Sunday, August 14, 2011

Abandoned Ship

It was indeed a few hot sweaty days in the boatyard… but in the end we had Saralane put to bed for the next few months. We cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. And cleaned. The interior will get HOT over the next few months with the boat closed up, so we opened up all the cupboards and floorboards, tipped up cushions, pulled clothes out of hanging lockers to let the air circulate and we covered the hatches and windows with foil to cut down on the light and heat.
Work in progress
We made roach cookies - in case we have unexpected guests - and distributed them throughout the boat. A little sugar, a little flour, a little milk and a lot of boric acid. I leave the boric acid out of my cookies when I have invited guests.

We met up with a few kindred souls doing the same hot sweaty work on their boats in the yard and in the evenings we’d gather to relax, eat and drink. 

How to tell where the party is.
Clockwise from left: Greg, Ann, Rick, Barb and Skip - enjoying Greg and Barb's feast on Spitfire. 
Our plan was to get started working early enough each day to get some things done before the heat kicked in, but since the boat started to bake at about 6:30 each morning, it turned out to be a lousy plan. Instead, we sweated a lot, drank lots of water and walked to the closest beach at the end of each day to cool off.

Boatyard early morning
Where's the beautiful blue water?!
 Our last look at Saralane before we headed for the ferry....

We'll be back, but for now we're headed north to see family and friends and tend to a few things. If anything merits a blog post before we're back in the islands in the fall, I'll put up a post. Oh... and maybe we'll finally get that "before and after" blog done to show all the work we did on the boat! 

Finally... one last reminder of how beautiful it is out here.................................................................................

Sunday, August 7, 2011

One Last Hurrah

We had time for one more trip to Gorda Sound (Saba Rock) after Carly’s visit and we arrived around the time the weather forecasters started watching the system that became tropical storm Emily. For the few days we sat at anchor here it blew a steady 20 – 25 around the clock, with gusts around 30 knots. Pretty windy for a protected anchorage. Erring on the side of caution we decided to head for the nearest marina in case things got ugly. Before we left though…. this was our evening sky. 

Windy anchorage (22 knots) but nice water temp (85.6)
The marina wasn’t very full when we arrived, but as the day wore on the boats just kept coming and coming and coming; everyone seeking shelter from the storm. By the end of the day the place felt like a floating refugee camp (albeit a nice floating refugee camp)… too many people packed into too small a space.

Emily came and went with only high winds and lots of rain here. Heavy squalls came and went for the better part of two days and we collected more than enough rainwater to fill our tanks and clean off the boat again.

On the last day of windy rainy weather we walked over to the east side of the island to see the wind and waves. Things had calmed considerably but it was still pretty choppy looking.

To get to the other side... turn left at the RED house. There was even a RED doghouse in the back.

You've gotta be tenacious if you live on the windward side.

An unusual friendship.
Boulders ala The Baths
With a day to go before our haul out, we left the marina for one last night at anchor, one more chance to swim and snorkel off the boat and be rocked to sleep with the sea breeze to keep us cool. Up early the next day we started in on chores to get Saralane ready to be hauled.

We’d already moved up our haul out date from August 10th to the 5th and we wondered if we'd stayed just a little too long. Our timing was good in one respect however – we’d finished our last swim and then started seeing giant blue tinged jellyfish floating through the water - a summer regular in these waters. (Add a photo of the giant jellyfish to my ever-growing list of “great photos I didn’t get”.)

We cleaned the dinghy and pulled it up on deck – the last time we did this was in preparation to go offshore (see 'Dinghy Dongs' March 2011) - it was sad to deflate the little boat upside down on deck this time knowing we’d be leaving soon. 
Pulling down and packing away the sails
Lonely Saralane - last one out.

First look at the centerboard since the Bahamas (see 'Centerboard Fix' March 2011)
We’ll spend the last few days here in Virgin Gorda getting Saralane ready to be put away for a few months so we can go back to the states to visit, work and take care of things at home. It’ll be a hot, sweaty, work filled couple of days but we’re not the only ones sweating it out on the hard here and we’ve already made some friends!

Greg and Barbara who run the daysail operation out of Caneel Bay, invited us over for a beer...
... along with Maurice, who has GIANT hands. Where's the beer can?!
It's not polite to decline an offer of beer down here....
I’ll try for one more blog post before we fly home next week!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Eat, Sleep, Snorkel… Repeat

This blog post had many possible titles, from the very basic ‘Carly’s Visit’ to the more descriptive ‘That’s the BIGGEST fish I’ve ever seen!’ and ‘I Got Inked!’, but in the end ‘Eat, Sleep, Snorkel… Repeat’ pretty much says it all. To be more accurate it should be: Snorkel Snorkel Snorkel, Eat, Snorkel Snorkel Snorkel, Eat, Snorkel Snorkel Snorkel, Eat, Play Games, Sleep…. Repeat.

It was several days into Carly’s visit before we got started snorkeling. My mom stayed for the first few days and we checked out a bit of Charlotte Amalie with her. We got a ride in a rickety, fast open-air safari, walked around the alleys and got badgered by the jewelry salesmen and taxi drivers. We visited Camille Pissaro’s house and the St. Thomas Synagogue, which is the oldest continually active in the Western Hemisphere. It was especially interesting to us because our adopted hometown of Newport RI has the oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. (I guess the ‘continually active’ part is the difference.) 

The synagogue is at the top of an unbelievably steep hill and we were cooling off in their air-conditioned gift shop when we struck up a conversation with a couple doing the same thing. His Phillies t-shirt started our conversation and sure enough it turned out we knew someone in common from Delaware. We talked for a while, then they went off into the synagogue. A moment later, she came flying back into the gift shop in tears. She could barely get out the words “He proposed!!!”, then she held out her hand and showed us her gorgeous new ring! The floor of the synagogue is sand covered and we walked back in to see his knee print (yep… he got down on one knee to propose) in the sand. Mazel tov you two!

We got in a little beach time and a few good meals before my mom headed back home. 

Then we got Carly onto the boat and into the water at Honeymoon Bay where we saw lots of fish and a big spotted eagle ray. 
First snorkel in the Caribbean!
Walking around Water Island
In the morning we headed out of Honeymoon Bay and watched the crazily gigantic Allure of the Seas make it’s way into Crown Bay. I’m not sure I’d want to spend my time at sea with 5000 or more people but since there’s no chance of having more than 3 or 4 on Saralane at once I suppose I don’t have to worry about it.

It was a little rough for a first day out so we stopped part way at Christmas Cove for a nap (and of course, a snorkel) then off to Maho Bay. We spent a fair amount of time in Maho Bay and Francis Bay with a few trips into Cruz Bay to do some errands and some shopping.

We made a great stop at Lovongo Cay on our way to Leinster Bay where fish whisperer Carly spotted this octopus, and just had to dive down and poke at it. He made his escape but not before both Carly and Skip went down to poke at it.

Leaving Lovongo
Captain Uncle Skip!
After a few days in St. John we thought we’d go see the fishes in the BVI and get Carly the first stamp (of many, I hope!) in her passport. We cleared customs at Jost Van Dyke and took Carly right to the bar for one of those painkillers that she’d been hearing so much about. (I’m such a good aunt aren’t I?) Not to worry, hers was rum free.
Carly skypes home from Jost Van Dyke
Carly and Saralane
It turned out to be an uncomfortable rolly night at Jost so early the next day we sailed over to Little Harbor on Peter Island. This has turned out to be one of Skip’s and my favorite spots in the BVI – it’s full of turtles, rays and fish and is usually pretty quiet. The clear water is so many shades of blue and the harbor is well protected from the prevailing winds and any roll coming in from the seas.  It didn’t disappoint this time…. we spent a few nights here and snorkeled and swam during the days. We saw turtles swimming and munching on turtle grass all day long each day. We saw them so often that Carly, who couldn’t wait to swim with a turtle, hardly looked up when we spotted them after a while.

We hiked up to an old abandoned house on the hill here one day and poked around what must have been a pretty impressive house in its day. There were big open rooms with high ceilings and tile work, fountains in courtyards and outbuildings for guests and hired help.

Then there was this funky looking pile of bugs we saw when we got back down to the rocky beach. Weird. If anyone has an I.D. on these guys, I’d love to know what they are.

It was time to start making our way back to St. John, so back to Leinster Bay we went for more snorkeling. We made a stop on the way at the caves off Norman Island. Very pretty!

When we reached Leinster Bay that afternoon we had time for one more snorkel before the sun got too low. The first thing we saw when we jumped in the water was a pair of big spotted eagle rays beneath us. Leinster had loads of fish, coral and sea stars too... 

This was also the scene of the second octopus spotting. This time, the octopus spotted Carly. Rather, he spotted Carly’s foot as it was getting close to him. Too close for comfort as it turned out. He inked her.

I got the ink... but not the octopus!
This might have also been about the time Carly found out that you can’t laugh underwater without your mask filling up with water.

Some nearby snorkelers heard the commotion and came over to check out the octopus. His camouflage was so good that they couldn’t spot him even though he was literally underneath them. Carly gave him a poke with her foot (yes, I’ll admit I encouraged her to poke him) and he grabbed her foot before disappearing for good in another puff of black ink. (That’ll teach her to listen to me!)

Carly goes to the floating pay station to pay for our mooring ball in Leinster Bay
We got in one more night in Maho Bay before we had to ferry Carly over to St. Thomas for her flight home. This is where the “That’s the BIGGEST fish I’ve ever seen!” potential blog post title comes from. We saw an enormous tarpon swimming around with all the pretty bright colored little fish. We’d seen some pretty big barracuda and some big rays but this fish was big. It was a little murky so I didn’t take the underwater camera with me on this snorkel – earning this episode the alternate potential blog title “The best shot I didn’t get”. Oh well. 

In the little time left that wasn’t spent in the water, we read, cooked, and played lots of card games, dice games and mancala. As far as I could tell, no one cheated though Carly admitted to cheating when she was little and could get away with it. I sat out a few games and apparently some high stakes betting took place. (Carly, Uncle Skip says you still owe him $2300.) We stargazed at night; spotting both dippers and the north star and Carly even discovered the previously unknown ‘flying pig’ constellation in the southern sky.

Carly takes over in the galley. 
Now that Carly knows what the whole living-on-a-boat thing is all about, we hope she’ll come see us again when we’re back in the Bahamas next year. There’s more marine life to poke and prod there and more beaches to explore. (Maybe she can talk her mom into setting foot on the boat?!)

As usual this post has gone on too long… so that’s it for now. Or in Carly’s nightly lights out words “Peace out girl scout!”