Monday, March 2, 2009

Back to the BVIs

Idyll Island

Hard to believe that our last update was from Bonaire before Christmas! We hope that friends and family back in the Great White North survived their winter and are now seeing things warm up a bit as we head into spring. We are still having a great time out here in “de islands”. We’re back in the BVIs now, where we started almost a year ago. Here are some highlights of the past couple of months….

We had a wonderful time with Tristan in Bonaire over Christmas and New Years. He especially enjoyed the fact that they celebrate the season there with a week of firecrackers and fireworks! The display on New Year’s eve was impressive, with what seemed like all the businesses and every second household setting off a fireworks display. We sat on our boat off the waterfront for hours and enjoyed the show!

Christmas Eve dinghy carolers. They wouldn't go until they got some!

Christmas morning on Idyll Island - then we all jumped in for a swim!

Cooking up the Christmas feast - roast chicken with stuffing and all the trimmings (turkey was too big for our oven). All washed down with champagne.

And what would Christmas be without.... firecrackers! At least in Bonaire.

And what would Christmas be without.... cider! Specially imported for Cathy by Jim and Jeannie.

Tristan really enjoyed the kite boarding lesson we gave him for Christmas. According to the instructor, who has been teaching for 10 years, Tristan is the first person he has taught who was able to get up on the board with the kite and "sail" on both tacks, in a single 3 hour lesson. At one point though we could barely see our "baby" (now over 6'5"), 2 miles offshore all by himself as he tried to get up in the big waves! Tristan also did 7 scuba dives with us, including the seeing the the elusive frogfish and night diving with four foot long tarpon which brushed up against us while using our lights to hunt their prey. His flight back to Victoria started badly with a 24 hour delay in Miami due to delayed/canceled flights. He turned it around for himself though by making his case sufficiently well to American Airlines that they put him up in a 5 star hotel and then flew him all the way back to Seattle first class the next day! He is now back at Camosun College and lifeguarding at the Commonwealth Pool (he was hired just before he came down to visit us), and trying to find time (and snow!) to do some snowboarding. He's a busy boy and we are very proud of how he is making his way.

Ground (beach) school

Ready to launch....

.... and there he goes!

Tristan and friend. Iguana soup was on the menu.

New Years Eve day - out for a sail and scuba dive.

New Year's Eve visit to our friend Richard's Restaurant.

The beach bar at Lac, Bonaire, windsurfing mecca. We just came for the excellent sandwiches and beer!

So long to Bonaire and its flamingos.

We had a great sail from Bonaire to Puerto Rico. 402 nautical miles (about 700 km) in 60 hours. First 2 days were close hauled into 15-20 knot winds with 8-10' seas. Bumpy, noisy and wet, though the boat felt solid and was very well behaved. We still did 7-8 knots, though we slowed down at night with a double reefed main and genoa. For the last 12 hours we were able to sail a bit more off the wind (50-60 apparent) and the seas were down to 4-5', so we blasted along at 9-10+ knots. And we caught 3 small tuna on the way - the largest was about 12 lbs. Great sashimi! There were a couple of larger whales spouting at several points during the trip. The 4 hour night watches seemed to work out quite well for us and we arrived healthy and happy.

Land fall was in Ponce (after Ponce de Leon - a lovely old city), about 1/2 way along the south coast of Puerto Rico. Highlight was Sunday evening on the malecon (boardwalk), with music playing, young and old couples dancing to the salsa beat, kids scooting around on their scooters, families with babies in strollers, tasty little food stands (love the octopus empandillas!), all in the warm tropical night. A very Latin scene. Then we sailed eastward to Salinas - a very laid back little seaside town in a big mangrove lined bay. Some nice houses and a few restaurants carved out of the mangroves along the waters edge. Everyone there was very friendly and helpful. Highlights here though were the massive manatees moving slowly up and down, feeding in the green mangrove water. One surfaced right beside the dinghy and we could have touched it, but of course one doesn’t touch the wildlife, and it also had rather scratchy barnacles growing on its back!

Anchorage at Salinas, Puerto Rico.

While in Puerto Rico we met Peter, Kirsten and their 6 year old son, Alden, on the yacht “Charlotte” out of Seattle, and Geoff and Ruth on their Prout 37 catamaran, “Geru” from Ottawa. We spent several pleasant days and sundowners over the next few weeks with these new cruising friends before they headed “down island” to keep to their schedules. Our car tour of the west end of PR to the spectacular surfing beaches and the fearsome Mona Passage (strikes fear in the heart of the most seasoned sailors) proved to be tame indeed – absolutely mirror calm in fact.

We spent a couple of days on the island of Vieques, one of the Spanish Virgins Islands, where unexpectedly we met up with our friends Dick and Jane on Cheetah II, whom we hadn’t seen since Grenada last September. We had a good walking tour with them of the historic little town of Isabella Segunda, the fort and lighthouse, before we headed toward the BVIs to get our bottoms painted (the boat's). The folks at Voyage Charters in Sopers Hole seemed happy to see us. Robin Downing and his crew were very helpful getting us started a year ago and once again provided us with good service at a fair price.

Out she comes!

On our way to Sopers we contacted our friends Bruce and Laura on “Amaryllis”, whom we also hadn’t seen since Grenada. Turned out they were in Sopers themselves and immediately on hearing that our boat was going to be out of the water for bottom work, they invited us to stay aboard their boat. Good friends! We had a great time catching up with them enjoying Laura’s great cooking and an island tour. Along with Bruce and Laura, we (well, Cathy) got into the evening walking routine and 3x weekly early morning yoga sessions on a spectacular beach terrace. And once our boat was back in the water, new friends Ric and Ann on Sand Castle, lent us their mooring for a week while they were out on charter (a few bottles of thank you wine being much cheaper than the $25 per night cost of a mooring - much appreciated!).

On February 17th, the long awaited day came when our cousins Neil and Christine from Victoria arrived. We met them at the airport at Trellis Bay and dinghied them out to Idyll Island. The following 2 weeks were great fun, though some of the memories are a bit hazy! Throwing caution to the wind we rendezvoused with Russell and Jane on Ta-B, a Kiwi and a Brit, respectively. Our cousin Christine, also being a Kiwi and a bit of a mad one at that (perhaps a redundant adjective), some crazy times of snorkeling, hiking, dining, partying and dancing ensued! After a few days, we decided we should show Neil and Christine a bit more of the BVIs than the Bight on Norman Island, so said “so long” to Jane and Russell and headed for Little Jost Van Dyke, where we spent a couple of peaceful nights. Days were filled by snorkeling and beach walks and just chillin’. We then made our way to one of our favourite spots in the BVIs, Eustatia Island in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda. We had it all to ourselves the first night, and for most of the next day until our peace was shattered once again by Russell and Jane who came tootling around in their dinghy from where they were anchored around the corner. Not so much dancing this time as they had to leave for St. Martin at 4:00 am the following morning. We’ll miss them and hope that we cross paths at least once more before they head across the pond to the Mediterranean.

Russell, Jane, Christine, Neil and Cathy. Just a casual evening with a couple of bottles of wine....

And a couple of more bottles of wine..... Girls just wanna have fun!

And evidently, so do the boys! Who says guys can't poledance?

Time to kick back and relax/recover.

Handy having a cousin who's a doctor. Wait a minute - isn't he the guy who was poledancing, and aren't those needle nose pliers from Canadian Tire?!

We had some great snorkeling with Neil and Christine in North Sound where we anchored in splendid isolation with nothing but a reef between us and Africa. The only disappointment was not being able to snag a couple of the many lobsters we found while snorkeling. Derek’s technique definitely needs refinement – persistence is not enough!

So after a visit exploring the famous Baths of Virgin Gorda, it was time to make our way back to Trellis Bay to put Neil and Christine on their flight home looking much more tanned and hopefully a bit more relaxed than when they arrived. Now we are looking forward to Cathy’s brother, Jon’s, visit, followed by Rupert and his family for the month of April.