number of days now, and it's getting rather annoying. We would sail for an hour, then tack and sail for another hour, just to end up almost at the same spot that we started from. It's not the 20 knot headwind, it's actually the adverse current that is over 1knot flowing west, so when we are sailing east, we are drifting back at about 1.4 knots of speed, making very little progress.
So we are ready for some winds that are not from the direction we are heading towards!
How is St. Martin? It's French on one side and Dutch on the other. It's actually more different than we would expect for such a small island. The French side is not as populated but is very French, where the Dutch side is very modern and a lot more populated. St. Martin is a great place to buy boat parts or get some boat work done as this island has many boat shops and skilled workers (mostly on Dutch side) to take care of your needs.
I replaced our fresh water pump which quit the day we pulled to St. Martin, and also replaced our jib battens that were broken and missing.
Since we had about 5 days where we just needed to lay low as the winds (and waves) have picked up considerably and will not abate until Sunday evening (tonight) I penciled in about 6 diving spots which we were looking forward to dive here, but the waves are too big to be out in the ocean on the mooring ball (we tried) so perhaps on our way back we can dive those.
We have are actually leaving St. Martin tonight for perhaps 3 day journey and yet again planning to make our way as far south as we can, so we'll see where we make it this time. The wind is still from 110 degrees and we need to sail about 153 degrees so it means beating into the wind, but the wind should be below 20 knots and those 7 foot waves should go down to 5 so we are off!
Wish us luck!

I am trying to send this from our satellite phone so hopefully this will post fine.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Whale Encounter

We are still in the British Virgin Islands, enjoying ourselves very much. The wind has died down, and it’s a real treat to be sailing between these islands. 
A nice sailboat sailing past

Since the wind was so nice (around 15 knots) we decided to sail up to Anegada, which is the northern most island of the BVI and spend a few days there. 
Arriving at Anegada - the island is very flat - very different from the rest of BVI

Flamingo Lake - we didn't see any flamingos though

From Anegada, we sailed back to the West Dog island to do a dive there. On the way we spotted a family of Humpback Whales. 2 adults and a small baby just swimming through BVI on their way somewhere into the Atlantic ocean. Let me tell you, the words or pictures do not describe how it feels to be sailing next to these large magnificent creatures. We sailed next to them for about 1.5 miles before we turned back to our course. 
The whales submerged just next to our boat

They did not breach or do any tricks, just minded their own business, but was awesome to see these large creatures in the wild.

We have traveled to just about all of the BVI islands by now, and soon it will be time to move on. We just need to wait for another week for some packages that we ordered through Amazon. We will have to pick them up in the US Virgin Islands (that way we don't pay import taxes). Finally some of my diving gear that we broke will be replaced along with another GoPro camera.

The water here in BVI is so clear and most of the dives are rather shallow (not more than 75 feet but usually 40 ft) which makes it perfect for beginner divers. 
French Grunt
Jackknife Fish
We are currently in Virgin Gorda anchored in Long bay, which must be one of our favorite anchorages here. The water is very clear, not deep and the bay has coral as well as white sand on the bottom, so it's perfect to swim in both places. Tomorrow we will do a dive off of the rock ledges at the edge of this bay. Should be fun.
Long Bay - Virgin Gorda - beautiful anchorage
North Bay - Virgin Gorda
Sunset as seeing from Long Bay

Thursday, March 12, 2015

We’ve sailed 2000 miles so far!

- and can someone turn down this wind already?!?

We have so far sailed 2048 miles according to our chart-plotter trip log - which I think deserves a little celebration. The other day we commented on how differently we sail this boat now, and how much we have learned in the last few months especially compared to our Florida marina days. Just getting off the dock used to be a blood pressure raising experience.

So let’s celebrate these 2000 miles and we are already looking forward to see where the next 1000 miles take us! Can’t wait.

In another news, what is up with this WIND!?! We have been buffeted by a consistent wind for two weeks now, staying above 20 knots and seems like rising. Yesterday was 30. It’s actually not that much fun to sail in this stuff as everything gets harder, the boat is under more stress and going against the wind plainly just sucks (and we have to be going against the wind a lot seems like). 
We are longing for 18 knot winds with 4 - 6 ft waves - oh those were the good old days of sailing. Now it’s more like 6 - 9 ft waves coming so closely together that sometimes our boat is riding two waves at the same time, and the wind just howling!

Today we sailed at 12.9 knots of speed! - with only our reefed main sail out. How does it feel? The wave picked up our boat about 10 feet in the air and then acceleration started. Your stomach tightens and you try to swallow a few times on empty in the hopes to push it back down as the autopilot instantly turns rudder about 18 degrees to try and keep the boat from turning sideway. Each ride only lasts a few seconds, but it sure produces some adrenalin in your blood! So, no thank you I would like to stay below 10 knots of speed in this boat!

What are we up to now? Studying a lot of math and diving different places. My GoPro camera died (I seem to be unlucky with cameras lately - I ordered another one though), and my Olympus is only rated to 45 or 50 feet and goes crazy when we go diving below 50 feet, but here are a few pictures (I think these are from diving “The Playground” off of Jost Van Dyke in BVI.
Next on our diving itinerary is to check out the “Painted Wall” and of course the most famous dive site of BVI - The R.M.S Rhone wreck!

p.s. pictures will have to wait as the internet is too slow to upload them now.

Friday, March 6, 2015

In the BVI Groove

We have been in the Virgin Islands about three weeks now, and currently we are cruising the British side (BVI). I must say that we found our groove and surprisingly (to my previous post) we are able to find remote anchorages that are both free, amazingly beautiful and not too crowded. We only paid for a mooring one time the entire time we’ve been here so far (the first night we arrived in USVI). How do we do it? Well turns out that with some creative thinking there is a way to beat the system. 
The key is to find spots that are not on the “beaten path”. 
In the US Virgin Islands the moorings are free until 5:30 pm so what we would do is sail to a destination in the morning, be on a mooring, and in the afternoon have a nice sail back to a free anchorage. We found a couple spots that were beautiful, free and not crowded. Great St. James Island was our favorite anchorage in USVI. Since the distances are so short it’s much cheaper to sail or even motor for 1 hour than to pay mooring fees. 
Here in the British Virgin Islands our current favorite spot is Brewers Bay in Tortola.
We are surrounded by beautiful mountains from all sides and the bay is just about deserted. Perfect.

 (This particular anchorage is off limits to chartering boats as this bay requires a little bit more attention to navigate, but if you try a little bit harder, you get rewarded with a beautiful secluded anchorage outside of the hustle and bustle where you can enjoy the Islands properly.
 Walking the hills of Tortola
Brewers Bay with Jost Van Dyke in the distance
A nice 3 masted ship