June 22nd Saturday – Karl Millen Regatta during the day, Skippers at 10:30 am with racing after. Dinner is swanky Hot dogs and Brats … After dinner will be the Glow Regatta at dusk. May go with a cruise instead depending on racing interest.
By Larry Caillouet
On Day 7 of our return passage to Annapolis we lost Otto, the autopilot. With over 400 miles to go, this put a much heavier load on the helmsmen. Although hand steering did not create serious physical fatigue, mental fatigue was an issue. 20 knots of wind and 6-foot seas in the dark strained the eyes, concentration, and patience of the helmsmen. Fortunately the rain squalls with 30-40 knot gusts that had been forecast for the evening did not develop.
Day 8: Tuesday, May 14
Another beautiful day on the ocean. Although the wind was brisk in the low 20 knot range, there were no gusty morning squalls. The day was sunny, bright, and warm and Escapade continued to punch ahead toward the Chesapeake. A favorable wind from the southwest drove us along toward the point at which we would cross the Gulf Stream to the north and east of the infamous Cape Hatteras. I went out on the aft deck to enjoy the sun on my face and the wind in my hair as Diana took Otto’s place at the wheel. Efforts to revive Otto were of no avail and we resigned ourselves to hand steer the remainder of the voyage.
As day faded into night and watches changed, the seas built up and the wind turned against us. We started the engine and motor-sailed when the wind clocked to the west. Then it veered to the northwest which directly opposed our course. The combination of wind and waves produced very difficult conditions and uncomfortable sailing. Imagine trying to sleep with Neptune constantly shaking you and the boat talking back with creaks and groans and taps and bangs.
Day 9: Wednesday, May 15
Deep into the night Escapade and her crew were taking a pounding. With 22 knots of wind punching us in the nose and 8-10 foot crossing seas slapping at the bow and stern, we were making very little progress forward. Hand steering was very difficult. No one was in danger but neither was anyone resting or having a good time. At 1 am we decided to heave to so that we and the boat could have some relief. An immediate calm came over the boat, like someone had turned the wind off and settled the seas. We began to drift backwards to the southwest at a little under 2 knots. We were slowly moving away from our destination, but it was a small price to pay for a comfortable night.
By 6 am daylight had returned and we started the engine again. Sailing northwest into a stiff northwest wind was impossible and tacking away from it would have been counterproductive. The VMG, Velocity Made Good, would have been far too little to justify the effort. We prefer sailing to motoring, but as long as we had fuel, motoring was the only good choice.
Day 10: Thursday, May 16
I never thought I would curse the moon, that heavenly nightlight that rolls a silver carpet across the ocean waves, but in the wee hours of the morning I did. And I think I speak for all the night time skippers who are hand steering their vessels across a featureless ocean toward a featureless sky. There is nothing to steer toward, nothing but that little red devil at the helm called a compass. Its wheel floats and spins as the boat rolls on its forward axis and yaws around its vertical axis. Its glowing red lines and numbers hypnotize your eyes. Just before you are captured by its spell, you will yourself to tear your eyes away, if you have the strength. You look up to see if you are about to be bisected by an indifferent freighter and search the sky for Masefield’s star to steer by, but there is no star. And why not? It’s that blasted moon! That narcissistic moon all full of itself and cooing to the world, “Look at me! I’m the glory of the night sky. I’m the object of all affection. Stars? What stars? Do you see any stars tonight? There are none. Look at me!”
No, give me a moonless night, a black sky, and stars. I like the stars, the little people of the night sky, not the big pompous moon. Stars require nothing of you. They are there to serve you just as they served the Phoenicians and the Polynesians and the Vikings and all ancient mariners who found new lands and sailed home again. They navigated by the stars, not that self-absorbed presidential moon. At 5:42 am the moon finally crawled into bed over the horizon, like a 30’s-something bar-hopper with no obligations in the morning. You can keep the moon. Give me the working people of the sky, the stars.
By 8 am we had left Cape Hatteras to port and the Gulf Stream behind us. We celebrated the arrival of a steady breeze from the southwest, not strong at 10 knots, but perfectly placed to relieve us from the use of the engine. With full main and genoa drawing us forward, we steadily approached our original rhumb line that led to the mouth of the Chesapeake. We spent the day sailing parallel to the North Carolina and Virginia coast, and by midnight we could finally say the Chesapeake was in sight.
Day 11: Friday, May 17
You know that you are nearing the Chesapeake long before you actually enter it because of the light show associated with it. Red and green lighted buoys marking the shipping lanes extend about 14 miles out to sea. We went on high alert due to the cargo ships and tankers using these lanes and adding their red, white and green lights to the show. By 1 am the bright white of the Cape Henry Lighthouse dominated the horizon, and beyond it we could see the unmistakable line of amber lights on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge stretching 17 miles across the entrance. There are two gaps in the bridge lights which are the two places where the bridge dives down into two tunnels under the water. We crossed the southside tunnel at 3 am and by 4 am had anchored in 25 feet of water just outside the Little Creek harbor. We were all ready for an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
In the morning we entered the harbor to take on some fuel and apparently stumbled into a naval exercise. Big rigid inflatables with banks of big outboards and camouflaged men with guns raced in and out of the narrow harbor entrance. One zoomed up to us to tell us to get on our radio to request permission to transit the restricted area. No problem. We complied, fueled up, and headed north up the Chesapeake.
We stumbled into more than naval exercises when we entered the Chesapeake. Actually about 30 miles from the entrance we began to acquire a large number of flies. When we stopped in Norfolk for fuel we encountered the Load of the Flies. We might have been able to coexist, but these flies were biters. They were sneaky and they worked in teams. While some sacrificed themselves in front of you as you were occupied with swatting them, their colleagues would bite you on the ankles. Since we were sailing with the boat open, the flies infiltrated every part of the boat. So while the crew steered the boat and swatted flies in the cockpit, I instituted my 4-part plan for fly extermination: Confine, Confuse, Kill, Collect. I closed the companionway hatch and all the cabin doors to isolate each area. I turned on the lights in both heads to attract the flies into the ideal fly swatting zones—small rooms with white walls. I swatted flies with one hand while carrying a cordless vacuum in the other. Vacuuming the flies helped make it clear which ones were dead or alive, and kept the boat cleaner. In the cockpit we simply washed the dead flies out with buckets of sea water. After several hours of swatting, we finally established a No Fly Zone on Escapade.
If you’ve only seen the Chesapeake Bay on a map, it doesn’t look so big, but when you sail it you think you are still in the ocean. The lower Chesapeake is 14-25 miles wide. It narrows to 11 miles wide where the Potomac empties into it, which means that you still can’t see the shore on either side. By the time we reached Annapolis, it was down to 5 miles wide, still a lot of water.
Day 12: Saturday, May 18
Sunrise over the Chesapeake can be just as beautiful as sunrise over the ocean. We enjoyed our last sailing sunrise and by 10 am we entered the familiar waters of Back Creek, Annapolis. An hour later we were docked. There was no wreath of roses waiting for us, but we had run the home stretch and crossed the finish line. After almost five months onboard Escapade, we were home again.
Re: Meeting this month, I (Troy) will be cooking, everyone bring sides as usual. I need to get a rough count of how many will be attending. Please post to face book or email.
We need help mowing and cleaning before the meeting. There are 2 push mowers in the shed, any one who can mow anywhere will be greatly appreciated.
The women’s restroom is still in need of repairs. I keep thinking I’ll have time, but can’t seem to find it. We need a new faucet for the women’s shower. (If anyone has some plumbing skills). Parts will need to be purchased.
One of the toilets is in need of the flush kit replace, there are parts in the back of the head.
Thanks to anyone who’s available and willing. If you spend money, please save receipts for the purser.
thanks in advance!!
The Huddleston Cup Regatta was hot and windy as 5 boats raced around Mason Island 5 times over 2 days. While the wind speed average was around 7 kts, gusts well over 24 kts were frequent and shifty as usual.
The results: Dinghy-Dale Sturm 1st, Lou Trost 2nd, Joe Brownfield 3rd
Cruiser-Mark Breeden 1st, Kevin Klarer 2nd.
Thanks to all who participated and contributed to the regatta!
Hope to see more boats for the Karl Millen and Glow Regatta on June 22nd.
by Larry Caillouet
They say “all good things must end.” I’m not sure who they are or what authority they have, so I am reluctant to endorse their conclusion. However, the time had come for our good time in the Virgin Islands to end. Hurricane season in the Caribbean was just a few weeks away, but more importantly, our affairs at home had been largely ignored for 18 weeks, so it was time to go home.
Two of our sailing mates, Richard from Bowling Green and Roger from Toronto, flew down to join the crew for the homeward passage. Where is home? Diana and I live in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but Escapade lives in Annapolis, Maryland, which is about 1250 nautical miles north of St. Thomas and 500 miles west of it, and 700 miles east of Bowling Green.
Day 1: Tuesday, May 7
We set sail from Charlotte Amalie at 11:30 am and headed west around the lesser known end of the island. The sight of the terra cotta roofs on the hillsides that frame the harbor receding behind us stirred memories of leaving St. Thomas for the first time in 1984 on a cruise ship. Steel drums were playing “Billie Jean” and other popular songs of the day. An hour later we passed by the Porpoise Rocks, a row of rocks that barely reach the surface of the water so that waves breaking against them make them look like porpoises jumping and playing in the water. These dangerous rocks surprised us the first time we sailed by them in 1998, but we knew to look for them this time and kept a safe distance from them. We passed by St. Thomas’s outlying islands, Saba, the Flat Cays, Dutch Cap, Cockroach, and Savana, before turning north and getting on a heading of 333 degrees True. If we could hold this heading all the way across the Atlantic passage, we would sail into the mouth of the Chesapeake, but sticking to the rhumb line over that many days and miles was extremely unlikely. The ocean’s moods change too much for that. By 5:30 pm the tallest mountains of St. Thomas were only a faint shadow on the horizon behind us, and only if you knew where to look.
Day 2: Wednesday, May 8
In sharp contrast to the voyage to the Caribbean from Annapolis, we had absolutely perfect sailing days at the start of this voyage. Skies were bright blue, clouds were puffy white, temperatures were pleasantly warm, seas were gentle, and winds were custom made for sailing. 15 to 20 knots on the beam allowed Escapade to cruise at 8 knots. When we added the staysail we gained another half knot or so and sometimes surpassed 9 knots. That’s very slow by automobile standards, but for a sailboat on the ocean, it’s exhilaratingly fast.
Day 3: Thursday, May 9
We knew that the perfect winds wouldn’t last forever, and they didn’t. In fact, after 48 hours they deserted us and left us looking at large swells rolling toward the boat. We furled the genoa and staysail and started the engine, leaving the mainsail open and centered for stability. The waves on top of the swells were tiny, only a foot or so, but the 10 to 15 foot swells made the passage feel like driving through the rolling hills of Warren and Allen Counties on the way to Barren River Lake. The boat climbed the long steep swells and then slid down the hills on the other side. It was a remarkably smooth ride.
Day 4: Friday, May 10
Through the night we continued up the rhumb line to the Chesapeake, deviating only a little to port or starboard to account for the swells or changes in the wind. Since our speed was perfect for fishing, we put a line out. We were rewarded with pounds and pounds of Sargasso weed, and a few flying fish that flew onto the deck. We joked about eating Sargasso salad and threw the stuff back into the ocean. Finally, late in the afternoon, Diana was at the helm studying the winds and asked, “Why don’t we sail instead of motoring?” I took a look and agreed that it was time to get back to being a sailboat. We set the sails and coaxed about the same speed out of them that we had been achieving by burning fossil fuel.
Day 5: Saturday, May 11
When I came up for my 3am watch, the sky was the clearest and brightest that we had seen so far. It was cloudless and the moon had already set. The stars fascinate me, but unlike the ancient Greeks, I have a hard time seeing bears, dragons, scorpions, gods, etc. in the splatter of dots in the sky. Still, there are familiar patterns in the thousands of points of light. The Big Dipper (Ursa Major, the Bear) was bright and clear ahead of us to port. The Southern Cross was low on the horizon behind us. And with the help of an iPad app I learned a new one, Pegasus, off our starboard bow. The Bear prowled and the Winged Horse flew with us until day began to break at 5am. They and all their cohorts soon deserted us, leaving only Venus to the east and Saturn to the west to watch over us. By 6am we were all alone again on the vast ocean.
Good wind on the beam or slightly behind it carried us 150 miles or so up the rhumb line. A straight line is the shortest distance between two points, but not necessarily the fastest passage between two points. So a sailboat does not try to stick slavishly to the rhumb line but must consider the direction and speed of winds and waves as well as the comfort of the crew. We sometimes chose to leave the rhumb line for more speed or for a more comfortable motion of the boat. Still, by Saturday evening in 640 miles of sailing, close to the midway point of our voyage, we had never been more than 11 miles from the rhumb line and found ourselves only 2 miles east of it by nightfall.
Day 6: Sunday, May 12
More ocean. Lots of ocean. Nothing but Escapade and ocean. It had been more than a day since we had seen anything but waves, stars, clouds, and each other. With our eyes we can see the horizon 360 degrees around us, approximately 3.9 miles away. That’s 48 square miles with nothing but Escapade, her crew, and whatever happens to be living unseen below us. With radar and AIS we can see approximately 30 miles in all directions. That’s 2800 square miles for the same few inhabitants, an area five times the size of Warren County where I live my land life. Oh, Lord, your ocean so big, my boat so small.
By the afternoon the wind was almost directly behind us, so we went wing-on-wing with the genoa poled out to starboard and the main prevented to port. This allowed us to turn the engine off, but sadly did not provide the speed we had hoped for. The considerable effort it took to put the 40-pound spinnaker pole into place was not rewarded except by the satisfaction that we knew we had tried.
Day 7: Monday, May 13
“We are not alone,” I said to myself when I discovered a 600 foot tanker overtaking us from the southwest. The AIS projected that its Closest Point of Approach would be 85-480 feet from us in 35 minutes, so I had more than the stars and wind to pay attention to. I was relieved and thankful when it changed course 25 degrees and passed 2 miles behind us. It was still in sight to starboard when an 800 foot tanker appeared on AIS. This time the CPA was a half mile, still plenty close enough to pay careful attention to it. As it moved closer to us, it too changed course and passed a mile behind us.
As the day went on, the wind built to 18-22 knots and clocked to the southwest. This was perfect for our course to the northwest, and the wind helped Escapade to punch through 6-8 foot waves, but it was stronger than ideal for us so we put two reefs in the genoa and one in the main. As night fell we shortened the main even more as a precautionary measure for the squalls that were forecast for the evening. Our speed dropped from 8+ to 6 knots, but we slept better with a smoother ride and knowledge that we were ready for the squalls.
Then at 10 pm the Roseannadanna Factor happened (It’s always sompting!). The autopilot quit working! The autopilot is not essential (Columbus didn’t have one), but it is extremely useful when sailing out of sight of land. When there is no visual point of reference to steer toward, such as a mountain peak, the tip of a peninsula, a rooftop, or a communications tower, the autopilot steers the boat by GPS. The alternative is extremely taxing on the helmsman. He or she has to constantly check the compass, look up at the sea, check the compass, look up, check, look up, check, look, check, look, etc. Imagine driving from Chicago to Louisville on a highway that has no lines and is 100 miles wide. You know the bearing toward Louisville and you have a large compass in your lap. As you are driving along, you look down in your lap at the compass and quickly look back up at the blacktop which spans all the way to the horizon in front of you, to the horizon to your left, and to the horizon to your right. There are a few other cars on this highway to watch out for, but the bigger problem is that the highway is somewhat elastic and it has waves that ripple across it periodically. And occasionally it rains or storms.
Instead of the normal 3-hour watches, a helmsman is ready for relief after 60 minutes if the seas are rough. This means that the off-watch time for the other crew members is shortened to one hour if there are only two helmsmen, or two hours if there are three helmsmen. The loss of the autopilot affects the sleeping schedule and all normal patterns of the entire crew. With over 300 miles to go to reach the mouth of the Chesapeake and another 125 miles to Annapolis, there would be many changes of watch instead of the normal eight 3-hour watches per day. Otto was a key personnel. We hated to see him abandon ship. He would have been a VIP in the crossing of the Gulf Stream with its predicted nasty weather that still lay ahead of us. We have hand steered on the open ocean before, but never for this long a passage and never through the potentially treacherous Gulf Stream.
May 25th and 26th Save the Dates!
Our First Regatta of the Season! Two full days of Merriment starting on Saturday May 25th with Breakfast and a Skippers meeting at 10:30 am or so, with racing soon after. Sunday will be a repeat of Saturday.. Details to follow!
by Larry Caillouet
Several decades ago Judy Collins had a hit song in which she sang “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down.” Flying in an airplane gives you that experience to see those fluffy white clouds beneath you. There is a rock outcropping less than a half-mile from St. Thomas called Cow and Calf. It lies very close to the passageway at the east end of St. Thomas, so I’ve wondered many times as we have sailed past it while carefully avoiding it, “Why don’t they just blast the thing and eliminate the navigation hazard?” That thought reflected not only my selfish concern for eliminating anything that might cause me a problem, but also my limited point of view—I had seen it from only one side, the top. I heard recently that it is a very nice dive site, so I made plans with my friend Doug to dive the Cow and Calf.
Our adventure didn’t start out so well. The sea was rough and we had a difficult time getting on one of the two mooring balls near the Cow. Diana is skilled and persistent at hooking mooring balls and securing the boat to them, but the seas were quite rough and the bow of the boat was rising and falling dramatically as waves rolled under us from the open ocean. Finally we succeeded and could get geared up. Escapade was not designed as a dive boat so it has none of the standard dive boat racks for holding heavy dive tanks or a purpose-designed seating area to suit up. While we were figuring out how to put on our gear and get into the water, we came to the conclusion that the other mooring ball was in calmer water, so we released the one we had already secured to, and started the process over. Diana managed to pull the heavy mooring pendant up and tie Escapade to it. Now we could dive in. We opened the gate in the starboard lifeline and took a giant step into the ocean. We snorkeled against the current to the rocks to save air in our tanks, so both of us were water logged and breathing hard by the time we reached the Cow. But then we entered an entirely different world. No longer on the surface being bashed about as land creatures, we had become water creatures. We were weightless! We could breathe under water just like the fishes! We could see every rock and fish clearly. We could move our fins a little and go forward. We could go up, or we could go down. Or we could just hover in one place with no effort. This transformation is the great joy of SCUBA diving, not just the things you can see under the water.
Then we saw the rocks that formed the base of the Cow. There were pinnacles to swim around, arches to swim through, pits to swim over, and cracks in the rock to squeeze through. Many kinds of corals and fans grew on the rocks, and many kinds of fish huddled in the recesses or under the ledges. Some swam by us not allowing our presence to interfere with their daily business. The dive was shallow, mostly 10 to 40 feet, so sunlight illuminated reds, yellows, oranges, and purples. And because it was shallow we had enough air to play among the rocks, fans, corals, and fish for about an hour before coming up. After seeing the Cow and her Calves from both sides now, I would be aghast at any serious proposal to blast these out of the water.
After returning Doug to Cowpet Bay, we sailed to Caneel Bay on St. John. Still anchored between St. John and Mingo Cay was “A”, the massive Russian yacht. It was definitely the 800-pound gorilla of the sailing world at a cost of almost $1,000,000 per foot. I didn’t see its owner, but I wondered what he was doing. And I wondered if he was having more fun than the young people we saw yesterday racing their pocket-change dinghies at Christmas Cove. I think I’ve seen sailing from both sides now.
I’ve also looked at both sides of Escapade. I usually see the top side, but the hull cleaning wasn’t finished and I had a tank of air I could use to see the bottom side with a scraper in my hand. With an 8-inch drywall knife I dove under the boat and scraped away barnacles, slime, and various little feathery things. With my Scuba gear I could get all the way to the bottom of the keel and I could stay down long enough to make a big difference. This sounds like work, and it was, but it was also great fun to see the current taking the clouds of crud away as fast as I could scrape it off. Schools of silver swallow tail fish came by periodically to inspect my work. I wonder why fish couldn’t be trained to eat the stuff that grows on boat bottoms? It doesn’t seem to be much different from what they eat off rocks and coral.
Since 1996 when we first sailed in the Virgin Islands, we have been there 22 times. From all those trips we have come to know the north side of St. John very well. Cruz Bay is the only real town and the place where you can clear in with Customs & Immigration. Caneel Bay is the home of Laurence Rockefeller’s Caneel Bay Resort. It is so posh it doesn’t even have its name on the entrance, just a large “C”. If you drive by and don’t know what the “C” stands for, you don’t belong there. Trunk Bay is a tourist favorite for its underwater snorkeling trail. Cinnamon Bay is the place where Kenny Chesney began writing songs about his love of the islands. It’s also the location of greatest concentration of multi-million dollar homes outside of Beverly Hills. Francis & Maho Bays are the calmest anchorages in the Virgins protected on three sides by St. John, Mary Point, and Whistling Cay. And Waterlemon Cay is really WaterLEMON, not watermelon as some charts say. It is named for the waterlemon tree, not the watermelon vine. All these bays have wonderful beaches, wonderful clear waters for snorkeling, and easy access. Why would you want to go anywhere else? Because St. John has another side also—the south shore. In all our visits to St. John, we had never bothered to sail around to the south shore, and we thought it was high time that we did.
We left Caneel Bay and sailed around the west end of St. John, past Cruz Bay, Chocolate Hole, Fish Bay, and Rendezvous Bay. They were pretty bays, but they had too many boats in them already. Then we came to Reef Bay. Our charts showed reefs lining both side of the bay, but a snug anchorage back against the shore between the two reefs. It was empty as we approached, and we were thrilled to think of having this pretty bay all to ourselves. I watched the chartplotter carefully as we motored back farther and farther into the bay to make sure we avoided the reefs that were getting closer on both sides. Suddenly Diana yelled “3 feet! 3 feet!” meaning the bay had shallowed dramatically and we had only 3 feet of water under our keel. Knowing that the reef-free water would only get shallower and narrower, I threw the motor into reverse and we quickly changed our minds about staying in Reef Bay.
The next stop was Little Lameshure Bay. This bay is at the foot of the trail that leads to the famous pre-Columbian petroglyphs which have become the symbol of St. John. It had only one boat moored in it when we arrived and they left soon after they saw the neighborhood going down. So we realized our desire for a completely private bay. This one had snorkel sites, a long beach, the ruins of a rum plantation and factory, and clear water with turtles that surfaced for air within a few feet of Escapade. Zippety-doo-dah!
After walking the beach and exploring the ruins, we were dinghying back to the boat when I heard a splash and saw the waterproof camera that had been in my swimsuit pocket sinking through the water. We quickly took a fix on our location, not with GPS, since we didn’t have one in the dinghy with us, but by old fashioned dead reckoning. The splash occurred on a line between the orange Jeep on the beach and the mooring ball closest to us and at the intersection with a perpendicular from a large rock visible above the water. We hurried back to Escapade to get my snorkel mask and fins. It was getting late in the afternoon and daylight was fading, so there was no time to waste. We returned to the spot and I jumped in and found my camera. I dove down and retrieved it to complete the day’s fine adventures.
The next day we moved to Great Lameshure Bay which has even better snorkel sites. The rocky coastline continues beneath the water to form a virtual playground for snorkelers. We could swim through narrow channels in the rocks or circle around pinnacles like the white hat cowboys chasing the black hats around the same Sedona rock in the old TV westerns. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any photos of this because, as I found out, “waterproof” is a relative term and the waterproof camera I rescued the day before wasn’t relative enough.
A day and night in Salt Pond Bay completed our “circumnavigation” of St. John. We’ve looked at St. John from both sides now, from north and south, and still somehow, with wonderful memories to recall–I still don’t think we’ve seen it all.
May 10th Friday! 6pm Potluck – 7pm Meeting.. Bring a side!
Come on down and mow under your boat … See the lake level, check in with your fellow Nauticians..
Saturday May 4th – at 12 noon – Remember old friends and say hello to new ones. The Traditional start to the Boating Season.
by Larry Caillouet
The hurricane ravaged Virgin Islands have recovered in significant ways. But it hasn’t all recovered. We saw the Bitter End Yacht Club after Irma had smashed and twisted it in 2017. It was heartbreaking to see this place we loved and had visited so many times destroyed. It felt like a home away from home. Now more than a year later we sailed back to North Sound on Virgin Gorda to see it again, with hopes to see a Phoenix rising from the ashes. What we found was no Phoenix, no ashes, no anything. The view of a bare beach and mountainside was completely disorienting. The anchor for this end of the large North Sound was gone. It had vanished without a trace.
It felt like a scene from the Twilight Zone when a man returned to his hometown and found no trace that he or his family had ever existed there. Where he remembered his school to be, there was only an empty field. When he looked up his old address, there was no such street. That’s what we found where we remembered the Bitter End Yacht Club to be. We looked at the narrow stretch of flat land at the foot of the mountain and wondered how a hotel and restaurant and reception area and gift shops could have ever fit there. I thought of Sandberg’s poem about Austerlitz and Waterloo, “I am the grass, let me work.” Front loaders and barges had done their work at Bitter End. Now the grass, yuccas, and cacti were doing their work.
On the boat I had noticed the genoa pulling away from its track on the headstay foil. I thought that tightening the genoa halyard would remedy this, but it didn’t, so I called a rigger in Road Town who had worked on Escapade before. When Kenton came to the boat to see it, he knew immediately what was wrong. “Your headstay foil is coming apart. You will have to remove the sail so that I can repair the foil.” That sounds easy enough, but to remove the sail it has to be fully unfurled. When 700 square feet of heavy sail gets full of wind, it isn’t easy to handle, but we managed to wrestle it down and hog tie it. We examined it and saw that the bolt rope was chafed in two where the headstay had lost a screw and had begun to come apart. So we loaded the genoa into the dinghy and took it to Doyle Sails not far from where we were anchored for repair. Then the interesting part began. I learned that the headstay foil is actually seven 10-foot sections of extruded aluminum that are screwed together to form one 70-foot foil. “If one
joint was coming apart, others may be coming apart also,” Kenton told me. “I will have to go up and examine each one.” We attached the starboard spinnaker halyard to his bosun’s chair, ran the bitter end to an electric winch, and I hoisted him up. He removed a screw from the faulty joint, came down, and went to a hardware store to get more screws like it.
When Kenton returned the wind had picked up and the pitch and roll of the boat was increasing. “Can you go up with this much motion?” I asked. “Yes. There is no other way.” This time I hoisted him to the top of the foil, 70 feet above the water. He patiently examined each joint, replaced any missing screws, and tightened them all with LocTite on each one. When he finished a joint, I lowered him to the next one. “That was quite a ride!” he said when he reached the deck again. I admired his fortitude in completing this task. I have been to the top of the mast several times, but always while the boat was at a dock. This was a completely different story with the boat anchored in the bay and ferry boats passing by with no concern for their wakes rocking the boat. I was really glad to have a friend in high places.
With the genoa problem solved, we took to the sea again. We sailed to Deadman Bay to enjoy a much more beautiful anchorage than Road Harbour. The upscale Peter Island Resort was still closed, but the beach was as beautiful as ever, marred only by the No Trespassing sign. After a night there, we sailed to another favorite place of ours, Marina Cay. We found the formerly picturesque buildings mostly destroyed, but life on the island going on. Pusser’s had rebuilt its fuel dock, had moved its store to a small stone building that survived Irma, and was operating its restaurant under a large white tent. The dinner and music were great, but the best part of this walk down Memory Lane was a woman named Joy who was running Pusser’s store. She had lost everything in the hurricane but her summary of the experience was totally positive. “The Lord was good,” she said. “I’m still alive. Those possessions were just material things. I trust Him to provide what I need.” Another friend in high places.
A short sail from Marina Cay is Monkey Point on Guana Island. I’ve never seen a monkey there, but plenty of fish. This is a good snorkeling site with interesting rock formations, not much current, and a very healthy fish population. In addition to amazing schools of thousands of tiny neon fish, there are mid-size fish to feed on them and large tarpons to feed on the mid-size fish. Our most interesting find was a pair of squid hovering in one spot. When we swam back to the boat Diana pointed to a 3-4 foot long barracuda lurking under the keel. This didn’t surprise us. For some reason barracuda like to hang out under boats. I was feeling energetic and the water felt good, so I got my drywall blade and started scraping the algae slime and barnacle growth from below the waterline. Silver scissor-tail fish played under the boat while I worked. That soon attracted a squadron of 7 or 8 tarpon about the same size as the barracuda, which had gotten nervous or bored and had left. I hadn’t imagined that cleaning the hull would be so entertaining.
We enjoyed an 18-mile downwind sail from BVI’s Road Harbour to USVI’s Christmas Cove. (I guess it’s Christmas there all year long.) While snorkeling there at Fish Cay, I saw four big sting rays and two spotted eagle rays, but the best spectator sport was watching the junior sailors from the St. Thomas Yacht Club racing near where Escapade was anchored. We had 50-yard line seats near the windward mark. We could hear their excited chatter and their calls of “starrrboarrrdd” as the boats converged on the mark. These guys and girls were fearless as their boats raced within inches of each other or rocked wildly when their booms swept across the boats as they rounded the mark.
In contrast to these high-energy low-cost sailboats, we saw the exact opposite anchored near Henley Cay as we sailed by St. John. It was huge and its design was so strange that I thought at first it was a boat that had run aground and was sinking. [I’m not making this up—this photo is really what the boat looks like.] We couldn’t tell how enormous it was until we got much closer to it. This is the world’s largest sailing yacht—a futuristic one-of-a-kind named simply “A.” It is 469 feet long, longer than two of Steve Jobs’s “Venus” end to end, and owned by the Russian oligarch, Andrey Melnichenko, at a cost of around $450 million. Maybe this boat is why Mr. Melnichenko is called an “olig-ark.”