I’m sorry for not getting my post up yesterday! Having travelled directly from Charlotte, NC, where we returned from our excellent adventure in the BVI to pick-up Abby, we drove 12 hours to Hopewell, NJ to visit with my mom and family for Thanksgiving. So yesterday was a 19 hour marathon drive back to WARM St Pete. Yeah for the Warm part, BOO for the drive part! When I got back home it was 9:30 and I was slam beat and just didn’t get my post up. So without further adieu and 24 hours late, please enjoy On the Water…With Captain Frank!On the Water…With Captain Frank
Frank and Lisa’s Excellent Adventure
Part 5 of 6
Remember that plan thing? Yeah, right! Let me tell you about a journey once taken. This journey occurred last night. Not quite like the theme of Gilligan’s Island, and with a far better outcome, it still proves that plans suck.
Checking the weather we learn that we will face the following conditions:
Winds out of the east 18-25 with gust to 30, rain squalls, and seas 5-7 feet with a period of 7 seconds. A small craft advisory is posted. We are sailing a substantial boat that is in very good condition so all of this is doable. Not pleasant but, doable. This is why I am here and I am confident that the Chew’s will get their moneys worth on this trip.
We did not head to the Rhone, rather we remained inconspicuous at Nanny Cay so as to not get kicked out at check-out time. Thanks Nanny Cay, I’m sure you knew we were still there and you allowed us to stay on anyway. That’s the reason I’ll be back to you over and over again.
So, at 1500 we slipped our lines and headed down Sir Francis Drake Channel toward St Thomas with a full genoa and one of three reefs in the main. Into and across Pillsbury Sound we sailed and departed the protected water as planned sailing past Tobago to starboard. So far, so good. The initial legs were faster than planned and I knew that we would need the gained time as we turned and headed to the northeast.
As dark was now fast approaching it was time to pull in reef number two and roll up some of the huge genoa. So we turned hove-to and started to do so. With the mainsheet slack we dropped the main halyard, which would allow us to pull in the new tack and outhaul. Concurrently we were hauling in the new tack line. As we dropped the halyard one of the batt-cars, little cars that attach the main luff to the mast, got hung up on the lazy jacks. In the process of hoisting the halyard to clear the foul the new tack was not released and the resulting struggle between the two lines overpowered the big electric winch, which drained the batteries. But we got the foul cleared, the halyard slack and the reef made.
When boats lie hove-to their attitude is generally between a close reach and a shallow broad reach. This was the case for us and the boat rocked significantly side to side in the waves. Unfortunately, as the boat rocked the main would come to the center of the boat and snap back to the extents of the loosened mainsheet.
Also unfortunate was the fact that my face was in the immediate vicinity of the slack mainsheet while I was loading the number two reefing line. As the main slammed to leeward, that sheet turned into a bullwhip and grew instantly taut across my face hitting me squarely in the mouth. The taste of blood, although not a lot of it, came to me immediately. Stunned and quite pissed-off at the audacity of it all, I doubled down my efforts and got my work done. With the main halyard raised, and mainsheet tensioned, I thought, let’s get this damn boat moving again.
The struggle between the electric winch and the two main-sail control lines left the batteries drawn down so low the we no longer had any power for the electronics, navigation lights or any other 12 volt electrical needs. Thankfully the engine start batteries were separated from the house we did have the ability to start our engines and so we did. It was now dark and I was not comfortable with the idea of navigating back with-in the islands to an anchorage, so we motor-sailed and with-in ten minutes the batteries had enough charge to start adding the electrical essential back in one at a time.
We established our watches for the night and the final arrangement was for two on watch at a time with four-hour watches. I did not stand a watch so that I could be with all the watches through out the night. This is a trip of firsts for the Chew’s. First watches, first night sail, first ocean sail (other than the couple of hours south of St John the other day), I knew I need to be awake with them to help guide them through it all.
Motor-sailing with the engines turning idle rpms, two reefs in the main, and about 4 turns of the jib furled, we head off on an initial course to the southeast. Scott quickly pointed out that there were rocks, a little island actually, in our path and that we needed to tack out very soon. Good eyes Scott! So we did.
Settled on our new tack we found ourselves sailing about 40 degrees off the mid twenty knot apparent wind in confused seas of about 3 feet. We are making five to six and a half knots through the water and similar across the bottom. We had about twelve degrees of leeway with one dagger board, the leeward one, down drawing the full seven and a half feet. The seas are confused and all in all the ride sucks but, we’re going.
The BVI sit atop a shelf surrounded by very deep water and while those of us located on the southeast coast think of the water amongst the islands as deep, compared to six to thirty feet of water found on the Gulf of Mexico coastal waters, it is in fact not. Off shore here in the BVI means a couple of miles. As we are heading away from the island of Tortola on a heading of around thirty degrees we are rapidly approaching the “trench”. Once within it’s boundaries our leeway increased to around 25 degrees, the seas build to six to seven feet and boat slows to four and a half to five and a half knots. Thirteen hours later we were finally at our waypoint “D”. “HALLEAUJAH”.
The leg from Tobago was thirty-four miles long and it took thirteen hours to complete. It was 0730, we were all tired, especially me having been up through all the watches (an hour and a half of sleep on Scott’s watch doesn’t count), and we were about to turn further to the east for an additional ten mile leg to get on the east side of Anegada. Scott’s watch yielded a broken jib sheet, his hand was holding on to it at the time, and the standup paddle boards were now loose on deck barely being held in place with one remaining strap. With a total of about 100 miles yet to go, albeit down wind, we would not get back to an anchorage before dark and I want to stress to my group the need to arrive prior to dark. Plus I was beat!
“Nikki”, I called, it’s was her watch again and she has done an awesome job, “ I have and idea”. “What’s that?” she responds. “How’s the water look west of Anegada and heading toward Virgin Gorda?” She pauses for a few minutes and comes back with “It’s all okay, why?” I explained the time crunch and the fatigue factor and before I could finish she jumped in with “Let’s go!” So we did. Three hours later we were again on a mooring ball at Saba Rock, the carnage was being sorted out and Captain Frank was heading down to bed. Yeah!
It was around 1400 and all was calm, except for the wind. As I came on deck plans (those damn plans) were being made for the afternoon and evening. Lisa and I leave tomorrow and the boat needs to be placed strategically for our early departure. Cooper Island was chosen and Manchioneel Bay is the mooring field of choice.
The Manchioneel tree is extremely poisonous and grows naturally in the Caribbean. Manchioneel Bay is named after this tree although the views of the island and down Sir Francis Drake Channel are not poisonous they are certainly intoxicating. This bay is very popular among cruisers because of the excellent protection from the trade winds, the views, and the fun beach bar. Unfortunately for us, it was too popular on that day and so the plan once again has proven itself useless. We jib reached down Sir Francis Drake Channel until we arrived at Peter Island and the beautiful anchorage of Great Harbor.
A valley between a hill to west and a mountain to the east funnel the wind into the harbor while it is quite protected from swells out of the east. It lies directly across from Road Town on Tortola and will serve us well for that nasty early morning departure. Nikki made awesome burgers for supper and Scott broke out the hand blender and Piña Coladas flowed for everyone. It would be difficult to imagine a better way to spend our last evening on the waters of the BVI. Bedtime came early for everyone as we all were still trying to catch up from the adventures of the night before. Good night to all.
Till we meet again I’ll be dreaming of you all On the Water…With Captain Frank