S/V Delilah

A Blog to track the wanderings of the S/V Delilah, a 37-foot Tayana sailboat.

Friday, April 28, 2006

St. Martin Bound

Quick update: We'll likely leave this afternoon for St. Martin--about 80 miles from here. We should arrive tomorrow morning. We might check in on the Dutch side, as there is supposed to be a NW swell. We'll keep you posted.

BTW: Where are all of our comments? Does nobody love us anymore?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Again with the pictures!

Devin at the wheel

The infamous William Thornton

Finally, Delilah has a bow wave.

One Last Beat to Windward

April 26, 2006
Marina Cay (see previous blog for lat. and long.)

We had a great visit with Bridget and Devin, who, like Greg, left with lighter bags, having indulged our requests for strange food items, and having hunted down still more parts for our elderly dinghy motor. Here's some advice to those of you who might be considering ever cruising in the Caribbean: do NOT buy a Nissan motor, and do get more horsepower than you think you need (yes, Ian, you told us so. I remember). (Dean here. Jill thinks we need a bigger motor. I'm happy with the 5 HP we have, and its good gas mileage).

The British Virgin Islands are grouped in a fairly small area, making it possible for a boat to sail among them without much trouble, depending on wind direction, and making it a popular place for sailors (I'm tempted to put that word in quotes) to rent charter boats for a week. It was downright crowded here for a while, but now that Easter vacation has passed, we have a little elbow room, and less access to our favorite afternoon activity--watching the people on charter boats attempt to anchor while traveling at full throttle.

We revisited a few of our favorite spots with Bridget and Devin, and we found a new one at Cane Garden Bay, which has a gorgeous, palm-lined beach. We also found out how to make a painkiller, a concoction allegedly invented at the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke. The bar got its name because it has no dock, so people are encouraged to swim from their boats. As we were anchored in a different bay, and as we were going to the bar after dark, we ignored convention and took the dinghy, threading our way blindly through the reef that lines the anchorage, and then attempting to land at the wrong tiki-torch-sporting restaurant and being driven away by an angry bride, who chased us down the beach, hands on her hips.

I am only exaggerating slightly in the previous sentence.

In any case, we made it in through a breaking reef, escaped the bride, and landed the dinghy in the surf without a scratch, and we all ordered painkillers to celebrate. Somehow they didn't seem to have the same kick as the ones we'd made on the boat the day before. So we ordered several, and came away with a new set of free Soggy Dollar commemorative cups for the boat. Bridget and Devin knew better than to ask if they could take a few back to Boston, even though they were buying.

Now that Bridget and Devin have returned, a little pinker and with sand between their toes, to the Frozen North (indulge me), we have to set ourselves to the serious business of traveling south. But not before Dean had one last crack at the Willy T., a rowdy bar on Norman's Island that should adopt as its motto, "it's always Spring Break at the Willy T." Yikes. We stayed there Monday night, and as we were pulling up the anchor on Tuesday morning, we heard via VHF radio from s/v Eira and m/v Dreamweaver, whom we haven't seen since the Bahamas. They were on their way to Norman's, and Dean was MORE than happy to stay one more day in order to see our friends and introduce them to our new favorite drink.

Today we are back in Marina Cay, hogging up all the free wi-fi at the bar. The last time we were here the weather was too rough for snorkeling on the reef that surrounds the Cay, but it's calm now, so we will try the reef tomorrow. After that we will start preparing for what we have been promised will be our very last leg to windward, and what will also be our longest sail for some time, an overnight sail to the southeast, across the Anegada Passage to St. Martin.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Special Guest Blog from the BVI's!

Sunday, 23 April 2006
Cane Garden Bay, Tortola
N 18 degrees 25.683 minutes
W 064 degrees 39.552 minutes

Ahoy from Bridget and Devin! We have spent the last five days as guests--or rather (as Dean would say) jewels resting on the cushion of hospitality--aboard Delilah. It's a tough life--swimming, sailing, visiting every bar on every shore in a five-mile radius, etc. One thing we've learned is that drinks mixed on the Delilah are better (read: stronger) than anything shoreside. We would highly recommend that everyone come visit, if you can swing it. It's like chartering a sailboat with crew in the Caribbean for the cost of a few bar tabs. Of course, this crew doesn't wear matching uniforms, but we have heard some "authentic" sailor-talk. If you're worried about close quarters aboard--don't be--there's plenty of space, and also plenty of chores you can help out with to participate in the running of the boat, which makes you feel like you're somehow earning your keep. Dean let's us haul up the anchor every time! And even better, Dean and Jill will stay up all hours of the night playing dominoes (now that we've taught them to play), singing sea ditties (our favorite is about PB&J), and telling stories about sailing that will get you planning your own cruise "some day".

One of the educational parts of the trip has been observing the unique cruising culture. Everybody seems to know everyone else. It's like this fun, exclusive club that we got to be part of for our week down here. Our pasty-white/bright red "tans" give us away as non-cruisers, but since we're with Delilah, we're accepted. That's an experience you can't buy from the charter companies!

It goes without saying, but we'll say it anyway, it's beautiful and sunny and relaxing every day here. You can snorkel off the boat and dive off the boom or just watch other people anchoring (a popular spectator sport). Blue waters, tropical paradise, this place has everything, and we're sure the islands in Delilah's future will hold similar charms. So book your trip already!!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

With an I

Wednesday 19 April, 2006
Road Town, Tortola, BVI
N 18 degrees 25.157 minutes
W 064 degrees 36.825 minutes

We anchored in Road Town, the biggest town in the BVIs yesterday, to reprovision and prepare the boat for our guests, Devin and Bridget, who will arrive on Tortola by ferry this afternoon. The town itself is not one of Tortola's best attractions, though there is some interesting West Indian architecture near the harbor. As we were walking toward the grocery store, however, we were shocked to see somebody we knew: Norm Martin!

No, Norm is not part of the clan of my distant relatives who never changed the spelling of his last name. He is, or was, our delivery captain back when we first bought Delilah and were attempting to sail her up the coast, almost exactly five years ago. Many of you will remember that we made it all of 50 miles before returning to shore and putting Delilah on a truck, sending her north across dry land. Neither she nor her crew were in any shape for offshore sailing back then.

Norm used to live in Charlestown, so we would see him from time to time, and we would feel duty-bound to report that we were still progressing toward our goal. Norm was always very nice about it, but I suspect that he did not believe for a moment that we would ever make it past the Harbor Islands. What a thrill it was to run into him down here, and when he asked how we got here, to say, "We sailed! Delilah is in the harbor, right next to the cruise ship."

To repeat a phrase of Dad's, "We've arrived, and to prove it we're here."

Sing a New Song...

Deadman Bay, Peter Island, BVI
N 18 degrees, 21.384 minutes
W 064 degrees, 34.290 minutes

Steel drum bands always remind me of my mother, for whom they bring great happiness. Nobody enjoys a steel drum band more than she does. But the band at the fancy resort off whose pristine, palm-lined, white sand beach we are anchored is, at this moment, also reminding me of my sister Rose, as they are doing a creditable version of an ABBA tune!

Rose has been on my mind all day today, as she had been training for the Boston Marathon. It's almost 8 PM, so it's safe to guess that she has finished the race by now and is deep into Bryce and Margot's Easter candy, which she probably didn't feel she could eat yesterday. I'm frustrated because I want to know how the day went: At what mile did everybody congregate to watch? Was it hot or cold in Boston today? Rainy or sunny? Did Rose have to walk or run backward at any point? Did she have an Uta Pippig moment, and did she carry it off with the same grace as Uta? Did she wear her name on her shirt for tailored encouragement (advice I forgot to give her)? Did my mother do the water handoff again near Heartbreak Hill, and did everybody "back off" for her?

We are not anywhere near a payphone, and this is the second time I've been out of town for a sibling's marathon debut, only this time I can't watch it on TV or follow along on the computer. And I had hoped to make a surprise call to Anita's yesterday in order to get a dose of extended-family-party chaos, but I wasn't able to get to the Internet to call over Skype. So I guess I am a little homesick today. I'll give you that. My consolation is that today was yet another day in paradise (go ahead and hate me; I know you want to).

The wind was pretty light today, so Dean and I plodded along under sail at about 2 knots from Virgin Gorda to Peter Island. We had stopped in Spanish Town again yesterday because we had heard the town was having a festival, but all we got out of the festival were heavy wakes left by the parade of speedboats approaching and leaving the town dock at 4 am. And when I write speedboat, I'm not talking about some piddling boat with a single outboard that might pull a waterskier or hit 30 knots on a plane. I mean dual 300s. If you know what that is, you are suitably impressed (and wondering what illicit border-crossing purpose these boats might serve). If you don't, just know it'll travel over water faster than most of you drive.

In any case, we did not have far to go to reach Deadman Bay. We anchored just after lunch, and then snorkeled over toward the reef at one end of the bay. The coral was not fabulous, but there were some interesting fish, and we also watched a sea turtle for about five minutes as he ate grass from the seabed, rose up for air, and then looked at us with one big eye as he settled back down near us. I was delighted to learn that he wasn't the only turtle in the bay. When we got back from snorkeling I sat in the cockpit all afternoon and watched turtles swimming around the boat. We are anchored in 27 feet of water, but the water is clear enough here that, from the surface, you can make out a turtle feeding on the bottom, then watch him make his way up toward you for air.

It was right in the middle of this idyllic afternoon that Dean reminded me that we have some serious cleaning to do before Bridget and Devin arrive on Wednesday. They, for instance, might not LIKE the smell of sulphur that has been emanating from the galley sink for weeks and getting worse every day. Dean had the pleasure of disconnecting the hoses, and I had the pleasure of cleaning the sludge from them. What in the world makes that stuff? Whatever it is, I hope the turtles like it.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

More BVIs

Friday, April 15
Prickly Pear Island, BVI
N 18 degrees, 30.176 minutes
W 064 degrees, 21.948 minutes

We have been island hopping in the BVIs for the past week, searching for snorkeling that compares to what we had in the Exumas, and spending too many afternoons in bars.

After a long, upwind sail and then diving in the Baths on Monday, we spent Tuesday morning doing laundry and taking advantage of free wi-fi near Colison Point in Virgin Gorda. In the afternoon we invited ourselves aboard the boat of a neighbor who hails from Dublin. He left Ireland on his 52-foot Oyster ten years ago as part of an around-the-world rally, but he liked it so much when he got here he stopped. So much for the rest of the world.

On the galley countertop I spied a proper teapot and a box of Barry's tea, and I made some broad hints about how much I miss the Irish tea. He didn't bite, and we came away without any teabags.

Wednesday we sailed across to Beef Island, just five miles from Virgin Gorda, to claim a spot in Trellis Bay before Thursday night's full moon party on the beach. But as far as we were concerned, we had arrived too late. The harbor is always packed with moorings--which cost money and are therefore off limits--and loads of boats had already tucked themselves into every free space. Still more intrepid souls came later, taking their chances about swinging into other boats.

But we, after a stressful half hour of weaving through the mooring field, opted to anchor a mile away, off Marina Cay. We got the anchor down just before the skies opened for a ten-minute downpour, and then the sun came out again.

Marina Cay is a pretty little island with a restaurant, gift shop, fuel dock, small beach, smaller hotel, and MORE free wi-fi at the bar. From the island we could take a free ferry to Trellis Bay, but we didn't need to after John from Savvy fixed our errant outboard yet again, jerry-rigging our fuel pump membrane a second time until we can get the proper replacement parts. John, who designs and builds the custom motorcycle parts that you see on those Learning Channel chopper-building shows, could rival Dad with his ability to diagnose a problem and fashion a part out of thin air. We've been very lucky to be sailing with him since the Bahamas, but he has headed down to Antigua now to race with Amanzi in the Classic Yacht Regatta, and from there he will sail straight north back to Bermuda and then Canada.

We did enjoy the full moon party in Trellis Bay, and we even sprang for the beachside barbecue before the band started up and the festivities began. Trellis Bay is known (or markets itself) as an artists' community, and a local artist named Aragorn has taken a couple of enormous steel balls and carved intricate patterns in them. The balls are then loaded with firewood, placed on the water, and lit up after dark.

The party went on quite late, and when we left at eleven, the family-oriented entertainment had not yet ended. I could still hear the band across the water at two am.

We did make our first major souvenir purchase at Aragorn's studios. We both loved his work with copper, but when I found out the price of one of his amazing copper wall hangings, a pelican taking a nosedive, which looks a lot cooler than it sounds, we started to look at his prints. We had to take a little walk to discuss the whole thing: "we will have walls someday, won't we..." and then we went back and bought an unframed, signed print titled "bonitos" that will, someday, look fabulous next to the octopus print that Dean bought me last Christmas.

Rain showers gave us an excuse to sleep in on Friday, after which we mosied up to the northern end of Virgin Gorda. We are anchored in a bay that is protected on all sides by steep hills. The water is fairly deep right up to the beach, so we have had to anchor pretty close to Prickly Pear Island to avoid putting out tons of chain. The putting out of chain is, of course, not the problem. The problem starts when Dean has to haul it all back up by hand.

This bay is a perfect place for water sports, which is why Bitter End Yacht Club is such an enterprise. For a price you can rent or take lessons on sailing dinghies, Hobie cats, sailboards, kayaks, and so on. The grounds are gorgeous, baby nurse sharks pace in a holding pen, free movies are offered twice nightly, and commemorative clothing costs about double what you would expect.

Bitter End is also the home of Yacht Shots, a company that specializes in photographing sailboats on the move. I have to say, the pictures we have seen are fantastic. And their form of advertising is brilliant. Much like the guys with the cameras at the top of the ski lift, these photographers come out to you. On Tuesday, as we were zipping along close-hauled in nearly twenty knots of wind, I spotted a man and his dog in an inflatable dinghy way out in the middle of Drake's Passage. We were really shocked to see him there, and even more surprised when he came bombing straight for our boat, camera in hand, standing up, shooting film with one hand, and steering with the other into steep chop. The chocolate lab just leaned out of the bow casually, as if to say, "Yeah, we do this every day." The man took a few photos, rounded up to the front of our boat, took a few more photos, and then, knowing he had our attention, gave us a cheer and then turned his dinghy around so we could see the large lettering along the side: yachtshotsbvi.com. You can see pictures of Delilah (and order them!) here. Unfortunately, he caught us as we were debating whether or not we needed to put a second reef in the main or the jib, so we were luffing the jib a bit and the lines were all ahoo. I'd prefer not to have that on film. And, of course, we would never pay for those photographs. But the million other charter people in the BVIs who have fancy jobs and vacation-type budgets and have this one week of Caribbean sailing to savor for the rest of the year would most definitely spend the cash.

One of the best parts of Virgin Gorda is that, in some anchorages, there are schools of fish called blue tangs, and they seem to enjoy eating the growth off our hull. Ever since Delilah spent ten days in the filthy harbor in Luperon, DR, her hull has been covered in hard white worm casings. They come off with a little elbow grease, but since the scraping takes place underwater, all the way down to our keel, we only get a few seconds to scrape before we need to come up for air. What a joy it is to peek beneath the water and discover a school of gorgeous blue fish munching away at the crust!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Past Few Days

Tuesday, April 11
Point Colison, Virgin Gorda

We spent four days in Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke. It really is incredible. The harbor empties each morning and fills each evening with charter boats. Of course, as each charter boat has only a week, and as they are on vacation, they tend to party fairly hard. There's a little bar on the beach with a big reputation--Foxy's. It's an open air bar, sometimes with a reggae band doing such reggae hits as "Oh What A Night". You know... "Oh what a night. Late December back in '63". Priceless. Beer was drunk, laughs were had, Jill danced (but only did a little air guitar) to AC/DC, etc.

Last Saturday, we went with David from Amanzi on John's boat, Savvy, and sailed over to a small island--Sandy Cay. We snorkeled for a while, then went to Soper's Hole, Tortola, to pick Kim (from Amanzi) up. She had been visiting family in Florida. I had been planning for some time to stock up on good tea while in the BVIs, but the fancy-pants store at Soper's Hole Marina had the same old boring tea. Where, oh where, will I find good tea? Jill did pick up a bag of chocolate, which helped somewhat.

On Sunday, we sailed to The Bight on Norman Island. The harbor is absolutely jammed with moorings. We resorted to anchoring in the mouth of the harbor in 25 feet of water. On the plus side, we rowed from our boat to snorkel in a series of caves. Stunning. Fish everywhere. They even ate the growth of the bottom of our dinghy! In the afternoon, we went in to Willy T's, a boat that had been converted to a restaurant and bar. Wild things happened there. As this is a family blog, anyone wanting more details should contact us via email. In the evening, we repaired aboard Savvy for pizza.

Yesterday, we sailed, upwind, to The Baths, on Virgin Gorda. The Baths are a series of enormous boulders around which coral reefs have formed. Certain places are virtual wall dives, with rock and coral plunging down 20 or 30 feet. Once again, amazing fish are all around. In the afternoon, we motored to our current location. It took me an hour or so to set the hook, as the bottom is very rocky and has hard packed sand. I finally had to attach our Bruce anchor to our CQR. That's something like 80 pounds of anchor, in addition to the chain. I am not looking forward to pulling it up.


Wednesday, April 5
Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

This morning, I walked into a store in Cruz Bay, St. John, and the woman behind the counter mistook me for a resident. "You have such a great tan," she explained after I told her we had been there just a day.

Now, hold on a minute. Before you begin reminding me that this is no longer the '80s, that skin cancer is a direct result of too much sun, not to mention wrinkles and freckles, just give me a minute to enjoy the compliment--the first time in 35 years that anyone has EVER told me I was too tan to be from New England. Normally around this time of year, people mistake me for an invalid, not a resident of a Caribbean Island. "You look pale," they say, "are you feeling okay?" Of course pale isn't the half of it. Almost blue is more accurate.

But this winter I am a bronze goddess. Not by Boston standards, but by Caribbean saleslady standards. It's quite a feat for an Irish girl.

I wasn't quick to rush out of the store, as the compliments were coming fast and thick. The saleswoman was suitably impressed by how far we had traveled, what adversities we had overcome, our careless attitudes toward employment, our adventurous spirits, and so on.

The glow lasted until we hit the immigration office in Jost Van Dyke this afternoon. Inside the office along one wall, they had hung a framed map of the world. We took a look, gauging our progress.

"And we thought we had come so far," Dean lamented. Looking at the Atlantic coast map on Delilah, I was always so pleased by the distance we had traveled, but in the grand scheme of things, taking in the whole world at one glance, we are still just inches from home.

So much for the tan.

Monday, April 03, 2006

More Pictures

Here are the lobsters David and I caught, long, long ago. They are much bigger than they appear in this picture. This is Sun Beach, Vieques. Here is a picture of Marc lifting Lea to pick
coconuts. Simon looks on.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Latest Plan

En route to Spanish Virgins
N 17 degrees, 59.2 minutes
W 065 degrees, 50.4 minutes

It has become clear to me lately that we have managed to confuse everybody regarding our plans for the next year or so. Part of the reason for our silence is that we were not so sure ourselves how things would go along the Thorny Path. We have changed plans so many times along the way, we wanted to be certain that this one would take. And now that we are nearing the end of the difficult part of our journey, having burned a lot of diesel but avoided beating ourselves up along the way, and having managed so far to stay within our meager budget, I think we can release the latest version of our tentative plans.

This afternoon we will arrive on the south coast of Vieques, PR, erstwhile bombing range for the U.S. Navy and a diving paradise that lies between the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. From here we will continue to sail east and south, stopping whenever we want in the Virgin Islands, Leeward Islands, and Windward Islands, until we get to Trinidad, where we will anchor until hurricane seasone ends in November. Why Trinidad? It is, allegedly, outside the hurricane zone.

After that we will do this whole trip again in reverse. And we hope that all those winds that we reported "on the nose" will be pushing us from behind, on a glorious reach back up to Florida, and so on. We think we will be home in Boston just before the kitty runs dry in June of 2007.

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Sunday, April 2
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.
N 18 degrees, 20.14 minutes
W 064 degrees, 55.76 minutes

We have just put the anchor down in St. Thomas, but first we need to write about our anchorage yesterday in Salina del Sur, Vieques. That spot was just a two-hour sail from Sun Bay, so we got up early in order to have a whole day there.

Salina del Sur is on the easternmost edge of Vieques, in a section that was, until recently, part of an active bombing range for the U.S. Navy. And though there is no more "practicing" going on there, the evidence remains. The hill above our boat was still charred, and a dozen or more burned-out tanks sat rusting along the ridge. Civilians are still not allowed onshore, but we could snorkel, and in the bay we found lots of shells--the manmade kind--as well as mortars, bullet casings, and all sorts of hunks of metal that would delight Rory and Bryce...and probably Dad.

We also found a bunch of conch, which we turned into conch salad and shared with s/v Amanzi and s/v La Galipote over drinks for happy hour. Roxanne and Mark of La Galipote are native French speakers from Quebec, and I have been attempting to practice my French with them and other Quebecoise sailors. To my dismay, however, their two kids, who spoke almost no English when we met in the Exumas, have picked up English far faster than I have been able to resurrect my French.

All of us were planning to leave early this morning from Vieques to arrive in St. Thomas, 25 miles distant, before the afternoon trades built. We ended happy hour by 8 for an early night, but before I could get to sleep, it started raining.

When I went outside to get towels I had hung to dry on our lifelines, I was surprised to see pinpoints of light in the water all around our boat. The bay, being surrounded by undeveloped land on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other, is quite dark. With clounds covering the moon and stars, it's as black as pitch, but the raindrops hitting the water were disturbing the phytoplankton in the water, and each drop created a burst of light on the surface. Looking deeper, we could see bigger bursts of light shaped like the fish that were swimming near the boat.

Inside again, we were just about to drop off to sleep when a big gust of wind came along, perhaps 50 knots, catching the boat on the beam and tipping her sideways. Everything that had been on our table and countertop crashed to the floor, including the fancy mugs that Mark had been admiring hours before, wondering how we had kept them on the boat for so long with nary a chip. Now they are shards.

On the heels of this gust of wind came drenching rain, so heavy it left four inches of rain in the dinghy this morning. Dean and I ran outside once again to check the anchor rode and to secure all the items we had left strewn about the deck when we went to bed. The mainsail needed extra sail ties, the dinghy needed a second line to the boat, and our snorkel gear was in danger of blowing overboard. By the time we were done, we were soaked through.

We arrived in St. Thomas a little before 1 PM. Who knows how long we'll stay.

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Sun Bay

Friday, 31 March 2006
Sun Bay, Vieques, PR
N 18 degrees 05.511 minutes
W 065 degrees 27.373 minutes

Just this moment got in to Sun Bay, from Punta Patillas, Puerto Rico. Once again, we had to motorsail. This time, at least, we had both sails up and moved fairly fast, hitting 6.5 knots at times. The fish might be starting to bite for us again--two barracuda and a small jack. The second barracuda managed to take Greg's spoon with it. Drat!

Just around the corner from us is Mosquito Bay, rumored to be strongly phosphorescent. It's too shallow for Delilah, but Jill is urging a nighttime dinghy expedition. The bay is also part of a state park, and camping on the beach is allowed. Vieques is a neat little island, and is accesible by ferry from mainland PR. I'm thinking this might be a good place for future Campin' Cousins (or is it Kampin' Kousins).

We are anchored off a mile-long, palm-lined beach, and the water feels about as warm as the air. We have been spoiled, however, by the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas, and we have not bothered to snorkel much on the reef here, as heavy vegetation cuts down visibility to 30 feet. Of course that is about 29 feet further than one could see in New England, but that was so long ago...

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