Frank and Lisa’s Excellent BVI Adventure Pt 5 of 6

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Frank and Lisa's Excellent BVI Adventure
Hey gang,
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

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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

Frank and Lisa’s Excellent BVI Adventure Pt 6 of 6

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Frank and Lisa's Excellent BVI Adventure

It’s 0530. It’s the last day of our excellent adventure with the Chews. This is the final chapter of this story.

The breeze is funneling through the valley located at the head of the bay, Great Harbor, that we have spent our final night moored in. Everyone else is still in bed and I am getting my usual early morning alone time.

This is my time, it is a chance for me to reflect on the events of yesterday and the course of my life that has lead me to this beautiful setting. It is a time for me to get my thoughts together regarding my plans for today. And now, as it has been for the recent past, it is my time to put to paper my thoughts for On the Water…With Captain Frank. In short, I love this time.

It seems that no matter how long or short a journey is I always smell the barn during the last part of the trip. It makes no difference whether the trip is an evening sunset or 1,000-mile passage. Today is no different. Todays plan includes dropping the mooring at 0730 for the one hour motor across the famous Sir Francis Drake Channel to the port of entry and in this case departure of Road Town. Then a short walk to the international ferry terminal where we will catch our high speed ferry back to Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas to check back into the US. Next step, a taxi ride from that ferry/customs terminal to the airport, several long lines for check in and security, and finally the three to four hour plane ride back to Charlotte, North Carolina.

We have dropped our mooring right on time and Ed, Scott’s dad, is at the helm pointing Nimble at our destination. Indy, Scott’s son is in the galley doing the dishes from breakfast. While you can tell this is not his favorite chore on board he is doing a good job pleasantly because he knows that is what good crew do. As Nimble clears the headland of Great Harbor Scott and Nikki are on deck readying dock lines that will be employed once we arrive in Road Town. Nimble is starting to rock in the now present swell rolling down the channel. CRASH!! The dish strainer (you know that plastic basket that you rest the dishes you just washed in to dry) has just attempted to become a bird and fly. It has failed and now lies on the sole of the galley with a large pile of broken plates and bowls, but at least they are clean.

I suggest to Ed that he turn to starboard about 30 degrees so that Nimble’s razor sharp bows can cut through the swells, affording us a better ride, rather than her riding beam to the swell. He thinks that’s a swell idea (get it?) and as he does he sees the Cruise ship. The ship has entered the Channel about 3 miles to the east and its destination is clear to me. He’s going to the same place we are and we are both on a schedule. Ed maintains his course and is not rattled. He has also increased the throttles a little. He recognizes that the ship is moving much faster than we are and that although it has a much further distance to travel we will encounter our destination at about the same time. With the galley mess cleaned up and the dock line prep complete Ed turns the boat directly for Road Town and keeps a close eye on the ship. Fifteen minutes later it is clear that we will arrive at the harbor just ahead of the gigantic party barge but there is a new situation building. On our port side there is a small island freighter, maybe 125-150 feet long that is steaming to round the same green navigation aid we are. Ed nervously watches the freighter now as it closes on us from port and behind. I ask Ed what the deal with that boat is and he immediately states that we are the boat to starboard and he is overtaking us so on all accounts we are the stand on vessel. Awesome, apparently he has been paying attention to what I’ve taught him over the last couple of years. He continues to monitor the situation and finally with some relief in his voice announces that she, the freighter, has shown her colors, will pass behind us, and follow us in. Yeah for the freighter captain and yeah for Ed.

Upon entry to the harbor Scott calls directional commands to Ed as Nikki confirms the location of the small marina where Ed will maneuver Nimble to our temporary slip down a narrow fairway. This is where Lisa and I will depart and the Chew crew will do a little provisioning and take on water. As Ed approaches the slip I stand by his side giving him guidance on engine controls so we will make a perfect landing (Damn I’m good).

Lisa and I say our goodbyes and as we walk down the dock, baggage in tow, we take one final look back at the powerful boat that was our home and the powerful family that are rapidly becoming experienced sailors. Thank you Chews you will be fine, just remember to plan conservatively and always look for what’s wrong. Oh yeah, always get the boat ready for the night before the night arrives.

Lisa and I have only got a vague idea where the ferry terminal is in Road Town and we have schedule to keep. As we are walking down the dock I spot a fellow about 50 yards ahead of us and call out to him. “My friend, can you point us in the direction of the ferry terminal?” His response, “Which one?” I was not expecting that and replied, “We’re going back to St Thomas.” He said, “To bad for you, but I’m going right past it so how bout I give you a lift?” I eagerly exclaim, “Awesome, that would be great.” So, we throw our bags into the back of his disheveled van and climb in. He explains that he is not a taxi, but rather a landscaper, and asks us to forgive the condition of his van.

His van is like so many of the vehicles that I have seen in the islands. A generous description of it might be, a little worn. The seats are tattered and half the dashboard is dismantled or missing (I’m not quite sure which). His ignition is hanging down and he has installed the latest technology to start his chariot, a screwdriver.

That aside, it springs right to life on his command and he starts to back out of the parking lot. It does not seem to bother him that the hole that leads to the street is seven feet wide and his van is six feet elven inches. He asks me to pull in my mirror and as I do he guns the van backwards and through he gap without a scratch. I have never driven in Tortola and don’t think that I want to start anytime soon.

One thing that I found interesting was the lack of scooters around. It struck me as odd. When in the Bahamas you see scooters everywhere. They are like mosquitos weaving in and out of traffic haphazardly carrying their owners to and fro. I queried our new friend, the landscaper turned taxi driver, about this and he said that the police have worked hard at picking them up and sweeping them off the streets. It seems that the haphazard maneuvering is just what the government doesn’t want and that they, the scooter operators, cause, just as they do here in Florida, many accidents and injuries. Like the wave runners on the water, it is the operators that have ruined it for themselves.

Ten minutes later he pulls into the terminal and hops out to assist us with our bags. I slip him ten dollars and we thank him for his generous offering of time and effort.

We step up to the counter in preparation for our return ferry ride we show the clerk our round-trip ferry ticket, pay our exit tax, take three steps to the customs departure station, and officially check out of the BVI. We’re first in line and the procedure was a non-event. A short time later we find ourselves back on the high speed Road Town Ferry aboard the Provincetown III. We learned on our arrival trip that we definitely wanted to be at the head of the line when the boat docks at the other end. We plan that strategy now as the boat leaves Road Town.

There are several different ferry companies that run between the islands, both within each respective country as well as internationally (USVI to BVI). This trip is my first experience on the Road Town High Speed Ferry. It is very nice. The boat is roomy and clean and the staff is very friendly. The boat is a large steel catamaran and her size and weight make the 12-15 knot ride smooth. There is an upper observation deck as well as an enclosed air-conditioned lower deck. Weather permitting, riders are welcome to leave the conditioned space on the lower deck and find their way to the bow area where they can enjoy the breeze and relax while sitting on the built-in seats. The snack bar serves snack bar food, cold drinks, and beer! The rest rooms are clean and spacious. I love this ride and I love this boat. In my mind I toy with the idea of running her for a living and decide that there would be worst things to do in life.

Our exit strategy works great and we are the first US citizens in line for the customs scrutiny. Through we go and bingo we are back in the USA. Now we have some time before we have to be at the airport for the final paragraph of our final chapter. I said to Lisa that I knew a nice restaurant that we could walk to for some much needed lunch and she readily agreed that we should go.

the green house

The Greenhouse sits on the main waterfront street about a half-mile from the ferry terminal. It has a fun party atmosphere with garage door type windows that open fully allowing for an outdoor feel anytime the weather is nice.   Today the weather is awesome and so we sit at a table right in the middle of one of the openings.

Lunch was comprised of sandwiches and fries with Painkillers to wash it all down. There were three cruise ships at dock with the one that chased us in sitting on anchor waiting for its turn. The streets were bustling and we had front row seats to watch it all unfold. With lunch finished there was nothing left for us to put in front of the inevitable.

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It was time for us to leave and with a bit of sadness in our hearts we stepped back out into the brightness and hailed a taxi to the airport. Airports are airports and with the exception of one time at Key West airport there is nothing to look forward to when having to deal with them. This trip was no different and about the best thing I can say was that it was a non-event.

In just a short time we were aboard the 767 and blasting through the sky leaving the sights we had seen and the experiences we enjoyed to our mind’s eye to store for our future use as memories. What memories they will be!

For those that have not ever been to the BVI it really must be on your bucket list. The scenery is magnificent, the sailing superb, the people are welcoming, the Painkillers exceptional. It is a “MUST DO” for sailors of all skill levels.

Thanks are due. Thank you Chew family for your invitation to share your dream.

Thank you Catana Yachts for building such an excellent platform.

Thank you to Sailing Florida Yacht Charters for allowing me a flexible schedule so I can take trips like this.

Super important is thank you to my lovely bride Lisa, without her continued support and sacrifice I might have to work a regular job and my passion would only be a passion and not my life.

But, the biggest thanks goes to you folks, the readers, thanks to you for reading my words each day. It’s one thing to write your thoughts and ideas down, it’s quite another to have those thoughts possibly make a difference in someone else’s life. Thank you for reading and thank you for sailing.

Once again we depart company but only till tomorrow when once again you will see me On the Water…With Captain Frank