April 20 - May 3rd, 2008: British Virgin Islands
April 20 - We arrived in the BVI's at 1230 today and decided not to go into Tortola but instead to anchor in Great Harbor on the Northern shore of Peter Island, right across from Tortola. We had seen two bays on the Eastern shore of Peter Island - gorgeous but too crowded for our taste. Great Harbor was quite busy, too, but we went in as far as we could into the bay. The water was turquois green and so clear that we could see our anchor 45 feet down, amazing. The trip up North had been beautiful as well with a full moon, the night was bright, the winds were very low, too low to sail. Thank God for a strong engine, following seas of just 4 feet or so, and very little traffic to watch out for.
We had left Simpson Bay Marina in the afternoon of April 19 at about 1600 to catch the 1630 bridge opening. Mitch also left with his Shahrazad at the same time. He and his crew of three immediately went underway while we anchored "outside", raised the dinghy onto the deck, enjoyed the scenery and watched the boats rushing to catch the 1730 opening to enter the lagoon. We had an early dinner at 1800 and then tried to catch a few hours of sleep. We wanted to depart around midnight, assumed at 15 hour trip - in a "bad case" situation of only 6 knots average speed and hoped for better. While sleeping was difficult as we rolled quite a bit - and I was glad that we had never even thought about anchoring out here for longer periods of time - we still got some rest. We got up around midnight and were underway at exactly 0020.
In Great Harbor, we enjoyed the scenery, had lunch with our well-deserved rum punch and lots of water. We took a swim around the boat, lazily floating in this incredible water. There was just a slight current. It was heaven. Later on, we had dinner in the cockpit after playing a few rounds of Backgammon - where is the luck I had for a little while??? I kept losing and losing and losing... frustrating.
We were quite tired even though we had easy watches in the night before (I actually stayed in the cockpit, trying to sleep, while Juergen took the first watch, then sent him to bed at 0300 and slept again in the cockpit from 0600 to 0800). We went to bed early to wake up early (0700) on April 21. After breakfast, another swim for about 15-20 minutes and a nice shower we got ready for "land", raised our anchor and motored the four nm or so into Road Harbor to clear in with Customs. They have moorings outside the Customs area so one can tie up the boat and enter by dinghy. I stayed on Impromptu while Juergen zoomed off. It took quite a while before he returned. His comment when he returned: we are back in civilization. People are unfriendly. The customs official yelled at him not to waste her time because he had missed fillling in one line on the entrance form. O well...
Upon his return, we started moving towards Nanny Cay and called the marina for a slip assignment to find out that we had no reservation there and Romany Life was not checked in there either. Thank God, Larry, Dietmar's friend, overheard our conversation and informed us that they had made the reservation in Village Cay Marina in Road Harbor. We turned around and went into Village Cay Marina. Dietmar came to greet us. We went to say hello to Mary Lou, Larry and his wife Gloria and agreed that they would come over for drinks before we would all head for dinner in a restaurant Mary Lou had read about, sort of a branch of the "CIA", Culinary Institute of America.
I went to see whether my antenna booster afforded me WIFI access from the boat - no such luck. So I went to the restaurant, ordered a Perrier, and accessed my emails. While sitting there, I saw a mouse running around. Well, we will not eat dinner there, or lunch, ever...
The evening was very nice. The food was ok, the service clearly needs improvement. But without any supervision, the students will never learn not to address their customers as "you guys" and to remember who ordered which dish. Mary Lou served dessert on Romany Life, Larry made espresso in Dietmar's wonderful machine. We talked and then watched part of the Montserrat movie we had purchased while there at the Observatory.
Today, April 22, I got up early to back up all my corporate documents onto my external hard drive. Dietmar lost the memory of one hard drive just in the past few days. I did not want to run the same risk. I also started a cost calculation but still do not have all the information together I need for a full picture. The printer put me in touch with his assistant. Hopefully, communication will improve quickly now...
Mary Lou and Dietmar came to say good-bye. They are flying home for a few days. Then Dietmar will come back for the 1500 regatta that is scheduled to depart for Bermuda on May 3rd. Larry and two other gentlemen will crew for Dietmar. We will leave at the same time - just the two of us though...
We agreed to have lunch with Gloria and Larry in town somewhere and to have dinner on our boat tonight. Tomorrow, we will go sailing with this very nice couple. We have not decided where to, possibly to the Bitter End Yacht Club which is in Virgin Gorda. But it all depends on the weather.... Today is my "work day".
April 23 - Gloria and Larry arrived at 0900 sharp and we cast off shortly thereafter. There was a terrific haze not permitting us to see Tortola or even some of the islands in between. Still, we set both sails and had a leisurely sail - largely around 7.5 knots, sometimes a little faster, sometimes a little slower to "The Baths" a rather rocky but gorgeous area on the Southwestern shore of Virgin Gorda. Anchoring is not permitted, only mooring is allowed as this is a marine park. Unfortunately, all the moorings were taken, largely by a fleet of chartered catamarans. So we decided to go to the bay next to the Baths where anchoring was permitted and took the dinghy closer to the Baths. Even that was not exactly a success story because there were so many people in the water that we did not want to get too close. We turned around and beached the dinghy in "our bay" where just the four of us went into the totally clear water and swam for quite a while.
After lunch, we lifted anchor and sailed to Great Harbor on Peter Island to drop the hook, have coffee and cookies, take another swim. To relax, we had a glass of wine and watched a huge rain cloud in the Northwest. It never made it near us and so reluctantly, we left this beautiful spot to return to Village Cay Marina in Road Harbor, Tortola. What a surprise albeit an unpleasant one to find a boat in our slip though we had informed the marina of our intent to sail for the day and to return in the evening. There was nobody to respond to our Channel 16 call. We were left with taking a free spot at the hammerhead of B-Dock. Thank God, I had seen this as we entered the marina. Juergen and Larry immediately went to the management office after we were tied up properly, while I was preparing supper for the four of us. Their complaint resulted in no further action, except, after we had walked Gloria and Larry back to Dietmar's boat after dinner, the security guard came to tell us that the boat in our slip was going to leave at 2200. We were outraged.
This morning, April 24, after breakfast, we went to the marina office to complain again. They promised it would never happen again and that they would talk to their security guard about the incident last night. We were also told not to stay where Impromptu was tied up now but to go back to our Dock C 14. So, we went to cast off and return to our dock - only to find the other boat still in our slip. Of course, I went on the radio right away and told them what I thought about all this. They sent someone to move the boat out of our way - slowly, Caribbean style... we are not very happy.
To top it all off, Juergen's computer seems to have crashed. It will not turn on at all. Thus, we will have to find a place that can at least check it out and tell us whether it is just the battery or worse. The latter would be really bad as we get weather etc. on his computer. The weather programs are all not compatible with Apple computers. Very frustrating.
For me, it is a work day today - and tomorrow. We may take another day or even weekend trip to some bay over the weekend as being at the dock in the incredible heat and humidity is anything but comfortable. We even have turned on our air conditioning system - that, however, only works if our washing machine is not running at the same time...
April 29 - Tuesday. We had a leisurely weekend with Gloria and Larry who we took along for an overnight stay. Initially, we started sailing towards Norman Island - adjacent to Peter Island and, on the Western side, to St. John, USVI. However, the number of boats "scared" us, and we decided to sail towards Soper's Hole, a famous harbor on Tortola, and possibly, to go further. However, the wind was fluky and shifted some 45 degrees. It also began to rain. We decided to sail to Peter Island, our favorite anchorage in Great Harbor. We swam, had cocktails, later on dinner. By almost 2200, we were all tired and went to bed.
It poured during the night so that we had pancake breakfast down below - a rare occasion on this trip. We swam and snorkeled and had a blast watching how a small laughing gull was trying to benefit from the catch of the pelicans. It did not seem to be scared nor did the pelicans seem to mind the gull's constant intervention.
While snorkeling we saw a large variety of fish and also some beautiful coral. We were cautioned not to step on sea urchins - well, I guess I did not watch carefully enough and I stepped on one, just ever so lightly. If you have ever done it, you know the pain involved, if not, I can tell you, on a scale of 1-10, it is at least a 7-8. Gloria, a nurse by training, suggested that we return to the marina and get some medical attention. She and Larry also checked in whatever books we had to find a remedy. Hot salt water soaks or hot lime juice soaks were the ones they found. Back in the marina, Gloria spoke to a native who suggested that we go to the clinic the next morning.
It was Gloria's last night here in the BVIs, we had just an omelett dinner which she cooked on our boat, some salad, and just chatted for a while before we had to say our good-byes. It was a little sad as she is a wonderful woman full of action, lots of stories to tell. She and Larry have been traveling a lot, largely in areas that are off the beaten tourist paths. It all was interesting.
Yesterday, Monday, Larry came over for dinner. We had visited the clinic, and we had been told to purchase magnesium sulfite paste for my foot. Now I am limping around with a gauze around my left toes and lots of the paste. So far, it has not gotten better - but I guess I will have to be patient.
This morning, I checked whether I finally got some information from the printing firm. None. A phone call was necessary. Phil confirmed that all would be ready for the delivery at my address on May 11, a Monday. Let's hope it is true. I have also been in touch with Chris who seems to know someone to help me with my corporate website. Now, I am sitting here, designing the pages in draft form - on paper - so he can convert them (HOPEFULLY) into the proper web pages.
We also started doing our navigation to Bermuda. We are still planning to depart from Road Harbor, Tortola, this coming Saturday morning. If all goes well, we should make the roughly 840 nm in less than six days, but then, who knows what the ocean will dish up. Tim and Steffi are on their way to Bermuda from Nassau, not an easy tack relative to winds and currents. We hope they will be doing ok, and we hope to see them as we arrive in Bermuda.
We will say good-bye now as I don't think that there will be much more to report. We will send emails to a few family members to confirm on Friday whether or not we will depart on Saturday. Please keep your fingers crossed that all works out well, weather, timing, everything. We will resume our report once back in Bermuda - after a two-week New York visit (for business and other reasons) - to sail Impromptu back to Milford - HOME!!!
We thank all of you who sent us emails from time to time, who followed our progress on our website, and who kept encouraging us in our adventures. It is very nice to know that so many of you seemed to take a sincere interest in our doings. Thanks for your friendship!!!