Thursday, March 19, 2015

SeaClearly Guests!

The prospect of being a guest on a cruiser's sailboat for a week must be intimidating. Especially if you have never done it before. And, especially if it is your parents/in-laws. You may already think that these parents/sailboat people are half crazy anyway and now you have agreed to fly thousands of miles to be crammed into a boat with them for days. No escape.

From the cruiser's perspective, we were a little nervous too. We might actually be a little crazy. We have been traveling for 6 months with just the 2 of us aboard. We have had guests for drinks, dinner and even a day sail. Never for an overnight stay. Our habits are rigidly fixed and, perhaps, a bit quirky. Some of that is a result of the cruising thing - water conservation, electricity awareness. Some of it is safety and logistics - standard procedures yield standard results. Always putting stuff away in the same place, in the same way, means it is right there next time you need it.

Also, we have been slowly conditioned to the sailing life. Waves and seas that used to scare the bejesus out of us are now classified as 'a nice day on the ocean'. Loading up critical electronics into dry bags to ride in a dinghy and splashing through the waves - sometimes for over a mile, sometimes in the dark - is fairly normal. Arriving at a restaurant soaking wet and windblown is typical. None of these situations are remotely equivalent to a regular land life.

Fortunately, our daughter Emily and son-in-law Tyler, as a nurse and sheriff's deputy, are accustomed to strange behavior, senseless rules and chaos.

It was all arranged for them to fly into St Thomas and, then, catch the Speedy's ferry all the way up the Sir Francis Drake Channel to Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, BVI. We, in SeaClearly, had worked our way up to North Sound on Virgin Gorda, picked up a mooring ball and a rental car, and were anxiously awaiting their arrival. We had a pleasant conversation with a BVI Customs officer while we waited. Despite his skepticism, Speedy's was right on time this day and we were soon gathering up Emily, Tyler and their luggage.

In the BVIs, they drive on the left side of the road. The cars, however, are set up with the steering on the left - the same as cars in the US. It is somewhat of a challenge to stay on the correct side of the road. Especially through traffic circles. Fortunately, my passengers constantly reminded me, 'Stay to the left!' as we twisted our way back up over the top of Virgin Gorda towards Leverick Bay. When Junie and I drove down to Spanish Town, it was still daylight and we got some magnificent views.

We got back to the marina and decided to grab a bite to eat at the resort restaurant before the dinghy ride out to SeaClearly. It was beautifully, deceptively, calm as we ate overlooking the bay. Junie and I already knew it would be a bumpy, wet ride in the dinghy once we cleared the marina and headed across the mooring field. With four of us and the luggage loaded into the dink, we set out in the dark to find SeaClearly. As I previously posted, it had been an unusually windy week. We had, in fact, abandoned a slip in the marina in favor of a mooring ball because it was just too rough tied up at the dock.

The weather had not improved. The wind was blowing at 25 knots. We were on the west side of North Sound so there was enough fetch for the wind to kick up steep 3 foot waves. As we approached SeaClearly, her stern was rising up several feet and slapping the water on her way down. I am sure that our guests were a little unnerved by all of this but we managed to get everybody and everything aboard with only a few additional bruises and boat-bites.

One of our favorite things about SeaClearly's personality is her ability to shut out the weather. Once you get inside, it is cozy. The wind, the waves and the noise stay outside. That really helped calm things down as we all settled in for our first evening and night.

Boulders at The Baths
Next morning, we headed off to The Baths.This is a world famous snorkeling destination at the south end of Virgin Gorda. We drove the same scenic route over the island ('Stay to the left!'), parked at the Top of the Baths, hiked the path down to the beach and then through the boulders to Devil's Bay - a unique trail and experience. The snorkeling is amazing as you swim along, and between, huge boulders and over drop-offs. The waves are rolling and crashing over the rocks a few feet from you as you watch the fish, and schools of fish, riding the currents and eddys.

Schools of blue tropical fish

But, no dallying this week. We have to cover some ground and see some sights. So, back to SeaClearly. We dropped the mooring ball and crossed the North Sound to the area near Bitter End and picked up a different mooring ball so we could go ashore and check it out. We had drinks at the beach bar which fulfilled one of Emily's images of a Caribbean vacation. It is a beautiful location looking out across Saba Rock, Necker Island, North Sound and the surrounding reefs.
The Bitter End

Our original plan was to make Guana Island for the night but, given the time of day, we set our next destination as Marina Cay. That would set us up for a short trip to Guana the next morning. It was getting late and nearing dark as we arrived at Marina Cay. I got in a hurry and impatient as we came into the mooring field. As a result, our guests got to see how to screw up picking up a mooring ball. We got sideways, hooked the ball with the dinghy towing bridle, I called it names. It was ugly. As they say, 'Sometimes you watch the show, sometimes you are the show.' Eventually, Junie persuaded me to stop trying to fix a bad situation and start over. Second time,we did it correctly.

The next morning, we left fairly early for the short trip past Monkey Point around to Guana Island. This place is just beautiful. We had stopped here on a whim the week before and were amazed at the scenery, the water and the beach. This time, however, we had the opportunity to check out  the snorkeling. A short dinghy ride back to Monkey Point found us some of the best snorkeling we have ever seen. Lots of fish, lots of coral, a variety of underwater terrains. Just wonderful.
Too pretty

It was decided that this place was worthy of an overnight. And it was a very peaceful afternoon and night. However, that meant that the next day we would need to head across the north side of Tortola to make it to Soper's Hole. We needed to check out of the BVIs in order to check into the USVIs if we wanted to squeeze in some stops on St John.

Two pretty

One pretty

Sailing the north shore of Tortola.
Jost Van Dyke in the distance.

As an added bonus, we got some very nice downwind sailing as we passed Cane Garden Bay. Emily was very sad that this stop got cut from our agenda but time is the enemy when you are a full time nurse and graduate student on Spring Break.

Crowded day at Soper's Hole

We cruised into Soper's Hole and almost got into a fight over a mooring ball with a Moorings charter catamaran. We blew off that aggravation and dinghied in for lunch and a souvenir stop. Junie scored some Bluebell ice cream. The BVI check-out process went smoothly. Cost me 75 cents.

We dropped our BVI courtesy flag and hoisted our yellow quarantine flag then we took off for St John. We picked up a mooring ball just off of Caneel Bay (yes, again) and piled into the dinghy once more for the ride to Cruz Bay to check back in to the United States. There is nothing we like better than hearing, 'Welcome home!'

In keeping with our enthusiastic schedule, we immediately returned to SeaClearly and headed for Waterlemon Cay. We still needed to fulfill Tyler's desire for fly-fishing St John. We were pleasantly surprised to find that there were only a few boats here and we had our choice of spots. We cruised all the way in near the beach to a calm, peaceful location. It only took Tyler a few minutes to find fish. His persistence is impressive. We, actually, moved from one location to another before it got dark because the bugs could reach us far too easily in close to the beach. Next morning, Tyler took an extended tour with the dinghy and caught more fish. And saw a shark. Didn't mention it until much later.

We made our final move back to Caneel Bay in order to get Emily and Tyler back to the ferry on Sunday. That gave us a chance to go snorkel one of our favorite spots across the channel at Henley Cay. It was spectacular again. After we finished snorkeling, Tyler revealed his shark experience from earlier in the day.

We also took the opportunity to go into Cruz Bay for dinner at Morgan's Mango to celebrate Emily's
birthday (which we missed in February by being irresponsible parents sailing around the Caribbean). The Voodoo Snapper and the dark chocolate blueberry caramel bread pudding were definite winners.

Sunday morning we had enough time to go visit the resort at Caneel Bay for a few minutes (and get gelato, of course) before packing luggage into the dinghy one last time and making the sad ride to the ferry dock in Cruz Bay. We had an absolutely wonderful time with Emily and Tyler. They were perfect boat guests and, I hope, we were good hosts.

Now, we are back on our own. The next morning was very sentimental for us. We headed away from St John with tears in our eyes. The trip has been amazing. We have a long way to go but are very happy with where we have come. As we sailed west towards Culebra, rain showers caught up to us and obscured our view of the Virgin Islands. Probably just as well.

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing and unforgettable trip this was for us both! We were a little skeptical after that first dinghy ride, but despite the few bruises I collected along the way, I would not think twice about doing it again! Thank you both so much for this once in a lifetime experience! We love ya'll so much and thank you for sharing your wild and crazy sailing adventures with us!