Sunday, May 29, 2011

Return to the BVI'S

Wednesday 25 May – Sunday 29 May

Wednesday morning we are woken by rain once again, luckily it does not last long. We make a useless trip to customs to get departure papers like the agent told us when we checked in only to have another agent tell us it was not necessary or possible. Weather has started to improve so we go over to the fuel dock to top off and are underway by 11:30 leaving the USVI to return to the BVI'S. We are moored in Great Harbor on the Island of Jost Van Dyke by 3:30. Customs is a little more relaxed here so both Steve & I go in to clear in (“rules” say only the captain goes in). Paper worked filled out short walk around and head over to everyone's favorite watering hole Foxy's. Meet Dave & Colleen from Promise who also just checked in. They are also heading down to Grenada for Hurricane season and we get to talking about running a little late in the season. We all agree and hope that June stays quiet like normal. One drink leads to another and then another as we sit and visit with Dave & Coleen and Rafael the bar tender. Later not sure if it was the real Foxy but bartender said he was and he bought us another round of drinks. That made 4 for me and even though they are little cups they are 95% alcohol & 5% mix, so I was glad to make it back to the boat but did not last long after that. Have to remember to alternate some water with my drinks ! Thursday Dave & Colleen head over to spend the day at White Bay, they had been to the BVI'S on a charter boat years before and wanted to go back and see White Bay. I was very hungover so just had to spend the morning taking it easy. Finally around noon we leave Great Harbor to head over to Little Harbor since we had not been there. Like the name it is littler than great harbor but still a good size with 3 main restaurant / bars to choose from. Things are quiet in this harbor as we are the only boat in the mooring field. Not soon after we picked up a mooring and were trying to decide which place to go to, trying to see if they were open, a guy comes out to bring us the menu from Sidney's Peace & Love (name of restaurant). I guess they wanted our business. We picked out lunch and said we would be in shortly. There were a few small power boats at the dock so when we went in the place was not totally deserted. First they explain how it is a self serve bar, well I am still feeling the drinks from the night before so all I want is a diet coke. Steve just grabs him a beer and we check out the gift store that is part of the restaurant while we wait for lunch and see another sail boat come in. After lunch Steve can't resist but to go behind the bar to make his own drink so makes himself a painkiller. Despite the name and knowing it is a great drink I know it will not help my pain so I get water. Talk to the 4 people on the sail boat that just came in and they said they were escaping the 15 charter boats leaving Sandy Cay heading to Great Harbor. A big group of MIT grads have chartered a bunch of boats and are celebrating so they do not want to spend another noisy night in the same anchorage. We had seen how crowded Sandy Cay was on our way to Little Harbor so on hearing that all the boats are heading to Great Harbor we decide to go to Sandy Cay and snorkel. Back to the boat and another short hop we are at Sandy Cay. Take the dinghy to the beach but don't spend too much time on shore, the cool refreshing water feels much better. Not a lot of fish or coral to see so a disappointing snorkel, but the swim feels great. It is only 3:30 so we leave Sandy Cay and go a few miles to Manchioneel Bay to anchor for the night. We are moored by 4:30 and as we look at the other boats near by we notice RSVP. We go over to say Hi and see how Bill is doing as when we saw them last 2 weeks ago Bill had broken his shoulder and cut his foot with a bad fall while washing the deck of his boat at the marina in St. Thomas. He is doing much better and we have a nice visit with them and their son Patrick who is visiting. We thought to help dad, which he is, but he is also recuperating. He is only in his late 20's but had a stroke and then a heart attack caused by a bacterial infection in a heart valve and just had open heart surgery. Just makes you realize how lucky we are to be able to do what we are doing. Friday we have a relaxing day at the same mooring, Steve snorkels in the morning, we swim off the boat, I finally use a float we have had with us since Kemah 14 months ago (better late then never) :). They have what they call a Bubbly Pool, a natural whirlpool formed by the rocks so at high tide the waves come crashing through causing a jacuzzi effect. Well high tide is at 7 and you can NOT walk there in the dark so we decide to go at 4, close to high tide with still plenty of time to walk back before dark. Somehow we missed the little path turn off and find another pool of water surrounded by rocks. This does not look like the picture in the guide book but we climb down to take a closer look. Well the way this one is formed you would get beat against the rocks when the waves came in and there are baby sea urchins in there to fall against !!! This can't be the place !! Head back out and luckily run into a group coming back from the real location. Not sure how we missed the trail as it is now very obvious, follow it along and now the place looks just like the pictures. Even though it has clouded up, it is still a fun time. Can only imagine coming under sunny skies, at high tide, when the waves are not calm like they have been, what a blast it would be. Later we go into Foxy's Taboo, Foxy's place on this side of the island, for a great dinner. Saturday we are underway early, first stopping at Cane Garden Bay looking for stamps to mail post cards. Then stop at Monkey Point on Guana Island another place that is supposed to have good snorkeling. There are only a few moorings and just miss getting the last one so anchor a short distance away. Have lunch hoping maybe one of the boats there will leave but no luck so take the dinghy over to go snorkeling. Turns out to be just a so so snorkeling spot, some times the ones you find on your own are much better then the ones they talk about in the guide books. Still early in the day so we head over to Marina Cay, another cool little island with a great bar & restaurant and they have stamps. So hopefully my last 2 postcards from the BVI'S will get mailed by the lady in the gift shop. Back over to Tortola for a stop in Trellis Bay, trying to see as many of the sights as we can before we leave. Our leaving plans were not well thought out, and when we start to do the nuts and bolt planning of the trip, we realize we blew it. We were thinking of going to Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda on Sunday, to check out with Customs & Immigration, which we need before heading to St. Martin, but find out C&I is closed on Sundays. So our original plan of a very early (5 AM) departure from BVI on Monday to arrive in St. Martin by 5 pm, is jettisoned for a mid day departure, and overnight sail and mid day arrival at St. Martin on Tuesday. The wind is predicted to be exactly on the nose at around 10 kts, with 3-4 swells from the port quarter, so we'll probably be motoring or at best motor sailing the whole passage. It's absolutely amazing how the wind can permanently be in your face sailing.

link to pictures;

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Return to St. Thomas

Thursday 19 May – Tuesday 24 May

Our Thursday departure was delayed a little by a morning shower. It finally let up and we got underway by 10, in a light drizzle under cloudy skies. We had good 15-20 knot wind just aft of the beam in 3-5 ft seas so had a great sail back to St. Thomas. With a full main and 1 reef in the genoa we were making 8.5 to 9+ knots the whole way. The sun tried to come out a few times but couldn't burn through the clouds, at least the rain stopped shortly after we left St. Croix waters. We were anchored in Red Hook Bay on the eastern end of St. Thomas by 3 PM. Quick run into town for Steve to pick up his reports from the doctor to renew his captains license, check out the grocery store to see what we want to come back for, stop by one of the local bars by the marina / dinghy dock for a drink and check out the area restaurant menus. Back to the boat still under dry conditions but can tell we might not have escaped the nightly shower routine of the last week. Take showers and get ready to head back into shore for dinner BUT the rain comes and we dine on board. Friday we expected the weather to get better since the sun wakes us up, but before long the clouds move in. Thinking the rain will hold off until night like it has been Steve runs me in to do laundry while he changes the generator oil. It takes him longer than expected, and when he turns on the generator to fill the oil filter so he can top up the oil, the dipstick falls out and sprays oil all over the sound enclosure and generator compartment. Realizing that it's going to take at least an hour to clean up, he leaves the mess and comes back back to pick me up at 2, but by then it is pouring rain. We go for lunch waiting for the rain to slow or stop, putting off our grocery shopping and other errands for a better day. After lunch we get a break in the rain and get our clean laundry back to the boat dry thanks to being doubled wrapped in garbage bags. The dry spell does not last long and the rain starts up again continuing for the rest of the day and into the night. This would NOT have been a good week for anyone to come for a weeks vacation that's for sure, even the locals are saying enough already. Paper reported St. Thomas being 3 ½ “ of rain above normal for the month of May. There was not a lot of wind with today’s rain, but around 7 pm we notice we are a lot closer to a boat moored near by. All the boats in the anchorage are laying at different angles due to weight, design and wake from the ferries. We are watching and by 8 we know something is not right as we are know side by side with the Cat that was behind us. We try to bring up some of our scope on the anchor line to see if we can reposition but realize our anchor has drug and we will need to bring it all up and move. Doing this in the dark, in heavy rain while fending off the other boat we got too close to. We know there are several private unused moorings close by and are trying to avoid running over those lines that we can't see ! We see a mooring and even though it is private it is after 8 on a rainy night so we just pick up the line for the evening and will worry about re-anchoring in the morning light. This anchorage is also known to be rolly due to all the ferry traffic and we can attest to that. Adventures in paradise can be challenging sometimes. Saturday we are up early to move off the private mooring, just in case, and anchor between that one and another that has been empty the last few days. The moorings are private but there is only a 20' restriction on the water around the mooring so we just have to hope a big boat does not return to the 2 moorings close by. The morning starts off cloudy and rainy but the rain stops so we run in to shore and go to the grocery store and Steve mails his captains license renewal papers off and we get back to the boat without getting rained on. While Steve was cleaning up his oil mess the day before he discovered a melted 30 amp fuse on the generator. It's obvious it's been melted for a while, and the generator has been running OK, so he's not sure what it means. Checking the limited documentation for the generator we have gives him no clues, so the next day he calls around St. Thomas looking for someone who is familiar with this brand of generator. Eventually he finds a guy, but he's over in Charlotte Amalie, and won't come to Red Hook, and can't look at it until Tuesday morning. So we decide to go up to Megan's Bay, and then around the west coast of the island back to Charlotte Amalie on Monday. The day looks like it might stay dry so after getting everything put away we have a late afternoon departure from Red Hook. We have a nice downwind sail along the northern coast of St. Thomas with just the jib out and 2 hours later at 5 we are anchoring in the beautiful Megan’s Bay. The guide books say National Geographic named this one of the prettiest beaches in the world, and it is very beautiful. A mile of white sand beach with green mountains behind and along the sides and turquoise waters out in front, the sun is even out as we come in so it looks great to us. The guide book also talked about how it can get very crowded, well that is NOT the case. First there are only 3 other boats anchored in this HUGE bay, and the beach looks pretty empty also. We have to go to the opposite side of the beach from where we are anchored to land the dinghy, and there are only a few people scattered along the beach, even the chair & water toy shop and beach restaurant are closed. Which is great for us as we prefer quiet, isolated, uncrowded beaches to noisy crowded ones any day. It feels good to get out and walk along the beach, with just a few clouds still hanging around. Sunday turns out to be a rain free day, YEAH !!, still a few clouds but the sun is breaking thru a lot more now. No new boats anchoring in the harbor, but the beach is a lot more crowded. Different groups all playing their different music loudly. No I-pod's on this beach, these guys come with 4 ft speakers. Even with the bigger Sunday crowd it is still not that busy as there are no cruise ships in that normally bring over big groups. We enjoy the day in this calm anchorage, even with a few jet skis and small power boats the wake from them is nothing like the ferry wakes in Red Hook. Monday we continue west around the Island and are back in St. Thomas Harbor by noon. Lunch on board then into shore, walk up to find a place for Steve to get a hair cut then catch a safari bus to take us in island to an auto parts store to get oil filters for the engine and generator, and a new fuse holder for the generator. Stopping by a K Mart and the grocery on the way back to the boat. A Monday night call the the generator mechanic finds he can't come until Wednesday afternoon at the earliest. Steve goes ahead and replaces the fuse and holder still trying to figure out what it's for, with no success. The generator is working OK, which is a good thing because there is NO wind, and the humidity is high, and it is sweat city below until he gets everything put back together and we can turn the AC on. Tuesday morning after an internet search he gets a technician on the phone from a generator dealer in Florida, who tells him that fuse is for the glow plugs on the generator. The glow plugs have never been used, since we've always been in warm climates, and the button on the control panel hasn't worked since the boat was struck by lightning a month after he bought it. After he replaced the fuse he checked and the circuit was drawing 11.7 amps, at 42 volts, so something is shorted out somewhere. But since we're planning to stay in warm climates, we don't need the glow plugs, and the easy decision is to pull the just replaced fuse and forget about it. Just another adventure in Paradise. Go in for a late lunch and to “check out” of the USVI, we do not really need to do that to go to the BVI'S but when we last checked into the USVI, the customs officer told us that down Island they may ask for it so since the custom office is right at the marina by where we are anchored it is easy to do. So we thought until we got there a little after 3 when they had just closed. Since we are just going around the corner to the BVI'S on Wednesday we can go by the customs office in the morning before fueling up and heading out. One of these days someone will ask to see our departure papers and we will have them.

link to pictures;

Thursday, May 19, 2011

St. Croix

Wednesday 11 May – Wednesday 18 May

Wednesday we spend a lazy day at anchor planning our course to St. Croix and talking about what we want to see and do there. Thursday we are at the fuel dock by 8 and underway by 8:30 heading south under gray skies with light winds and calm seas. Around noon I lay down to “rest my eyes” AKA take a nap, I hear over the VHF radio a call out to the sail boat heading to St. Croix. I sit up and look around but did not see any other boats around, so lay back down and the call comes out again, this time I get up and look around and spot a 60' Catamaran off our port bow. I tell Steve, who has been reading and tuned the radio out, I think that boat is a drift and hailing us. We call Jolly Mon back, and their motor had stopped and with the light winds out of the south they were not making any headway toward St. Croix. We get closer and the beautiful, young captain Cara tells us her cell phone is dead, so could we please call her boss so he can come out to get them. We make the call and Miles tells us he is out on a charter with a group so can't do anything until after 1. He tells Steve that it might be a loose battery terminal wire. We relay the info to Cara and her girlfriend, but they still cannot get the boat started. Steve puts the dinghy down and goes over to their boat and they get it started. We both get back underway towards St. Croix, calling Miles back to let him know the boat got started. As we get closer to the island Miles calls us back asking where we are going in at, and we tell him Christiansted Harbor. He tells us he has a mooring we can use, and to follow Jolly Mon into the channel. That works out great as his mooring has to be one of the best spots in the harbor. Just a few yards from Protestant Cay, offering great protection and right off Kings Wharf where most of the towns stores, restaurants and bars are located. Jolly Mon goes to the dock where they keep several charter boats, Jolly Mon being one of them. Dinghy in the water by 4, first stop is to go by the National Park Service office to submit an anchoring permit request to go to the Buck Island Reef National Monument. No cost for the permit they restrict who and how many boats go there trying to preserve the marine garden. Stopping by a tourist place to get maps an tour guide books as we head to a local bar to meet Miles and Cara, them thanking us for helping us thanking them for the use of the mooring ball. Back to the boat just in time as the skies after being gray and cloudy all day have finally decided to let loose with a downpour. Friday the day starts out beautiful as we go to get a rental car, this is a “big” island, 24 miles long and 5 wide and there are some places throughout the island that we want to see, so rental car is the way to go. We head east stopping at Cain Bay for lunch then thru some windy roads over some heavily wooded mountains, a mini rain forest on the way to Frederiksted, the other “big” town. Glad we are staying by Christiansted as it is much nicer. Next we stop by and tour the Whim Museum,a restored sugar plantation from the 1800's. Then on to the Cruzan Rum distillery, where we go for the tour and then get our free drinks. I was driving so could only have one Steve had a 2nd and some of the others in our group were having 3rds & 4ths closing the place down, but they came by taxi. That is the trick when visiting this distillery to get there early for the tour then just hang at the bar trying the different rums with different mixes. Since we got a late start to the day it is 4 by the time we leave the distillery, knowing it is to late to go to the Botanical Gardens we stop by since it is on our way back to see if it looks worth coming back for. The clouds have been building all day and we make it back to town just before a downpour, waiting it out at a harbour view bar. After it stops we decide to get an early dinner before another round of rain keeps us from coming back to shore. Our 1st choice of restaurant is Galangal, an authentic Thai place that we had heard great reviews for. But they were booked up so we made a reservation for Saturday night and went to a place called Bacchus which turned out to be a great choice also having some unusual dishes that were excellent. Make it back to the boat before the late night storm comes thru. Saturday we keep the car for another day and head back out to the St. George Village and Botanical Garden. 16 acres of sugar plantation ruins among 1500 native and exotic plants and trees. Drive east past Christiansted to the Teague Bay area, a shallow draft anchorage to be used with a caution with local knowledge to navigate the reefs. NOT a place to bring Ocean Star, but another waterfront area of the island we wanted to see. Next stop is Point Udall, the eastern most point of the United States. Now we have been to one of the most southern and eastern points, might make it to the most western in Guam one day but NOT to the most northern in Alaska. Back to Christiansted and go to tour Fort Christiansvaern. Steve gets to use his national park card to get us in free again to see this well maintained Danish fort. It did not see battles against foreign Island invaders but was used to imprison Island slaves, and later as an Island jail. Back to the boat to get cleaned up for dinner. The skies have been getting cloudier as the day went on and just around sunset again the skies open up. This time thunder and lightning come with the rain and it does not look hopeful that it will stop any time soon. We wait until 7:30 before canceling our 8 pm dinner reservation and eat on board. This is the heaviest rain we have seen in a long time, rain and lightning last all night long. Sunday we wake to the sun trying to come out put still cloudy, return the rental car and make arraignments to do an afternoon dive. All the locals keep telling us how unusual this weather is and they never see this much rain this time of the year ! At least the heavy rains come at night so we are still able to tour the island. The humidity level is way up reminding us of being back in Houston / Kemah. We get a cab over to Cane Bay to do the afternoon dive, they have the most unusual dive boat we have ever seen. It is a bright yellow inflatable, with 4 passengers & 2 crew & 6 tanks we were a tight fit. The floor in the bow unzips and you sit on the edge put your gear on and just lean over and do a face plant into the water. Pretty neat actually !! Getting out is easy also, go under boat to opening unhook BC driver lifts that up into the boat so you can easily lift yourself up thru the opening. The first dive wound up being a drift dive, about 20 minutes into the dive the dive master writes us a note saying this will be a drift dive and the boat will come to us. Good thing because I was just starting to wonder about how much air I would suck up trying to swim back against the current. It was my first drift dive and what a great experience just moving with the flow of the water watching all kinds of beautiful sea life float by. Once we surface, blowing a whistle and raising a flag to get the drivers attention to come get us, I was amazed at how far we had drifted from the boat and our beginning spot. The boat pulls up and we all get back in and Neil the driver goes to start the boat again with NO luck ! Now we are doing a drift boat ride ! Kendall (dive master) & Neil keep trying to start the outboard again with no luck as we drift further away. Their shop is located right off the beach where we put out from so I guess someone noticed that we were not heading back to base camp and called on the VHF radio. Kendall told them about the engine not turning over and said we would try a few more times then call back if they needed to put a second boat in the water to come get us, which they did have to do to tow us back in. Second dive we went out to a closer reef on the other boat that towed us back in and made it out and back without incident. Gear washed off changed into dry clothes and get taxi back to town. This driver driving a lot faster on the winding mountain roads giving us a thrilling ride back to town. Just a short little shower during the day and it looks like maybe it wont rain Sunday night so we call up the Thai restaurant to see if we can get in but they are closed on Sunday & Monday so Steve makes us a Thai dish on board and it's a good thing because we do get rain again almost all night long. Monday we were going to head over to Buck Island but the morning started cloudy with showers and winds gusting so we thought we would have better protection at this anchorage then over at Buck Island so we stayed put and worked on a few boat projects, always plenty of them. The generator has been overheating and shutting off whenever the air conditioning is on, so Steve troubleshoots that, determines it's a low cooling water flow, and back flushes the cooling water circuit. The actual back flushing only takes 10 minutes or so, but figuring out how to do it, remembering where the necessary parts are located in storage, digging them out, and making the connections takes 3 hours. But success in the end, the cooling water outlet temp drops by 15°F and the AC runs fine. It only takes another hour to put everything back in its place again. Cruising, the joy of boat maintenance in exotic places. The day actually cleared up and got nicer and just as we thought we would escape the evening shower it started around 7:30. A short light shower during dinner so had to run the generator and had a noisy but cool (AC) dinner. Tuesday we make the short hop over to Buck Island, a national underwater park, under sunny skies. The Island is only a mile long and ½ mile wide with a huge reef surrounding most of it. Hurricane Hugo in 1989 destroyed a lot of the reef so the park has been monitoring it's slow recovery. We arrive just in time for some clouds to move in for an afternoon shower, have lunch waiting for it to stop. Once it does we go ashore to walk the trails up 300 feet to an observation deck looking out over the reef. The clouds are hanging around so we put off snorkeling until Wednesday but take the dinghy around to the reef side of the Island to see where the dinghy and tour boat moorings are. Circumnavigating the Island on the way back to the west side anchorage it is a job avoiding the coral with just the dinghy. Wednesday the day starts off sunny so we head back over to the reef early while the sun is out. Plenty of fish but the damaged coral is very evident 22 years later. As we are climbing back into the dinghy a few of the tour boats bring large groups of snorkelers in, and it starts to rain, so we're glad we got there early. Two little afternoon showers mix in with the sunshine and another short evening shower – doing the “hatch rain dance” with our 24 hatches gets tiresome, but we're happy for the airflow when they're open. Thursday we will head back to St. Thomas and hopefully away from this trough that has been sitting over us this past week and causing all the rain.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gina's Visit to USVI & BVI'S

Saturday 30 April – Tuesday 10 May

Gina arrives by taxi to the Yacht Haven Grande Marina at 11:15 on Saturday, we get her settled in on board and are underway leaving St. Thomas Harbor by noon, heading to St. John under partly cloudy skies and 3-4 foot seas making for a little bit of a bouncy ride. Gina did great controlling her sea sickness that hit her when she went down below for a minute, quickly realizing she needed to stay on deck. More a result from her hangover from her lay over stop in San Juan the night before. We are moored at Maho Bay off St. John by 2 PM and enjoy a nice relaxing afternoon and restful night on board, except for the 2 AM shower when we had to yell for Gina to close her hatches and port holes in her berth. Sunday morning we head over to Trunk Bay, picking up a day mooring to snorkel the park's underwater snorkel trail. Gina had been here many years ago and it brought back memories and wonder at the changes. Have lunch on board before heading over to Leinster Bay for the evening. We pick up a mooring on the west side of the bay and stop by the pay station on our way to shore when two boats right up front are getting ready to leave. So we go back to our boat and change moorings tucking in close to the beach just as it starts to rain. Hiking on shore will wait until the following day. Monday we take the dinghy to shore and hike the Leinster trail to the road where we get the Annaberg ruins trail, going up to old sugar mill ruins. Get caught in another shower as we are going through the grounds. Back down to the bay and over to the ruins of the school that educated the children of slaves, before the time when that was the norm. At this point we decide to take the Johnny Horn Trail over to Coral Bay. BUT I forgot my trekking poles and Gina needed socks and Steve needed his wallet, so a quick trip back down the trail, and back to the boat before taking on the 1 ½ mile hike over the mountain to Coral Bay. The views along the way are great and coming over the mountain to see Coral Bay was well worth the hike. Have a great lunch at Skinny Legs, before hiking back to Leinster Bay this time via the Brown Bay trail that was a little longer BUT not as steep, making it back to the boat by 4 in time for a cool off swim before Steve makes another great meal on board. Tuesday we are underway early under partly cloudy skies heading over to West End (AKA Soper's Hole) on Tortola to check in to the BVI'S. We are moored shortly after 9 AM and Steve goes to customs to check us in. Once checked in we go into the town / village of West End, walk around checking out the few stores they have, stopping for a Pusser's Pain Killer (Gina's first of many this week) before heading back to the boat. A quick lunch on board and we are underway again by 1 heading for Norman Island, with a planned stop at the Indians to snorkel. The Indians as they are called are 4 huge rocks just before you get to Norman Island that are well known for being a great place to snorkel. We luck out and a mooring is available (NO anchoring allowed) and enjoy another great snorkel site. Gina lucks out and sees an eagle ray swim past her and then leap out of the water near the boat. Rest up on board for a little, while Steve tackles a little boat problem AKA head problem. We are moored again in The Bight of Norman island by 5. Quick showers before heading over to Willy T's (floating “pirate ship” bar & restaurant) for drinks and then to Pirates on shore for dinner. Wednesday we head over to a day mooring around the corner on Normans to snorkel at the Caves. Afterward we make our way tacking down the Sir Francis Drake Channel to Peter Island. First picking up a mooring in Deadman Bay, walking along the beach and stopping by the beautiful Peter Island Resort for a drink as we sit on the beach. This bay tends to get a swell so we left to go anchor a couple of bay's over in Great Harbor for the night. Trying to anchor was challenging as they had the cove we intended to anchor in signed for no anchoring, so we tried another spot but VERY deep so once the anchor line was out we were too close to shore for comfort. We went to one of the few mooring balls on the west side of the bay by Oceans Seven Beach Club and had a peaceful night for $25 plus $5 to take away our trash. Thursday morning I make a few quick phone calls (Gina's phone works here) to see if we can get in on a dive of the wreck of the RMS RHONE, no luck but we do stop and pick up a mooring to snorkel there, Steve & I will try to do a dive later after Gina's visit as it would be really neat to get down closer to the wreck even though we had a pretty good look by just snorkeling. Lunch on board afterward, and lunch time is the best time to go to this dive site as we have the place to ourselves after the other boats have left. By 1:45 we are underway a few miles to the east to Cooper Island and are moored again in Manchioneel Bay by the recently renovated Cooper Island Beach Club by 2:15. Onto shore to see what is here, a little early for HH so we hang out at the bar until then, taking advantage of the 2 for 1 Pain Killers. Gina gets to escape our quiet night life by meeting up with another boat to party with for the evening while Steve and I enjoy dinner back on the boat. Friday we are underway by 7:30 to go to the short distance to the Baths on the Island of Virgin Gorda, needing to arrive early to get a mooring at this VERY popular day stop. The Baths are a unique rock / boulder formation formed a VERY long time ago by earthquakes shoving granite layers up. Over time the rocks broke into “smaller” pieces landing on top of each other. Erosion as smoothed the rocks, as well as a chemical reaction to carbonic acid caused from rain water mixing with carbon dioxide. This creates some really amazing shapes in the rocks. We arrive by 8:30 with just a few mooring balls left. It is still partly cloudy and a little bit of a swell, so we hang out on the boat waiting for the sun to burn off the clouds and trying to decide the best way to get to shore. Landing the dinghy on the beach with the surf crashing looks like it could be difficult, all the boats look to be doing the same, watching to see and hoping maybe the surf will lay down. By 9:30 we have seen a few dinghies bring people in and realize there is NO way to get to shore without getting in the water. The dinghies can only get so close to shore then all but the driver jump out and swim ashore while the driver ties the dinghy up to a dinghy mooring and swims a little further into shore. Thank God for dry bags :). Well the Baths are very impressive from off shore on the boat, but once on shore looking at them up close we can understand why they are among the worlds most famous rock formations. The trail thru the Baths includes wading through water, climbing up and over some rocks and crouching down to fit under or through small openings. The National Park has helped by putting in a few “staircases” to help you maneuver from one end to the other. There are also some trails leading from the west side to the east that we take circling back around then hike up to the Top of the Baths restaurant for a great lunch with an incredible view. We are back underway by 1:30 sailing to the north end of the Island to Gorda Sound and are moored in front of Saba Rock and the Bitter End Yacht Club by 4. Dinghy back down in the water and over to the Bitter End first, checking it out before going to Saba Rock to enjoy a drink as we watch the sun set over the harbor. Saba rock has an interesting history as it started as just a rock in the sound that was added to and built up on over the years to become a great cruisers destination offering good food & drinks with a few hotel rooms to rent out. After cocktails and an appetizer on Saba we return to the boat for dinner. Saturday we are underway shortly after 9 making our way east via the Atlantic side to reach Cain Garden Bay on the north side of Tortola . A short stop here, going ashore to visit the Callwood Distillery, an18th century rum distillery still in operation and looking like it's from that time period. Except for the staff, which consists of a teenage girl listening to music on a boom box. She turns it down as we walk into the wooden shack that is the distillery, gives us rehearsed talk about the history of the place. Steve asks a few questions about where the cane is pressed, the stills are, etc. and she says they're outside the shack, and walk around and look, but don't' touch anything. So we do, finding the cane press, ancient and disassembled from it's equally ancient diesel engine, and the pot still, looking like it hasn't been in operation for a long time. Steve suspects that the whole thing is more of a tourist museum piece than a functioning distillery, but we go back into the shack for some rum sampling, which was really the whole point of the trip there. We went through white rum, the initial product out of the still (good for getting you drunk quick, according to the teenager), white rum aged four years in charred oak casks, which turns it into the normal light tan rum sold by Bacardi, Cruzan, etc., a rum aged 8 years which is smoother and darker, a rum spiced with cloves, vanilla, and other spices similar to Captain Morgan, and a sweet rum called the “Panty Dropper” which is popular with our salesgirl's age group. We buy a couple of bottles and move on to the next adventure. Walking up the road we find a glass blowing shop, where he is doing the work right out in his front yard, so we stop to watch and Gina finds a couple of pieces to buy. Another great little bay to explore. Back to the boat and underway again by 3:30 for a short sail over to the Island of Jost Van Dyke (Jost pronounced Youst), moored again by 5 in Great Harbor, quick trip into shore to see where the dinghy dock is and see what is here before dark. Make reservations at Foxy's Tamarind Bar for their Saturday night buffet. Back to the boat for showers before 7:30 when the buffet starts. Have a great meal but as with most buffets you just can't eat that much food. They have a good band that we enjoy dancing to after dinner and are one of the last to leave. Sunday we are staying in the same place for a change, so have a relaxing morning before getting into dinghy to head over to check out White Bay, the next bay to the west on this Island. This is a spot we want to visit BUT we have heard it can get very crowded with limited moorings and anchoring spots for deep draft boats. So we are going with the dinghy and depth finder to check it out before going over with the big boat. On an uncrowded day we would be good on the east side of the bay, even the west side would be doable just would have to watch the depth closer. Have a nice afternoon walking along the beach that has about a ½ dozen bars, one that lets you mix your own drinks. Need I say we had a pretty stiff drink from there, even stopped there for lunch. Winds and waves are calmed down so we have a dry ride back in the dinghy to the boat. The harbor is filling up quick, Steve & Gina go into shore later to see if anything is going on but looks like most of the boats are staying on board as very few people were on shore. Quiet night on board as I write the blog and Steve teaches Gina how to play backgammon. Monday Steve goes into customs on Jost to check us out of the BVI'S and as we are leaving the mooring field at 10, Gina says hey that boat Anchor Management is from Kemah Texas. We drive by and introduce ourselves as he is a friend of other friends who are also out here cruising. He plans to be around the BVI”S for a little while so maybe we will run into him again and be able to meet and visit. We have a nice downwind sail with just the Genoa sail out and are anchored in St. Thomas Harbor by 1. On the way in we here another boat we know, Toucan Dream, on the VHF radio talking about another boat we know RSVP'S captain Bill has broken his shoulder and is on his way to the hospital here in St. Thomas. We see both of their boats at the marina but no one on board so do not know what happened. Steve goes to the boat supply store to get a new pair of binoculars to replace the ones that just broke in two from many years of use while Gina and I do a little last minute shopping for her, meeting back up at Fat Turtles for a drink and some of their yummy 3 cheese dip. Back to the boat for showers then back in for a farewell dinner at Wikked. Tuesday Steve brings Gina and her luggage (as little as she brought she still had too much bathing suits shorts & tank tops is the norm) into the dinghy dock to get a cab to the airport. We had a lot of fun with Gina visiting. Checking out a lot of different places, many we look forward to going back to and exploring more. After Gina leaves Steve came back to pick me & the laundry up, as I go do laundry he heads over to Red Hook to get a physical and drug test to renew his captains license, just one of those things he did not want to let lapse. Tuesday afternoon back to the grocery store to re stock and plan where to go next.