May 26th 2013
Position 18° 29.839’ N
64° 21.603’ W
St. John, USVI and the British Virgin Islands.
View Larger Map
On May 14th we crossed the few miles from Christmas Cove St. Thomas to Cruz Bay St. John. We continued to cruise around the spectacular coast of St. John until we came to Maho Bay. There were plenty of mooring balls available and the weather was settled so this was the spot we decided to spend some time. St. John is very unspoiled and is predominantly a national park. It really is beautiful
the water was crystal clear and where we were moored the depth was 10’ which is shallow for the Virgins; these islands rise straight up from the depths and it is not uncommon to be anchored or moored in 40’ to 60’ of water. We could see the bottom and we swam from the back of the boat. We were only accompanied by one other boat as the photo indicates and really felt isolated and privileged. We spent an idyllic day on the beach swimming and walk, in fact walking the length of the beach with a small lemon shark that was swimming along with us the whole way only 6 – 10 feet away. Our night was calm and peaceful. In the morning, however, when I started the generator to replenish our batteries the inverter/charged quickly showed an overheat warning light! After a quick diagnosis we sadly had to make the decision to leave Maho and seek help from a marine electrician so we sailed from St. John to Soper’s Hole in Tortola, BVI which was the nearest civilization on our continuing route.
Our short trip was uneventful and we were safely tied up in the marina by 10:00. The first thing we had to do is check in with customs and immigration which was on the opposite side of the bay from Frenchmans Cay in West End. Butch, our very helpful dock boy, took me across in the marinas dinghy. The check-in procedure was easy and cost $22.50 which included a one year BVI cruising permit. I could have checked us out at the same time for a small extra cost if I had known when we would be leaving but could not due to us needing the repair, I had no idea how long it would take. Butch picked me up from the Customs and Immigration dock and took me back to Soper’s Hole Marina where I checked in to the marina office to complete their formalities. By this time it was lunch time so we sat on our back deck surveying the area and enjoying the activity. Butch told us that the marina had a general technician who could look at our problem later in the day, as it turned out he was held up with another job and couldn’t make it. I re thought the situation and called around; it appeared the company to employ was Cay Electronics (pronounced Key) who were in Road Town, the capital of Tortola. I spoke to Butch and thanked him for the help he had offered with their technician; he endorsed the credentials of ‘Cay’. The problem was when they could come! Peter, the gentleman I talked to, could not schedule the inverter guy until Friday 17th May, so here we were stuck in this great place for at least two days.
Soper’s Hole is a complex and contains a great grocery store, various boutiques’ and several restaurants. There is also a full service boatyard with travel lift. At night the place was just plain picturesque; the centre piece of the marina is ‘Pussers’, famous in the BVI’s for their stores and, of course, their rum! Nearly every day a new super yacht would stop in at the marina; their outer dock, right next to us, could accommodate up to at least 161’ as that was the length of ‘Te Manu’, a beautiful Codecasa built yacht. The approach channel is deep and it is very easy for these large yachts to come in and leave, not to mention that the grocery store is at the head of the walkway from the docks to the marina, no more than 100 ft away which makes provisioning easy and quick. I think also that they pick up and disembark charter guests here too. The most memorable part of her visit was her underwater lights which attracted many fish, mainly tarpon and small sharks. ‘Te Manu’ stayed two days and over the next three consecutive days there was a different super yacht in the outside slip next to us!
During the two days waiting for Friday to come and the technician to fix our inverter/ charger was difficult as the only way we could keep our batteries charged was to run our main engine ‘Stonewall Jackson’. After two days of running 12 hours per day an old problem reared its ugly head, air in our fuel system! Yes, ‘Stonewall Jackson’ quit, he just died! I had a feeling that the small ‘O’ rings that seal the main engine mounted fuel filters was the problem. The last time I had changed them the ‘O’ ring, on one of the two filters, looked a little warn but the Fram filters that I stock have all the replacement gaskets in the box with the exception of the main bolt ‘O’ ring. I ordered a dozen of them from American Marine, the Lehman dealer, which had been sent to our mail service in Florida, but because of the uncertainty of how long we would be spending in any port, have not been scheduled for a delivery to us at this point. We were expecting to ‘order’ our mail when we arrived in Sint Maarten as we knew we would be there a week. Now, because of our problem, we will have to cut that stay short to keep us on track to be in Trinidad by July 1st so I don’t know when we will get a mail drop, perhaps Trinidad! We can ‘see’ our mail on line though as our service St. Brendan’s Isle in Green Cove Springs, FL will scan it which enables us to read it and decide whether we need it sent, shredded or just downloaded in the form of a PDF file, pretty cool actually.
Friday 17th Compton, inverter guy, from Cay Electronics arrived on time, something unusual in the Islands, we have found, and immediately went to work. HT and I had already removed the floorboards in the salon to provide access to the engine room so we were ready! Quickly Compton diagnosed that the inverter needed a new fan and a new circuit board. In two hours we were all set and everything was working as it should. We celebrated with an early ‘Happy Hour’!
Saturday 18th Back to the air in the fuel and ‘O’ ring problem, HT and I decided to go to Road Town and specifically a store there called ‘Parts and Power’. Apparently this store has everything for boats; we walked round from Frenchmans Cay to West End, about a mile or so, where we knew we could get a taxi, a bus or a ferry which would get us to Road Town, well, the buses don’t run on weekends we found out, and the ferry goes to Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas where we would then have to catch another one back to Road Town so that was out as it could take all day. The only other option was a taxi. We saw a taxi bus that had a couple of available seats so asked if we could join the crowd. The fare is a little less if there are other passengers on board so instead of having to pay the published fare of $27 we paid $24. Once in Road Town and after a visit to an ATM to be able to pay the cab driver, we had to find ‘Parts and Power’. It turned out we needed a bus, they do run in town at the weekends, as ‘Parts and Power’ was at the far eastern end of town, some two more miles. We arrived and Tony who was the store manager could not have been more helpful and in no time we had the ‘O’ ring and compression washers we needed. Tony showed us around the store and his stock rooms, I don’t think that I have been more impressed the shelves and storage racks went on forever. Apparently the store is one of the main suppliers throughout the Caribbean.
We have visited Road Town before having stopped here while on an Oceania cruise aboard ‘Regatta’ our favourite ship. We hopped on board another taxi back into town and began a walk around. Very soon we started to recognise places and areas that we had visited before. A small cafe we passed which we had stopped at on our last visit had a chalkboard menu outside advertising a curried chicken sandwich, I love them, so in we went, and lunch was great. The cafe sold reproductions of old maps and charts and last time we had bought some. One is on the bulkhead in our guest/den/office cabin. We walked to the waterfront and found a taxi stand, singled out a driver and negotiated a fare for the return to Soper’s Hole, off we went. You can see that being a cruiser is time consuming and the convenience of a car being parked outside and always being available and taken for granted, I might add, is quickly forgotten. A trip to a grocery store in some places is an all day affair. Our journey into Road Town was only 7 miles, admittedly the road was windy and bumpy, but would have taken only 20 minutes in one’s own car and the whole outing probably would be over in a couple of hours. What with the waiting for taxi’s buses and the walking in between our trip took 6 hours! We have adjusted and find that this pace is just fine; we do ‘smell the roses’ and the walking, there’s lots of it, is good for us. We see much more and it amazes us what one misses while driving, both in the rural areas as well as in town.
|Marina Cay - notice the UK style red phone box!|
I quickly reassembled the engine filters and we set sail from Soper’ Hole on Sunday 19th. I had planned a cruise around the north coast of Tortola so we could see all the super bays and sights. We passed by Trellis Bay, Marina Cay and Scrub Island, again I must say that the cruising around these spectacular islands provides scenery and jaw dropping views continuously. Travelling at 6 knots all the time means that we don’t have to pay attention to driving all the time we can walk out to the bow or aft deck to absorb the sights, snap some pictures and generally be aghast at where we are and what we are seeing. The boat was performing perfectly by the way! Soon we were clear of Scrub Island and on our way to the ‘Dogs’, literally! There are seven islands, the three Seal Dogs, West Dog, George Dog and Great Dog and also don’t let us forget Cockroach Island, they are in St. Francis Drake Channel and are mid way from Tortola to Virgin Gorda. We cruised straight through the middle of the island cluster and continued on toward Necker Island in the distance, owned by Sir Richard Branson, towards the entrance to North Sound, Virgin Gorda. The whole cruise from Soper’s Hole to Bitter End Yacht Club in North Sound is approximately 25 nm. The close proximity of all the islands and bays is what make the Virgins such a popular and perfect cruising area. Yes, there are a lot of boats and many are charters; cruising is a little different when you are mixed in with charters as, with no disrespect, they are on vacation and are not on the same ‘mission’ as we are. Cruisers are a breed and want to make friends and expect to mingle and congregate with other cruisers, we feel lonely here as we are ‘late’. What I mean is that most other cruisers are now way south of us on their way to Grenada or Trinidad for the hurricane season; we have some catching up to do; there is still time but we will need good weather windows and no more mechanical problems! Don’t get me wrong the charter companies do a great job of providing the opportunity for so many ‘wannabe’ cruisers to get their feet wet. We have talked to so many cruisers who have at some point ‘tried it out’ with a charter. We just miss the crowd and in particular ‘Ann Louise’ with our friends Bill & Ann on board. They will be in Dominica today some 250 nm miles ahead of use. In reality that distance is no more than 48 hours cruising. I am jumping the gun a little here so let me catch up: We stayed on a mooring ball at Bitter End Yacht Club waiting for a weather window to cross to St. Martin for about a week. Bitter End and Saba Rock are the two most popular and comprehensive destinations in North Sound the others are YCCS (Yacht Club Costa Smeralda) the very grand super yacht marina which is just magnificent and Leverick Bay. There is no doubt that this is a great spot to be waiting for a weather window! We have lots to do to pass the time, there are movies, bars, restaurants and hiking trails, photo opportunities and constant movement of boats in and out; just sitting on our aft deck gazing is interesting! Chris Parker our weather guru was sadly forecasting that the recent streak of high winds and sea would continue with no end in sight. He explained that any vessels wanting to move and head east and south would have to pick the best day out of a bunch of bad ones. Well, we picked yesterday the 25th May. A good day or at least it started that way, we had checked out from the BVI’s the previous day at the Customs and Immigration office in Gun Creek, VG we were all set to cross the Anagada Passage with 8’ seas and a 6’ wind chop on top! Remember this is the best day for the foreseeable future, ugh! Off we went, we didn’t get more than 3 nm and ‘Stonewall Jackson’ quit! Oh no, not again the air in the fuel problem returned. I managed to bleed the system enough, several times, to enable us to limp back to the mooring field at BEYC. In the process of bleeding the engine filters so often I also managed to strip the filter housing threads for one of the bleed screws! HT and I lowered our dinghy again and set off towards the registration at BEYC. We made a phone call to our parts supplier American Diesel in Virginia, US but they were closed, it was Saturday, and as it is Memorial Day on Monday will not re-open until Tuesday so we are here for at least another 7 – 10 days I figure as it will take a week to ship in some parts. Problems always seem to come at weekends!
Having an engine that is unreliable is consuming, preoccupying and a nagging thought in one’s mind that won’t go away. It is not fun going to sea wondering if the engine will remain running or not...depressed about our lot HT was doing her best to lift my spirits and reminded me of the beauty of our local and that in spite of the engine problems we were fortunate people...she succeeded ‘snapping me out of it’ and did manage to lift my spirits; we pledged to each other that we would enjoy our extended stay in North Sound. One big event that takes place here every year is the annual Leverick Bay Poker Run, an event which is big with 180 boats participating. Early on Sunday morning we boarded the dinghy and set off for Leverick Bay and the festivities. Here are some pictures of the event...lots of fun!
We will be remaining in North Sound to repair our fuel delivery system and do some extensive sea trials before setting off once more to head down the island chain towards our destination of Crews Inn, Chaguaramas, and Trinidad.
There are a couple of lighter subjects to share, Lavinia loves to walk, me not so much but we are 'Partners' right? One day we walked, mostly uphill or so it seemed, as we were walking we passed a tree with very long seed pods that, to me anyway, looked like tongue...a photo op was born.
The other is that my last haircut, not that I have much on top, was back in January before we left Sarasota. For some reason a chance to visit a barber just didn't present itself then I became superstitious about cutting it thinking it might be bad luck, in other words I kept finding excuses not to cut my hair. Eventually we decided that HT could do it and I didn't much care if the result was not 'Vidal Sassoon' like. Soooo, the day arrived see the before and after pictures below! Not bad don't you think?
Here are some more bonus pictures that we took along the way...
|Bitter End Yacht Club|
|Approaching Necker Island|
|Our anchorage view North Sound, VG|
|The view from our slip at BEYC|
This will be the last entry for the Virgins my next entry will be from somewhere south of here, I hope! I just don’t know where yet!