Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Jon and the Nauticat Crew

After a few days recovering from our crazy time with Neil, Christine, Russell and Jane (and restocking the wine locker), we picked up Cathy's brother Jon, in St. Thomas. We were really happy that he was able to get away from Calgary to come and visit.

Jon blows a mean blues harp. Who knew?

A couple of days after Jon joined us, we met up with the crew of Nauticat, our friend Dave Reay's boat. They had just sailed over from Sint Maarten where they had raced in the Heineken Regatta, once again beating bigger, supposedly faster boats. Wiliness wins! We all got together on Idyll Island for dinner. Mike played guitar and with Jon joining in on the blues numbers, and all of us singing along (and drinking excellent scotch - thanks Nigel and Heather!), we had a fantastic evening. The first of many we shared as we sailed, explored and partied together for the next couple of weeks.

Nigel and Heather flew over from Sint Maarten for a day, just to say Hi. It was really great to see them. Unfortunately, the good scotch they had left aboard Nauticat, had all disappeared the night before!

The Nauticat, stealthily sneaking up on us from behind. Friend Paul has the con.

Anchor's down. We gonna get us some seafood!

Hunter Gatherers

Got him! After Dave spotted him, it took Derek a couple of hours to figure out how to get this guy out of his coral cave. It was quite the battle, all by snorkeling in 12' of water.

And very tasty he was, broiled in butter. All 6 of us had a good portion, accompanied by great veggies and curried rice, washed down with a couple of bottles of wine. Another great meal with good friends!

Then there was the conch. "Catching" these guys is way easier than lobster. You just pick them up off the bottom. But cleaning them is a whole 'nother (very messy) thing. They're pretty darn tasty though. Good thing, because its tricky to get them tender and you have to chew for a while!

Dinner's ready! Jon not only blows a mean blues harp....

They seek 'em here, they seek 'em there, those damned elusive whelks. They may not run, but they sure can hide.

Winkle Pickers

Whelk winkling production line on Nauticat. Takes a lot of whelks to make a meal for 6.

But its worth it! Cathy and Dave made up an amazing whelk soup. Dave's homemade ginger sauce (a whole jar of it!), spiced up the pot. Another gourmet seafood feast.

Dave, Jon, Maureen and Paul. Saying farewell after an amazing couple of weeks sailing, exploring, snorkeling, foraging, and partying.

Cathy and Jon enjoying the last sail (before the chaos of getting the chute down without the snuffer). It was a very good time.

Heading for Antigua to pick up Rupert et famille. Close hauled in squally conditions. Luckily, the next 4 weeks with the family on board would turn out to be squall free. Sunshine and fair winds ahead.

Antigua and the Family

A nice (46") Mahi-Mahi hit the lure as we were approaching Antigua (after the weather had settled down a bit!). He put up a good fight; several zinging runs and some tail walking. Once aboard he was quickly subdued with a couple of shots of overproof rum.

They made it! Rupert, Diane, Samuel and Celeste after 36 hours in transit, they are in the dinghy for the final leg out to Idyll Island. Its stinkin' HOT (90+F) and no wind. Welcome to the Caribbean, Mon!

After a couple of days in Antigua, visiting Nelson's Dockyard, and checking out several beaches, it was time to sail to Barbuda. Some of the crew felt a little queasy on their first offshore passage. Next time we'll give them Gravol before we get underway!

Everyone feelin' good now, Mon! The beaches on Barbuda are stunning. 11 mile beach is 11 miles of powdery white and sometimes pink sand - with no one else there! Though there were tracks to show that turtles had come ashore the night before to lay their eggs.

Anyone for a night swim? Several shark suckers (not sharks), came by to see what was cooking on the barbeque. They "stuck" around for a day or so.

Across the Annegada and beyond

Time to sail the 100 miles from St. Martin to the Virgin Islands across the infamous Annegada (Oh My God-a) Passage. We listened to the weather forecasts while in St. Martin and when it sounded like a good time to go - we went. Left in a bit of a hurry so weren't able to clear out with French Customs in St. Martin - oops.

As soon as we got underway the rods were out and in short order the Gale Bros Fishing Team had landed a double header of tasty tuna!

Night passage across the Annegada. Everyone seemed to feel better sleeping in the cockpit, rather than going below. Lovely sail, broad reaching in 15 knots of wind.

And when we got there it was time to get in the water...

.... and go snorkeling. Samuel took to the water like a fish and was diving down chasing tarpon and barracuda bigger than he is! His little sister Celeste, was able to put on her mask and snorkel and float around in her life jacket oohing and aahing at all the fish. Snorkeling was a highlight for all of us - we spent a lot of time with our heads in the water!

Artists at work. We can't be in the water all the time.

Maintenance madness. The darn watermaker continued to be a problem, only producing about 2/3 of its rated output of 60 lph. Our guests were very good with their water conservation so we never ran out nor did we have to fill up at the dock. And we only had one of our 2 alternators working to provide electricity on board. But we always had enough juice to keep the drinks cold and crank the tunes!

A hot hike to see the Annaberg sugar mill on the island of St. John in the USVI. The kids were great even though they were melting. Interesting restoration of a sugar mill typical of the hundreds that thrived throughout the islands in the 17 and 1800s. The Caribbean of today was shaped by sugar, slavery, and of course pirates! The good, the bad and the ugly.

A view of the harbour of Gustavia on St. Barths, one of the French islands. It felt very Mediterranean, especially with the cafe au lait and croissants! And the prices were authentic as well....

Luckily the tide only comes up about 1 ft.

The wild windward side of Barbuda. You don't want to fall on those rocks; they're razor sharp lava. Thankfully the kids are very sure-footed from growing up on their beach on Quadra Island!

The Baths

Staying cool at the Baths, Virgin Gorda - well, not very cool...

The Bros. It was a tricky climb getting up to this spot - really.

A tropical wave from the Baths.

Last night aboard Idyll Island for Rupert, Diane, Samuel and Celeste. Everyone looking relaxed and tanned (compare to arrival picture!). From Antigua to the VIs, it was a great month; good sailing, fabulously fishy snorkeling, many beaches and lots of fun. We miss them!

"So long", from de Island.