British Virgin Islands

We’ve been roaming around the British Virgin Islands where we landed just over 2 weeks ago. The Salty Dawg Rally we came down with is centered at the Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda – at the extreme eastern end of the islands and it was nice to arrive in amongst a group of familiar faces. However, we took off to explore some of the other islands and bays, initially stopping at Spanish Town where we managed to get a local SIM card for the phone

Long Swim in from the Parking Lot

Long Swim in from the Parking Lot

and then we moved down to the Baths – a very interesting formation of granite boulders whose origin nobody can properly explain and anchored close by – right opposite a beautiful sandy beach – best beach I’ve ever been exposed to with lovely surf and wonderfully soft sand. In the morning we dinghied over to the baths – which proved interesting gaining access to as you’re not allowed to beach your dinghy there with a large area cordoned off by rope. The drill is you row the dinghy right to shore and drop anyone off that needs – along with electronic gear (cameras, etc.), then row back out about 50 yards through the surf to the start of the swim area, tie your dinghy up and then swim in. I’m not the best swimmer in the world – so it was all quite taxing! The reward however was a fascinating scramble through the piled-up granite boulders and rock pools.

The Baths

The Baths

Next we headed over to the east end of Tortola where we anchored in another rolly spot. We were here in order to drop the mainsail off for it’s second repair to the batten system. Wandering around the small town was interesting – but showed the poorer side of the BVI’s…

We then headed over to Norman Island – a major destination point for the numerous charter boats that ply the seas here. Willie T’s here is a converted old steamer – to a bar and restaurant – where people come to be rowdy and enjoy jumping off the back of the boat from the second floor. Had to be done…

Willy T's

Willy T’s

Our next destination was Soper’s Hole – and nice little harbor with quite a lot of activity. We were able to catch up on internet stuff here and make more inroads to our charging system woes. However, we didn’t stay long – instead heading off to Jost Van Dyke – the party island of the Virgins apparently.

 

 

The Soggy Dollar Bar

The Soggy Dollar Bar

Soggy Beers

Soggy Beers

Ohh to be young again!

Ohh to be young again!

White Bay - Home of the Soggy Dollar Bar

White Bay – Home of the Soggy Dollar Bar

We had a lovely stay in Great Bay for a couple of nights – with yet more pondering about the charging system. Lunch at Foxy’s was good and we had drinks at one of the numerous beach bars. We walked over to White Bay – home of the Soggy Dollar bar – arriving as complete sweat balls with sensible walking shoes on – with crowds of half-naked people enjoying the beach and the water. How clever of us to arrive at such a great beach without swimming trunks! Never-the-less we had a lovely afternoon there and enjoying watching all the young things strut their stuff!

We returned to Soper’s Hole in order to put Toodle-oo! on the dock so that we could re-charge the batteries properly – our whole charging situation is clearly a mess. We ended up staying there for three nights – getting fully charged and working out a complete solution for the situation. It turns out that the problem is lack of brains – in that I did not work out how serious our draw was compared to our charging capability.

Pelican Lunchtime

Pelican Lunchtime

Hi Mann - you need a ride on my Ferry? Drive aboard - mind de Rocks!

Hi Mann – you need a ride on my Ferry? Drive aboard – mind de Rocks!

This goes a long way to finally explaining why when we purchased the boat, she had so many hours on both the engine and generator – they must have used both simultaneously to charge up the batteries for hours each day. Hopefully we have a solution that will reduce the charging time – I just need to find someone sensible to confirm my idea before blowing the whole boat up!

Trellis Bay

Trellis Bay

View from BananaKeet's

View from BananaKeet’s

We’re now back at the Bitter End with the majority of the other Salty Dawgs – ready for a luncheon event today. After that, who knows where we’ll be heading! Our long term plans have been up in the air for quite a while, but if feels like we’re finally settling on a plan to head “Down Island” – to the Leeward islands and perhaps one or two of the Windward Islands, before heading across the Caribbean towards Panama… Another plan laid out in the sand at low tide…

Happy Thanksgiving!

A bit of a strange start to our first winter in the Caribbean – it’s hot and humid and the boat projects just keep on coming!

The warm water down here (80F+) is very nice for swimming, but plays havoc with our fridge and freezer which are cooled by means of “Keel Coolers” – bronze plates bolted to the underside of the hull. Up in New England and Canada, these work great – the water is 20+ degrees cooler. Down here, the compressors have to work double time to get the heat of the system and they are just eating up our battery supply. So much so that we’re having to run the generator for several hours a day. And of course, the generator is acting up too! Whereas I used to be able to run the watermaker and the battery charger at the same time, I can no longer do that… And water costs $0.25/gallon down here, so we could really use the watermaker!

On top of that, the head stinks! I’ve had to replace the one way “Joker” valve to prevent nasty stuff coming back into the bowl – and this joker valve was only 3 months old! I’m now out of joker valves!

We’ve also had to deal with a badly fixed mainsail repair – fortunately the outfit that did the repair in Virginia recognize their mistake, but they’re only going to assist to the tune of $100 with the new sail loft – in spite of them charging us $430 for the lousy repair!

Feels like we’ve been working harder than we did when we earned money – and now we’re spending money faster than ever thought possible too! Still, I’d rather be doing this than sitting behind that desk again!

 

It’ll inevitably get better!!!

 

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone – we’ll be sitting on the beach today having swum for our beers at the Soggy Dollar!!!

Made it! Great Passage!

We arrived in Virgin Gorda on Sunday afternoon! 1320 miles sailed in 8 days, 8 3/4 hours – therefore an average speed of 6.58 knots through the water. Our planned route was 1295 miles – so we therefore managed to follow the rhumb line very closely – and our average “Velocity Made Good” was 6.45knots. Not bad!

The trip started really badly! 6:00am – still dark: At the dock, I unclipped the electric hookup and the heavy bale end collided with the latch on our monitor windvane gate mechanism and knocked it to pieces – with two critical components ending up in the water! Fortunately, I was apparently wearing my MacGuyver hat and managed to bodge it back together with two hose clams and we were ready to leave by 6:30. Leaving was not pretty – but we managed to extricate ourselves from the pilings we were between with just a couple of non-damaging bumps! We were one of the last  boats in the remaining 24 boat fleet to leave.

We motored out into the Hampton river where we raised the main in the building breeze and quite heavy chop. We’d just had the main repaired – with a new improved system to hold the battens in the sail – but on first hoist two of them broke out! What a waste of money that was! We ended up sailing without battens for the first couple of days and then managed to bodge something up once the seas had calmed.

The first couple of days were boisterous with big seas – and even though they were supposedly only 12-15 ft, that means we should expect some to come in at double that – seemed to us that most were coming in about 20 – 30ft! Toodle-oo! managed the seas with aplomb and we managed to get across the gulf stream in about 30 hours. Full foul weather gear was removed and replaced with shorts and tee-shirts.

We had a day or so of no wind and calming seas – so ran the engine which was a bit of a blessing since the generator had decided to quit working and we needed to charge the batteries – which were now being challenged significantly by the warmer water making the fridge and freezer draw considerably more power than normal. Without the generator, we also couldn’t make water – but that turned out to be a non-issue for us as we carried sufficient water for the entire trip.

The last few days we sailed – and were always in company with a couple of more boats from the fleet, or others that were part of the Caribbean 1500 rally – all rather reassuring. On one day, we had a deja vue experience in that like the time we sailed from the Azores to Ireland with great wind and the rest of the fleet were becalmed, on this day, we had good wind – 15 knots on the beam (perfect!) and boats that were within 5 or 10 miles didn’t have enough wind to sail! I couldn’t even blame it on the beans!

We fished the entire way – but caught nothing. I finally got Laurie to admit that our selection of lures was inadequate so with any luck, next time we’re near a fishing shop, she’ll let me loose! However! On the last day, we managed to bag 2 tuna! First a Bluefin – which sadly had been hooked without us knowing, so when I did notice about 20 minutes later, I just hauled in the drowned fish. I cleaned this guy out and prepared tuna steaks and then put the pole out again – and about an hour later we caught a Yellowfin – both of them were about 10lbs. We had enough Tuna now for a few meals!

Bluefin Tuna unimpressed by boxers!

Bluefin Tuna unimpressed by boxers!

Yellowfin Tuna

Yellowfin Tuna

The last day was great sailing, but unfortunately we had to turn into the wind after rounding Anegada, so we took the easy way out and motored the last 3 hours and took a mooring at the Bitter End Yacht Club.

 

Arrival Virgin Gorda

Arrival Virgin Gorda

It’s hot here! Really hot!

Too hot to clean the Inside of the boat, Laurie is already cleaning the hull!!!

Too hot to clean the Inside of the boat, Laurie is already cleaning the hull!!!

The arrival beverages were good, strong and plentiful! We slept well!

First Abandonment

We have a new Tracker – a DeLorme – which will allow us to send a satellite signal out giving our position. It was a requirement for the Salty Dawg rally we’re about to embark on from Virginia to the BVI’s – a roughly 10 day passage. We’ll be sending out positions every 4 hours once we start – probably Saturday morning. You can track us here: https://share.delorme.com/Toodleoo

Unfortunately, we’ve had our first abandonment… Ship’s cat Bella is headed back to Massachusetts, to new Staff. With our constant changing of schedules and destinations, it was proving impossible to have a cat aboard without risking the possibility of her being put into quarantine – or worse – and suffering potential high penalties. So, a very difficult decision made but Bella’s new staff Marie will undoubtedly take really good care of her – with routine visits to the groomers, etc. – and she’ll be with her sister, Lola. She will be sorely missed by her old staff, the crew of Toodle-oo! There’s not a dry eye on the boat.

Talented Cat!

Talented Cat!

Hanging Out

Hanging Out

Climbing

Climbing

Pretty Pussy

Pretty Pussy

New York to Virginia

Toodle-oo! is on the go! It’s tough to keep the blog going while all sorts of things are going on, but will do my best…

We arrived in Port Washington on Friday where Jamin was moored and took up one of the other free moorings while it rained and poured. Unfortunately, the weather was set to turn even more bleak – with high winds forecast – so rather than enjoy ourselves in a relaxed manner, we had to take advantage of a lull in the weather – just as we were settling in for sundowners – to remove the main and stuff it into the cockpit so that we could affect some repairs later on.

The wind was up – 25-35 kts and in the shallow water, the surf was running. Never the less, we decided to make a trip to shore – Laurie had arranged a haircut and we got various little bits and pieces for the boat. The dinghy ride to shore was miserable but the ride back was just plain silly – with Jane watching our return with winds gusting to 36 knots!!! We were drenched!

Sunday we stayed aboard all day and managed to get the necessary temporary repairs made to the sail.

Monday with winds still up, we ventured out to town for lunch where Mike and Jane fessed up that they were throwing in the towel and heading home. Such a shame after so much preparation and anticipation. Too bad… In the evening we met on Jamin with a couple of other boats – Jim and Louise (Salacia) and Jos and Erica (Endless Summer) – enjoyed a few beverages and discussed the weather… Jos and Erica are also headed towards Norfolk Virginia…

The weather forecast for getting south to Virginia was not really very good – with high winds set for Tuesday and no winds for Wednesday. We set off anyway and had a great sail past NYC and the Statue of Liberty

Empire State

Empire State

WTC - Financial Center

WTC – Financial Center

Liberty!

Liberty!

and then out into the open sea where fortunately the forecast winds were somewhat lighter and we made great progress through Tuesday to the mouth of the Delaware. Not quite as good as Endless Summer however – they caught and past us! :-( Then the wind stopped and we ended up motoring basically for the entire day, finally reaching the mouth of the Chesapeake at about 1:00am on Thursday morning. We anchored (in the rolliest location!) and crashed for what remained of the night. Later in the morning we made our way to Hampton and have ended up in a very tight little anchorage in downtown Hampton. Really great! We also managed to drop off our main for repairs – which got rather larger on the way south, with both lower battens popping out of the sail. The restraining Velcro has apparently given up…

The Salty Dawg Rally puts on seminars in the week leading up to the rally – and this morning (Friday) we were anticipating a very useful talk from Quantum about sail repair. Unfortunately, he didn’t show up – so we instead learned how to fish! Actually quite interesting – we’ll see if we can hook some dinner along the way!

We’re feeling like our new life is about to start and are both really looking forward to the adventure.

 

And then it gets better…

Thursday, October 20th  –  Huntingdon, NY

Finally on Wednesday October 19th, 2016 we’re on our way. It’s been a while in the planning but here we go on the voyage of a lifetime!

Just a short first jaunt to Fisher’s Island in Long Island Sound – and unfortunately it was a motoring experience the whole way. Never-the-less, we’re now on our way. We anchored in West Harbor and settled in to watch the ridiculous 3rd debate between Hilary and Donald – with a weak TV signal augmented with the Radio!

Today, we got up at dawn – not that early this time of year – and set off with a fine forecast down Long Island Sound headed for Port Jefferson. With 20+knot winds behind us we were able to make great progress in the right direction and when the tide turned in our favor, we managed to make over 11 knots over ground at times while surfing down a wave! In the end, because we were making such good progress, we decided to change destination and instead headed a little further to Huntingdon on Long Island’s north coast, just 15 miles or so short of Port Washington where we’d be able to hook up with Mike and Jane on Jamin.

Unfortunately, along the way, with winds building and changing direction slightly we had to gibe and reef at the same time. In the process, we managed to rip the luff of the mainsail and break one of the batten attachments… We now had a  fresh item on the to-do list to attend to… We sailed the rest of the way with the main reefed to second reef – not really enough to power Toodle-oo! through the swells – but even so we ended up anchoring in Huntingdon, 71 miles away after only 10 hours of sailing! Not a bad average speed!

Tomorrow we head to Port Washington to meet Jane and Mike – and to enact some sail repairs.

Meanwhile, over the last couple of days we’ve decided a new cruising plan – instead of NY – Bermuda – Bahamas – Cuba – Panama, we’re thinking NY – Hampton – Salty Dawg Rally to BVI’s – Bahamas – Panama… Shame to miss out on Cuba but our insurance company is willing to insure us – but with a theft exclusion. Since Toodle-oo! is our only abode, this isn’t something we’re keen on risking – so unless things change…

Plans laid in sand at low tide…

 

 

Worser and Worser!

It keeps getting worse…

After finally getting launched after 4 weeks living at the top of a ladder, I noticed that our freshly rejuvenated fridge was icing up at the compressor – is that right??? The folks that recharged the system dutifully came down to let a little out – and then we found that our freezer (complete with about $500 worth of frozen meat in it) was also on the blink…. Cha Ching… at least they we able to come to our aid quickly!

We finally departed from Portsmouth,RI on Tuesday October 18th – ready to start our circumnavigation. First stop? Newport Ri – Hailing port for Toodle-oo! and we had a nice meet with David and Leann on Moonshot, an Amel 53 they’d just purchased (first boat!) and had just completed their maiden sail… Good luck mates – I’m sure you’ll have an absolute blast!

Laurie’s brother Neal and Kathy came around for dinner – Confit de Canard no less – and we had a very jolly evening with them – as something of a final sendoff…

 

Repairs Continue

It’s been a frustrating 3 weeks since we arrived at New England Boatworks somewhat abruptly. We’ve been living at the top of a ladder and it’s getting rather old! However, boat chores are being accomplished, though it seems our spending has gone waaaay out of control…

NEB, whose praises I was singing in the spring have fallen somewhat flat – in that they don’t actually seem able to diagnose problems very well. Toodle-oo! has developed a severe engine vibration which manifests itself in relatively boisterous seas when motor sailing. Typically at the crest of a wave when on port tack. The engine goes into a serious vibration for a short time and then settles. I thought this was due to an alignment issue but they’ve measured the alignment and concluded all is fine. Their plan therefore was to put the boat back in the water and sea trial her… I’d just sea trialled her all the way from Newfoundland – with no changes, what’s the point. Another enterprise here suggested that the folding propeller was not in great shape and maybe the cause – so we opted to follow that advise and buy a new prop – it took 10 days to arrive…

While on the hard, I decided to try to eliminate a small leak in the thruhull for the head. It’s been slowly leaking ever since we had the boat. So I re-lapped it with grinding paste and thought I had it licked, but as the holding tank filled, it started again. I had another go – and it got worse. I tried again – worse still. After the 4th try, I figured the seacock needed replacement – which involves a new thruhull… I don’t feel qualified to do that – so here we are, week 3 with a hole in the side of the boat and no head to pee into! (Laurie is not a happy camper!)

We’d hoped to be able to get away faster and on our way south via the Chesapeake – but that’s not going to happen. Instead we’ll drive to the Chesapeake to attend the OCC dinner there and the boat show. We’ll probably leave from Rhode Island to Bermuda – or perhaps from New York to Bermuda instead of going to the Chesapeake…

Meanwhile, Hurricane Matthew is barreling up the coast towards us offering further delays!

Our plans from here – to Bermuda from either Rhode Island or New York, then on to the Bahamas, to Cuba then Panama and then down the west coast of South America…

Plans all laid in the sand at low tide…

 

Sad News… Brother-in-Law Dustin succumbed to Leukemia this week. He’d been fighting an amazing battle, but the wheels all came off a couple of weeks ago and there was nothing left to do. All his family and grandkids were there at the end to offer support and comfort. Dustin will be sorely missed.

 

Abrupt End!

We had a long boring “sail” back west from Shelburne – left with a short weather window that had us pounding into big seas with not much wind, followed by slightly lower seas and a little wind. The swell is up because of a hurricane burning itself out just south of New England. If we didn’t take the window as presented, it looked like there’d be strong westerly winds for the next 7 days straight – keeping us in Shelburne…

3 days later, with another 65 hours on the engine, we were through the Cape Cod Canal and anchoring for an evening stop in Cuttyhunk.

The following morning, we weighed anchor at about 9:00am and set off for Newport. The wind was in our face at 15 knots or so, but we decided to sail rather than bash into it with the engine – and lo and behold a C&C 40 came out of Cutty at the same time under full sail. It was a race!

The C&C is something of a performance boat so despite being slightly smaller, we were nicely matched… She pointed higher than us, but speed was similar. As we headed on our first tack towards land, the winds began to drop a little so I decided to tack out to sea – the C&C kept going. We stayed on this tack for 8 – 10 miles and then the wind began to slacken so once again we tacked. I’d lost sight of the C&C in the haze, but sure enough, an hour or so later, there she was tacking towards us. We had not lost ground to her and were within a quarter mile. As we again tacked towards open water, the swell was right on our nose – and Toodle-oo! managed the swells rather better, so that by the time the wind died again and we’d decided to make another tack, we’d pretty much drawn level with her – though she was to windward of us still. Shortly after tacking, the C&C also tacked – we’re side by side, separated by maybe 1000 yards.

Then we got lucky!  We got an enormous lift – such that whereas I thought we were going to have to make another pair of tacks to make it into Newport, we were now heading directly for the entrance buoy at Bretton Reef. Then we got luckier still with another lift, which allowed us to ease sails just a little bit and we started to pull away from the C&C. Race won!

We arrived in Newport and tied up at Fort Adams where a Border Patrol guy came and checked us in, then we headed to the anchorage and as soon as it was set, the dinghy was launched and we were on our way for cocktails at 41 North!

Saturday morning, we headed to Bristol where we planned to anchor and then go to “Seniors Day” at Neal’s house. However, as we’re motoring in the flat calms, Laurie decided to pull up a floorboard to get some cleaning supplies and discovers that we’re leaking – fast! The seal around the propshaft has failed and we’re letting in lots of water whenever the prop is turning. We immediately called NEB (where we were planning to haul out next week anyway) and arranged to be hauled immediately. One hour after discovering the leak, we had loaded dinghy aboard, lowered both headsails, reversed into the travel lift and were now on the hard, no longer sinking! We made it to Senior Day just an hour or so later than planned. Amazing to think that just 8 days ago we were in St. Pierre!

Strange end to a wonderful summer voyage!

We’ll be living at the top of steps for a few days, getting the leak repaired and various other boat projects done and then we’ll begin our trip south – current plan: New York – Annapolis – Bermuda – Bahamas – Cuba and then on south through the Panama Canal and maybe all the way to Patagonia…

 

 

Sleigh Ride

We left St. Pierre on a dreary Thursday afternoon headed towards Shelburne on the southern tip of Nova Scotia some 350 miles distant with a weather forecast that predicted very light winds for 12 hours from the south, becoming stronger which on Friday night was to turn to 20 – 25 knots from the north. After that the winds would diminish and become sort of easterly. With the exception of the start, it looked like a reasonable weather forecast and our plan was to head west with the light wind and then south west along the coast of Cape Breton and Nova Scotia…

Initially there was indeed no wind and we motored for 9 hours until we were able to sail and with the wind coming from the north (somewhat unexpectedly). It was quite a boring ride and the swells were significant, so not very comfortable.

On Friday we decided that since our forecast tools were not the best, we ought to be cautious so Laurie suggested that we at least prepare the storm sail. We have a dedicated (movable) stay for the storm sail which we have never used (and I suspect the previous owners didn’t either). So we rigged the stay and prepared to hank on the sail – we’ve never hanked on a sail either – but have seen countless boats with sails hanked on and bagged at the bottom of the stay, ready for deployment – so we figured we’d have a go. It’s a good thing we started early – as it took us a while to figure everything out – including re-bagging the sail into a larger bag – for easier deployment should the need arise. By the time we’d finished, the wind was up and the swells were getting uncomfortable. Working on the foredeck in these conditions is not my cup of tea.

Shortly afterwards, we reefed the main, quickly followed by changing from Genoa to Jib, followed by second reef in main, followed by third reef in main (never deployed that either!), followed by raising the storm jib, followed by complete dousing of the main! Wow! We turned the boat due south to run with the wind which was now a constant 38 – 40 knots, gusts to 45+. We’d done pretty much all we could and so went below and shut the doors!

For 9 hours the winds maintained 38 – 42 knots, finally dropping to an easy 32 knots as morning arrived. The waves had built to 4 – 5 meters and we were running with them. The boat was maintain 8 – 10 knots – fast but in control – though at times we’d take a wave on the beam with a massive crash and lurch to port which was unnerving to say the least. And we’re planning to head to Patagonia????

The storm took us well south of our intended route, so on Saturday we had to come west, but fortunately the seas had calmed completely (we find this amazing!) and the sun was out and we had a reasonable sail in until the wind died again and the engine was once again called for.

We made it to Shelburne in one piece on Sunday afternoon, took a mooring and started drinking heavily!!!

 

Plan is to leave Shelburne today (Tuesday) with a forecast of light winds and big seas, headed for Newport. It’ll be an uncomfortable sail, but hopefully not too scary!