Posted by: catamarantwooceans | July 13, 2008

January 2008- St. Martins, BVI

Jan 1st 2008 – The new year will see us sailing to St. Martins, just over 16 miles away, to Simpson bay lagoon, into which you enter through a lifting bridge that opens for marine traffic at  specific hours. Estimating that the trip will take about three hours, we plan on getting there for the 1130 opening. It so happens that Danny and I meet in the cockpit at 0655 and are under sail at 0710. Going out we see more of the crowd that congregated in St Barts for the new year.

Big yacht

Big yacht

With the easterly wind blowing at 20 knots we are sailing at high speed, higher than that recommended for fishing, which is what we want to do. We put the sails in second reef but it is impossible to rein “Two Ocean”.  There will be no fish today! We reach Simpson bay at 0930, see the yachts line up at the entrance and realise that we got there for the preceding opening, can join them and enter. It took 2 hours and 20 minutes to cover the distance, just a fraction below an average of 7 knots. After anchoring in 2.3 meters, the lagoon is shallow in places, we go ashore for the entry formalities and then stroll along the shore, stopping at Palapa marina, where Maxi -Yachts are tied. One of them is the famous “Mary Cha III”, a record breaker, races winner, elegant and beautiful ketch (two masted boat…).

Jan 2nd – The day was dedicated to maintenance, primarily the port engine job. Just to remind you: it did not go to full power, it only gave a maximum of 2200 RPM and when the throttle was opened further – black smoke came out of the exhaust. I tried to get help in Rodney bay, ST. Lucia, but the mechanic there did not solve the problem. Here, in St. Martin, we sought the help of Simpson Bay Diesel, run by Armand Amato. They are Yanmar agents, and so must be able to make the repair needed. In any case I wanted to have the injectors tested and serviced if necessary. The mechanic came to the boat just as I was hanging upside down from the Bimini’s structure. I wonder what went through his mind when he saw me… His name was Gordi, short for Gordon, dressed in coveralls, he was barefoot. He took the injectors out for testing but they were fine, he tuned the valves on both engines (those on the malfunctioning port engines were absolutely good…). He then took apart the “Elbow” of the exhaust, that’s the part through which the exhaust gases and cooling salt water exit the engine and found out it was almost completely blocked. He thought this was the cause of the problem, took it away with him, promising to come tomorrow afternoon.

At 1400 Gordi showed up. “I brought a new elbow, yours was completely blocked. I’m convinced this will do it”. My apprehension reached new levels. “Start it up” Says Gordi after finishing his work in the engine room. He watches  the exhaust and says:”Rev it up”. I do, and to my relief it goes to the desired RPM. All right! This calls for a drink and Gordi is glad to have our version of Rum and Guava juice. As we drink he tells us that he is originally from Wisconsin, got fed up with the cold winters there and at 40 years of age, 13 years ago, came to St. Martins.

Gordi

Gordi

Jan 3rd – We rented a car and drove around the island. Marigot, the capital of the French side, was nice and so was Anse Marcel, with the enclosed marina and Radisson resort. But on the whole, after seeing Grenada, St. Vincent and Guadeloupe, St. Martin pales in comparison. At least we got a baguette that made a good lunch.

Marigot bay

Marigot bay

Danny is leaving the boat tomorrow, going to LA for business and to meet his wife, Karni. I’ll wait here for my brother in law, Yaron, who will be joining me on the 7th. This will give me time for some more boat chores and maybe a fishing trip?

Jan 4th – As planned, working on the boat. The main project was servicing the winches. This is not such a sophisticated procedure, the only catch are the small pawls (just a small metal tooth on the inside) with their tiny springs that by Murphy’s law are apt to justify their name and spring to never never land. I did the work slowly and methodically, taking pictures as I go along and consulting the Anderson”s (the manufacturer) manual.         

The winch

The winch

Dismantled

Dismantled

I am proud to declare that my efforts were successful and the winches are clean, greased and ready for action.

Jan 5th – More work: a thing I wanted to have for a long time was an extension for the outboard tiller/gas control that will enable me to sit further forward in the dinghy. Tillers are available at the marine stores for 35-45 dollars. I thought I could make one myself.  Went to a plumbing store and bought 2 feet of PVC 1.5 inch drain pipe (5 dollars), cut the right length, sawed two narrow triangles at the end that will go over the original tiller and connected it using a clamp I had on board (2 dollars).

Tiller

Tiller

Another job was replacing a pipe in the toilet system. While doing that I thought I heard somebody calling. Went outside and saw a couple in a dinghy. Only a few words were needed to establish the fact that they were also Israelis, the first ones I met in this area .The woman at the Sunshine rent a car told them about “Two Oceans”so they went looking. We agreed to meet on my boat for a drink later in the evening. Ada and Haviv (she and he, respectively) bought  a Beneteau 44 in Chicago and are sailing south to Trinidad.

Ada and Haviv

Ada and Haviv

Jan 6th – I wanted to go out and try some fishing, haven’t had fish for quite a long time. Ada and Haviv asked to come along and so 0900 saw us maneuvering at the exit, waiting ahead of a large flotilla for the bridge to open. Outside we had about 18 knots of wind so in order not to sail too fast for the fish we wanted to catch we found ourselves in second reef. Sailed out for an hour or so and then turned back for the 1130 bridge opening. 2.5 miles from shore we spotted a relatively large flock of sea birds circling a position a few hundred meters behind us. This means fish are hunting there! We turned back directly toward them, marvelling at the birds diving straight into the water, occasionally seeing a turquoise blur, the predator,  perhaps a Mahi Mahi, reaching the surface in pursuit of it’s prey. Although we passed twice through the feeding area, nothing was caught by our lure but the Aero – Aquatic show was superb!

Jan 7th – More maintenance, it never stops. Yaron came a little after 9 p.m, after being in airplanes and airports for 26 hours.

Jan 8th – The plan is to go out at 0900 bridge opening, do a combined training – fishing trip, anchor outside the lagoon and leave very early next morning. The forecast is something I never experienced in the Caribbean: E – NE 10 knots. Only ten knots! We have to do 85 miles to the BVI and this is not enough wind! Anyway, we sailed south for the fishing, saw some bird activity far away in a direction we could not reach and at 1100 turned back to Simpson bay. I said that with the light wind from behind we could try the Spinnaker, a thing I haven’t done yet on Two Oceans. I have two of them on board, one is 125 square meters and the other 95. I took the one that was easier to reach for in the locker, raised it in the sock it is stored in and opened it up. As the wind filled the big, light, blue sail, the speed jumped from 4 to 5.5 knots. This sail is so big, there is no position on the boat that I can capture all of it with the camera, even at wide angle.

Spinaker

Spinnaker

Shall we go on fishing with the Spi? Why not? Few false alarms by the reel made us jump but four miles from the bay the reel sang again and Yaron started taking the fish in. Unfortunately it was a Barracuda, 65 cm long, not recommended for consumption due to the possibility of Ciguaterra, but Yaron was happy with the “photo-op” after which we released it.

Yaron and catch

Yaron and catch

Getting closer to the bay we took the sail down, reeled the fishing line in and prepared to anchor. Dropped the hook and backed the boat with both engines in reverse at low RPM when the alarm of the port one sounded. “Low Oil pressure”. It took a little time to see the spinnaker sheet, left by mistake on the aft deck is now in the water and probably wrapped around the propeller, stopping the engine. Angry at myself, I put a diving mask on and took the kitchen knife to cut it off. Luckily the shape of the prop made it possible to untangle the rope with no damage. Seeing that with the 10 knot wind we cannot expect more than 5 knots of boat speed, we decided to leave St.Martin in the evening and sail through the night to arrive some time before noon. Out of the anchorage with the port engine running, the alarm sounded again! This time it was “Water temperature”, checking the exhaust – no water coming out. So I need to put a new impeller! I’ll do it when we get to the first anchorage in the BVI.In the meantime we’ll go on motor sailing with the starboard engine and hopefully the wind will come up and allow us to sail… There is heavy traffic between St. Martins and the BVI, a few cruise ships overtook us, two yachts came head on and passed less than half a mile away.

Jan 9th –  Most of the night the wind was straight from behind and around 6-8 knots. At least the sea was calm. We did 2 hours watches, which is easy and at 0830 took up a mooring in the “Baths”  in Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands. This is a beautiful area, famous for the big, round rocks and the sandy beaches.

The Baths

The Baths

The first thing we did is replace the impeller of the port engine water pump. On Rough-Soda, my previous boat, this was a simple operation that I did more than once and that took me about 30 minutes. On Two Oceans the engines are installed facing aft, with the drive in front, so that the water pump is located aft, in a difficult place to work on. So why not let a professional mechanic do it? Simple – the need to change an impeller is a thing that can happen when you are far from any maintenance facilities and will make the engine un serviceable. This is a thing every cruiser should be able to do and of course I had two spare impellers on board. I will not go into technical details but when we took the pump apart we found the impeller dry with three broken arms. 

Broken pump

Broken pump

The operation took a very long time and was back breaking, dirty and frustrating when we had to redo some of the work that was not done properly the first time. Finally it was successfully completed. After we finished, we wanted to relax and enjoy the place but then the heavens opened up and heavy rain started falling. I didn’t care. I snorkeled and washed the salt off standing in the rain.
When it cleared we motored to Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour. Last April I spent a few days here and the cost was 66 U.S dollars. Now it is 115!
Before going to customs and immigration Yaron discovered a publication for tourists stating that Israelis needed visas to enter the BVI. What? I did not know that! Last timeI was here nobody of the officials said anything of the sort. Went to C and I but the officers who sat there doing nothing said :”We are closed, come back tomorrow”. They did give us the forms to fill.

Jan 10th – Back at Immigrations a young Mr. Frith looks at us solemnly and declares that we need a visa. Since we do not have it he will take our passports, the supervisor will take them to the main office in Tortola, we must go to that office and get visas. We hop on Two Oceans and sail to Road Town harbour. In the office we fill a 4 pages form and are told to go back to Virgin Gorda the following day to collect our passports. I dismiss the thought that the forms have a space for the applicant’s picture. So what now? The time is 1430, why not out for some fishing before we anchor for the night? Yaron does a show of positive thinking:”We will have a Mahi Mahi exactly when we reach the 55 meter depth line”. 55 came, then deeper and deeper and no fish… We planned to be at anchor no later than 1730 in order to enter the bay in daylight. The chosen location was Money bay on the south of Norman island. Went in and to our surprise, we were the only yacht in the bay. A quiet night descended. At a certain moment we heard a commotion near the boat and saw a good size fish jump clear out of the water in flight from a pursuing predator. This told us we could try fishing there ourselves. After our steak dinner Yaron started casting, using pieces of  Barracuda I kept in the freezer. Boom! A big fish bites and after a short fight takes the bait, hook and sinker and disappears. This fires up our determination and we try again and again. A second, a third hit and each time the fish breaks our line! Yaron is accusing me of using an inferior line but, hey – this is a 25 pound test line! What kind of fish are these? At a certain point I take the rod and after a few minutes catch a minuscule Squirrel fish that goes back into the water immediately. At 2300 I despair and go to bed. Yaron is still fishing. At 2330 I awake as he calls my name. “I got him and It’s a big one!” He is fighting to get the caught creature up to the surface. At first a white silhouette shows through the dimly lit surface. “It’s a big Ray” says Yaron and a moment later, we look unbelievingly as a 1.5 meter Nurse shark appears near our boat, trying to break free. “Cut him loose!” shouts Yaron. “A picture first, hold him a bit longer”. I rush into the boat and come back with the camera.

Shark

Shark

Jan 11th – Following the instructions given by the Immigration department we made our way back to virgin Gorda. We did not want to get there too early so we stopped at the Baths again and this time went ashore and walked, among a hoard of tourists and other yachties, between the huge rocks and on the nice sandy beach. Immigration office, where it all started – they send us to the main office, luckily not very far away. In there we are told we need to bring two pictures before we can get our passports. ” Go to Kaunda’s place, it’s in the marina,not far” but Kaunda’s shop is closed in spite of a sign that says “Open” and another one showing the business hours with no break. The man shows after 20 minutes, smiling he explains he had to put something in his stomach. Back to the main office, where I find the visa is only until February 10th but there is a chance to make an extension on Monday. On to the office at the dock to have the passports stamped and get custom clearance and then we are free. By that time I was hungry and exhausted. Back to the boat for pizza and coke and on to our destination for the night: Saba Rock in Gorda sound in the north of Virgin Gorda. Saba Rock is a tiny island on which a small hotel, plus restaurant and bar are located. The whole sound is full of resorts that have moorings for rent so that it looks like a big mall’s parking lot.

Saba rock

Saba rock

Jan 12th – Today we went to Anegada, the island 11 miles north of Virgin Gorda. Contrary to the other islands in the BVI, Anegada is a very low, only 28 feet above sea level. As we exited Gorda sound, there was no problem navigating to it. We just followed what I thought of as the “Anegada Train” – a line of yachts stretching between the two islands.
We had good wind and flat seas, giving Yaron a real sailing feeling for the first time since he came aboard.
The entrance to the main anchorage is marked by buoys, as the area is very shallow. We came in and dropped the anchor in 1.6 meters. Later with the outgoing tide the depth was only 1.3 m. All very much like the Bahamas, including the colour of the water close to shore.
Anegada

Anegada

Part of the charm of the island are the reefs surrounding it, so we wanted to visit Loblolly bay, in which the snorkeling is described by the guide book as “magnificent”. We thought of renting bicycles, but the place that rents them had a good business day and there were none to be had. Scooters? No problem! One scooter for two people costs 45 dollars plus 6 for gas and we needed to give a credit card that we did not have on us. And we only needed them for about two hours! We ended up taking a taxi, 16 bucks for the both of us for the round trip. Talking to the taxi driver we learned that there are only 250 inhabitants in Anegada. On the way we could see that most of the island is covered by low plants and the few trees were palms and pines, just like those in the Bahamas. Loblolly bay reminded me of the Red sea coast of Sinai way back in the late sixties. The sandy beach, the reefs, a simple restaurant between trees on the beach… The underwater life was not bad at all: I saw a lot of trigger fish, a big grouper, some pomfrets (that’s what they are called in India) and a small turtle, who let me swim so close, I could notice he was tagged. The reef itself, in the area we swam at, was mostly ruined but still a nice place to visit. Back at the boat we had a visitor who flew in and sat on the dinghy’s outboard.

Visitor

Visitor

I adore sea birds and always marvel at their aerial performance. The dive-bombing of the pelicans, the maneuverability of the frigate birds and those brown, sleek sea birds you see skimming the surface at high speed, diving quickly into the water and coming out with a silvery fish they caught. Three of those followed us yesterday and each time a flying fish rose out of the water to escape our boat, they would dive on it. The sight of that bird closing on a fish in flight was fantastic. I really need to get a good book about sea birds! Ah, Kids – my birthday is on the 20th, remember?

Jan 13 th – Sailed from Anegada  in the morning. Had the urge to catch a fish, so we went to the south of the BVI where water are deeper. Had two strikes on the lure but they both got away. Ended up anchoring outside of the Virgin Gorda yacht harbour where I am going to take the boat out and leave her on the hard for a month. Hopefully there will be no problems to report and I’ll get back to the BVI and the site in a month time.

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