Thursday, September 21, 2017

Irma & Maria


Virgin Gorda in Irma's eye
I've been trying to write this post for days. If there are words to describe what I'm feeling, I don't seem to be able to find them and string them together without sounding a little crazy. So I'll stick with the facts, which you surely know already.

Two weeks ago Hurricane Irma made landfall on Barbuda as a Category 5 storm and went on to decimate parts of the northeast Caribbean and southwest Florida. Earlier this week Hurricane Maria made landfall on Dominica as a Category 5 storm, just two years after Tropical Storm Erika devastated the island. The first reports are of terrible destruction as would be expected. Likewise the destruction on Puerto Rico. Not much news yet from the islands in between.

Most of the northeast Caribbean, many islands and many countries, were affected by the storms. 'Affected' isn't quite the right word, but again I'm at a loss for words. The damage has been catastrophic. Photos coming from the islands show apocalyptic scenes. Friends on Tortola say the island is unrecognizable. The sheer scope of destruction across the islands is hard to comprehend and it's difficult not to feel a sense of despair seeing the photos and hearing about the enormous losses people have experienced. But there is plenty of optimism and a healthy dose of dark humor on the islands and in the sailing community and I will keep my focus on that.

Firstly, our island friends are accounted for. We don't know what their situations on each island are but we know they are OK. There is precious little communication from the islands which is frustrating beyond belief. We are starved for information and getting only the smallest bits. There was a bit of contact after Irma, but Maria seems to have knocked out the fragile recovery of communications at least for now. This is very much the case for Virgin Gorda, which is especially difficult for us, because that's where we left Saralane.

I find I want to focus on each island that's been devastated by the storm - Barbuda, of course, which we love so much. And Dominica, which we love equally for her breathtaking beauty. St Martin where we spent so much time in the company of friends. The whole of the BVI and also St John in the USVI where we spent our last month before hauling out in Virgin Gorda. But for now, I mean only to update you on Saralane. The long and short of it is that we don't know anything other than she's been knocked onto her starboard side and her mast has snapped.

This comes from the few photos we've been able to find online after Hurricane Irma, as there's been no communication from anyone at the yard in Virgin Gorda. They haven't been allowing anyone onto the island except for relief purposes and we don't know if Hurricane Maria caused additional damage. There are plenty of rumors and plenty of speculation about what's happening on the ground there, but none of it bears repeating.

Here's the last shot we have of Saralane in her spot in the yard pre-Irma. We hadn't yet taken off her canvas but otherwise we were almost finished prepping her for a few months on land. Skip took this shot because we were amused by the size difference between Saralane's narrow stern and the super wide stern on Baxter to our right. The Beneteau being moved in to our left had an equally wide stern and watching the yard guys back her in next to Saralane was impressive.

The small but mighty Saralane between two big boats.
After Irma I spent days scouring the internet for information or images and this was the first photo we saw of her. She's barely visible beneath the fender hanging off a boat behind her that is miraculously still upright, and you can see Baxter just to her right. Plus, having climbed on and off that stern a million times, it's easy for us to recognize.

Boats in a bad way
This next photo is an aerial shot taken by Caribbean Buzz Helicopters, who've been working overtime doing evacuations, delivering aid and supplying images to assess the aftermath of the storm. For years we've seen their bright yellow helicopter flying overhead looking like a happy little piece of the sun that went off on it's own. Without their efforts we would all know much less than we do. We don't know you guys, but thank you! 

 John H, covered with a blue tarp, is still (partly) on deck. Beneteau with the wide stern is on SL's port side
Also Dive BVI, based in Virgin Gorda has been front and center getting relief supplies moving to the BVI and getting information in and out of the islands. If you are inclined to participate in relief efforts, and there are countless ways to do so, definitely check them out. They are getting things done

Kudos too to the affectionately named "Puerto Rican Navy", the many sportfishing boats that blast over from PR to the Virgins on long weekends with no fewer than three generations of family per boat, great pool toys and lots of laughter. In the early days after Irma, when no aid was getting to Virgin Gorda, they loaded up their boats with supplies and once more blasted over to the island to help. Don't know whose photo this is, so I can't give credit, but I love it.

Puerto Rican Navy to the rescue in Virgin Gorda

One side note: all of our log books from the past seven years and most of the boat cards we've collected from those we've met along the way are on the boat, so if you don't hear from us or want to be in touch, please send us an email at the EMAIL US link on the right side of the page. 

Best case scenario is that Saralane is salvageable and we can float her and stay on board when the time is right to go there and help in the recovery effort. Worst case scenario is that she's sailed her last sail. Until we know more there's nothing we can do except think of our island friends and hope that each day gets better for them. That's all I have for now. Thanks so much to everyone checking in with us - it's been good to hear from you all. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Long overdue wrap up

"If we tear ourselves away from Francis Bay I'll have something to write about...."

I may as well start with the final sentence of my previous post. Full disclosure.... we spent a full month in Francis Bay, wandering off only once for a few days to Culebra in a vain attempt to convince ourselves that we hadn't completely lost our ability to get up and go. It wasn't pure laziness; we got into a comfortable routine of working in the mornings and walking, swimming and socializing in the afternoons and evenings. Before we knew it, a month had gone by.

Lots of lovely changes in the sky while we stayed in one spot
Plenty of time for baking... granola bars hot out of the oven.
Me, coming back from some chore or other.
Another chore
There are a few new flora/fauna photos in the mix here, though admittedly, none of the fauna were moving too quickly. Wildlife photos are not my forte, as we all know by now.

Gulls and terns in the evening sky
Stilts in the mangrove lined pond near the shoreline
Clockwise from top left: flamboyant in bloom, white pintail ducks, vine covered ruins, fawn
New tsunami warning system was installed during our month here

Seen along the trail
Curtain of rain clears the hill
It was about here that we headed off to Culebra for a few days. We split our time between the anchorage in Dakity and the one in Almodovar, a mangrove-ish anchorage we hadn't been in before. It was a great spot just behind a reef but open to the breeze. More gorgeous skies, the full moon on a clear night, a fly-by visit with our friends on Demeter (sadly, no photos) and a flamingo sighting were some of the highlights.

Named 'Miss Dakity' by the liveaboards in (you guessed it) Dakity, this lone flamingo has been in residence for a few months
Clockwise from top left: dramatic skies to the east, GIANT sea egg from Almodovar anchorage, evening sky, sandbar in Dakity
The GIANT sea egg was seriously big - here it is compared to a bunch of smaller ones I've collected.


"Hector el Protector", a sculpture made from old pallet wood, sits on the rocks at Culebra's western harbor.

Full moon rising... our neighbors on s/v Orion view it from their deck
We'd intended to anchor a night or two in Culebrita which we loved on previous visits, but this time the wind and seas were from the northeast and the anchorage was untenable. How do we know this? Because against our better judgement, we sailed over anyway "just to see" and ended up turning around as soon as we got into the harbor and saw the waves crashing into the otherwise peaceful shore. Duh.

On our way back to St John we put a line in the water, as is our habit, and actually caught a fish! Having not been on the move much we'd sort of forgotten how much fun it is to catch a fish. This guy was a bit on the small side and Skip tried to get the hook out of his mouth and toss him back but he put up such a fuss (the fish, not Skip) that he ended up tangled in the line and wasn't in any shape to swim again. We apologized to him, and then we ate him with a little wasabi, ginger and soy sauce. A few other little sea creatures sacrificed themselves in a misplaced leap out of the water and into the dinghy, not to be found until the next day.

Clockwise from top left: teeny tiny filefish (?), small tuna, self sacrificed squid, super tiny crabs in the muddy mangroves
As luck would have it, one of my cousins was going to be in St John while we were there and we made plans to meet. Andrea and I are actually second cousins and hadn't seen each other in probably 30 years so this was a real treat. She's a composer, playwright and music therapist for children and was traveling to St John to work with kids at the St John School of the Arts to produce one of her musicals. We got together a few times while she was on island and even had a chance to take her out on Saralane. Her friend Sharon, a fellow performer who'd come to St John to work with Andrea and the kids, joined us and took some baby steps in overcoming her dislike of the water. Andrea and I got to talk about family (aka: the people who are forced to read this blog) and Sharon, who's an actress and comedian kept us laughing the whole time.

Andrea floats with me while Sharon (not a fan of the water) keeps a firm grip on the swim ladder
Andrea was pretty happy out here...
Sharon was pretty happy connected to the boat. Very funny!
Andrea and Sharon soaking up the salt water and sunshine
Not long after we returned these two to dry land, we made our way back to the BVI to get ready to haul Saralane. Plan A was to haul again in Antigua, but we lazed around St John waiting for comfortable conditions to make the passage and they just never materialized so we went with Plan B which was to haul in Virgin Gorda. We left Saralane here our first two years and we like the yard guys, but it did mean missing out on a last visit to Barbuda this season.

Squall takes over the sky in Francis Bay. Notice all the empty mooring balls.... it was pretty much just us here for weeks.
Pretty gato in Trellis Bay - had to make one more stop at the killer laundry there before hauling out
Saralane was the first haul out of the day and we were in the slipway just after 7 AM. Me - not a morning person. Skip - up and making coffee and ready to go.

Maurice and Skip exchange hellos
The captain has coffee while the guys lower the slings in the water
She's out

Spectra sling is still working fabulously!
Skip takes a look at the bottom
We ended up staying on the boat on the hard in the sweltering heat and realized just how fond we'd become of the whole rent-a-villa-while-we-haul-out scenario in Antigua. Ah well. Things went smoothly and Saralane is safely tucked away between some really big boats. We've been back on land for a few weeks now, traveling to visit family and friends we haven't seen for too long. Plans for the fall are under discussion  - so check back with us in a few months!

Saralane's out-of-the-water spot

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Kim visits!

We'd been putting off repainting the cockpit sole for a while and since we were in 'clean up the boat' mode now before my friend Kim arrived, we decided to go ahead and get it done. It wasn't a big job and it looked so much better once it was finished.

Tape...
Paint...
Remove tape.... then stand back and approve of paint job.
The afternoon Kim arrived we whisked her off to Francis Bay where we spent a few very low key nights before heading over to the BVI. Kim and I met on Tortola over 20 years ago (!) and chartered here a few times together, but she hadn't been back for a long time and wanted to see some of the old familiar places as well as places that have become favorites of ours since we've been down here on Saralane.

Skip and Kim zip over in John H to visit her fellow Pittsburghers on s/v Megerin in Francis Bay.
Getting right into the swing of things with painkillers on Jost Van Dyke.... or "Hey honey, hold my drink while I take a photo!"
Kim, literally getting into the swing
We'd been to the bubbly pool while Steve and Cindy were on Jost Van Dyke in April and it was crashing and wild, but when we went with Kim it was hardly even a pool, much less a bubbly one. Still, it's a nice walk out there.

Bubbly pool? What bubbly pool?
Kim was on a quest for roti which was just fine with us, since we're always up for a good roti. First up was the Roti Hut in Trellis Bay.

Brown food was the bane of my existence as a food photographer. It's not very pretty but it sure tasted good.
Yep... it tasted good.
Very attentive, and ultimately disappointed, kitty waiting under our table hoping we wouldn't eat everything on our plates.
Local art and questionable information at Aragorn's studio in Trellis Bay.
We rented a car one day to take in all of Virgin Gorda, which is really something to see from the ridge road. The Baths were a must and we walked through the boulders through to Devils Bay. Of course we had another roti for lunch.

Watching the rain approaching from the east
The Baths


Baths visit and Virgin Gorda ridge road view
Devils Bay
Boulder that looks like it's eating a bunch of little rocks. (Does anyone NOT see this?)
View of North Sound from Hog Heaven along the road.The tiny boat close to shore at the very bottom of the photo is Saralane.
Another day, another roti for lunch... us, fat and happy and full of roti at the Fat Virgin Cafe.


Kim has no trouble lounging at the fabulous pool at the YCCS.... it's most definitely a favorite spot.

Kim was such an easy guest to have on board and her visit was really too short. It's taken her all these years to come for a stay and we really, really, really hope she comes back. Soon. Any time. Anywhere. (In case you're reading this Kim!)

Bye Kim! Come back soon!
It was back to business when Kim left; we moved Saralane into the marina at Nanny Cay where I stayed for two weeks or so while Skip delivered the Outbound 46 Wynot from Tortola to Rhode Island. Aside from a short diversion to Bermuda to wait out some bad weather, his trip was uneventful which is just as it should be.

Seeing off Wynot - Skip at the helm, crew Ed and Matt sort out things up on deck
I had a couple of sweltering weeks in Nanny Cay, slowly doing boat chores and a few fun things mixed in. Our friends Dave and Wendy were down on a charter of their own and we caught up one evening for dinner. 

Dave and Wendy, all smiles after ten days in the BVI
Once Skip returned we hightailed it out of Nanny Cay and had a few cool evenings in Benures Bay on Norman Island where the water is clear and inviting. We pulled John H up on the rocky beach to scrub off the evidence of his two weeks in the not so inviting water of the sweltering marina.


Saralane in Benures Bay with Tortola through the haze
Seagrape along the shore
Yuk. John H needed some TLC.

John H and Saralane tethered
Blue blue water and sandy bottom
Having spent our allotted time in the BVI, we cleared out and have been in St John for the past two weeks. We quickly became set in our ways here, doing things on the boat through the mornings. Around 2:00 or so one of us says "It's 2:00 already?! Geez... we should go to the beach before it gets too late." Tough life I know, but that's our day to day. I partially blame the wifi that we seem to magically have on board.

If we tear ourselves away from Francis Bay I'll have something to write about, but for now we're pretty content.