16 July 2014

The journey has began

July 15, 2014

Trains, planes, more planes and afterwards more trains. Three countries, America, Ireland and England, about 24 hours of traveling we arrived in Penzance, a quaint (isn't every town around England?) small town of Cornwall, south end of England.

Penzance was immortalized by Gilbert and Sullivan in their Pirates of Penzance production, if you have the chance, don't miss it. Narrow hilly streets wind around the town, with a beautiful view of the ocean and the castle on the St. Michael's Mount..

We arrived by train and realized that our hotel was not in the town, but on another town up the hill, Gulval. Thr tourist bureau lady and her boss asured us that it was waaay to far to walk. So we took a 5 minute taxi ride and voila! Our first day destination was here, The Coldstreamer Inn.

We were more tired than we knew, but walked back to Penzance anyway. The problem with walking was crossing the streets. Very busy intersections, double lane roads and we never knew from which direction the cars would come from.

Back to the hotel, dinner was a delicious meal served by a French Maitre D', and for dessert we walked around the very ancient church and had the oportunity to hear and see seven (or 8) bell ringers practice.

Tomorrow we leave the land and start our water leg of the journey.

Good night.

14 July 2014

Packing for the other side of the world

I feel a bit silly blogging about packing again, but when you are going on a long cruise on a boat, what you take (and don't take) is important.

Though I thought we did pretty well packing for Fiona in the Caribbean, I've figured out more things that can be left behind.

The biggest item, this time, are foul weather gear and sleeping bags, since Agnes will be supplying them. Phew.

Next biggest to be cut is my laptop. I'm decidedly not retired, and have clients who depend on me keeping their systems going, even if I happen to be on a boat in France. This has always meant lugging clunky, expensive, not-waterproof laptop along. I hate it.

This time, all I'm bringing is my iPad. I've figured out how to do all my support work on this simple, multi-purpose device, which also has much better battery life than my laptop. We'll also be blogging from it. As a luxury, I'm also packing my Apple keyboard, but I'd be surprised if that isn't cut next time.

Like Helena, I'm also bringing more clothes this time, mainly because we'll be in France, not on some beach. I have a feeling we're just being paranoid, and we probably could have left home half our clothes. But better safe than sorry.

For sailing, I'm bringing sea boots, two good hats, some warm clothes that can go under foulies, my new riggers knife, sailing gloves, and my head lamp. Those are what I now regard as the essentials.

Anyway, we've managed to pack everything into fairly small, water proof duffle bags. About 30-inches long by 18-inches in diameter. By far the best we've done so far.

Ready to go.


When getting ready for Fiona--due south in warm weather--mostly I was deciding which bikini to pack. I took all of them, plus a couple of shorts, some tank tops, and a one warm cardigan.

Agnes is a different story. Ah, the unknown and unpredictable weather of the English channel. Yes, it is summer, and John and I have been watching the weather carefully. Highs in the 70's and lows in the 50's, but it could be nice and warm in the 80's and also cold and rainy in the 40's. Summer?

John, as always planning ahead, jolted down a list of about 100 basic items we shouldn't leave the house without. He started packing about a week ago.

Today, while watching a hopeful Brazil against the mighty Netherlands in the World Cup semifinals game, I decided to do my packing. Bikinis, just in case (don't leave home without it). After the main item, toiletries --- sun block, mosquito repellent (do they even have mosquitos in France?), creams, etc, etc. Done.

Foul weather gear, bedding, all meals on board, and sailing instructions are included in this trip. Good.

The next big dilemma comes from the fact that we are going to spend 50% of our time on the boat and the other 50% on shore in France. France!! Where the women are beautifully dressed, the men are elegant, and the restaurants tres chic, Oh-la-la. One cannot just go ashore wearing sneakers and a T-shirt and some shorts. Oh no, one must look cool and just out of a 5 star hotel. So all the clothes that are not wrinkle-free are out.  That means most of my good dress-up clothes will be left hanging. I packed some tank tops, a polyester dress, jeans pants and jean skirts, and a cashmere cardigan. That will have to do.

What to wear on the boat? Well, it might rain, it might be cold, it might be windy. The other half of my small waterproof duffle bag will be filled with long sleeve T-shirts, gym pants and shorts, warm socks and tights. Maybe a pair of cosy sweat pants for lounging in the cabin, while enjoying a glass of Pinot Grigio.

And then, the worst: shoes. For all the people who know me, it is clear that I prefer Havaianas with socks over all other types of footwear. By the way, for you who are keeping up with trendy shoe fashion, Havaianas is a brand of flip-flop sandals created in Brasil in 1962. I have been wearing them since then. Of course I will be wearing them most of the time (you should try it --- cozy and comfortable), but again we are landing in France, and that is probably the only country in the world I would feel slightly conscious about my flip-flops. The Converses are packed, and I will wear my clunky wedges on the plane. The sea boots will have to stay home.

Packed, house cleaned (love to return to a clean house), trash out.

Off to England we go. Talk to you soon.

Next Episode:  

11 July 2014


I've been on a tool-making kick lately. Truth be told, most of them have been pretty simple--more like jigs, really--but the other day Helena was asking me what I intended to do with the huge pile of unsplit logs I collected after Hurricane Sandy.

"Split them for firewood!" I said.

"What year?" She asked, curiously.


The problem is, most of the logs I collected were hastily cut into longish length by the power company, which was more interested in getting electricity back on than supplying conveniently-sized firewood to cheapskates like me. So when it came time to split it, I realized most of it was too long to fit in my wonderful arm-powered splitter.

Hand-pumped hydraulic splitter
The obvious thing to do was to buy a chainsaw, but since living a year in New Hampshire and meeting several people who had managed to chainsaw their legs (most common), toes, and even face (one very unlucky fellow), I have considered chainsaws to be above my pay grade.

The ideal tool to accompany my hand-powered splitter would be a hand-powered saw, and (having watched a lot of Roy Underhill videos lately) that was all the excuse I needed to build my own bucksaw. Here's what a traditional bucksaw looks like:

traditional bow saw
Naturally, I wanted to build mine out of scrap lumber, so the first thing I did was assemble all the likely-looking bits of wood I had in my scrap box.

Red oak
I had a lot of red oak left over from building Helena's radiator cover (which has held up very well to all that heat and humidity, btw.), as well as some maple and walnut from the cutting boards. It was just a matter of picking out the best bits. I soon had the main pieces roughed out.

The three main pieces cut out and laid end-to-end, to see how they look.
So far, so good.

I planned on morticing the pieces together, which I have practically no experience with, so I wasn't sure which to tackle first: the mortise (hole) or tenon (thing that goes in the hole.) The tenon seemed easier to cut, so I figured I'd cut the mortise first, and then cut the tenon to fit. Not sure if that's the official way to do it, but it made sense to me at the time.

Mortises cut
Unfortunately, this was one of those jobs that's so brain-consuming that I forgot to take pictures, but you can guess how I did it from the results: I drilled two holes at either end of the mortice, and then dug out the wood in-between with a chisel.

After doing this, I thought, "there must be a better way!" And of course there is. This being a how-not-to blog, I'd urge you to find a youtube video on mortice cutting before tackling a job like this, instead of after. Turns out it's not that hard to cut mortices with square ends, but I was making this up as I went along.

Having got that far, I turned to the tenons. I roughed out the tenon on my bandsaw...

Cutting the mortise on my bandsaw

And then had to deal with making the square peg fit the rounded hole. Actually, it wasn't that hard.

Make mistakes slowly...
I really need to get a decent vice.

Fitting the tenon to the mortice was a trial-and-error process.

test fitting

With the main joints fitted, it was time to cut the slots for the blade.

For the long handle, the slot needed to be cut right in the middle of the wood. Again, I did what seemed the easiest: I drilled a hole just big enough to thread a coping saw blade through, and then sawed the rest of the slot.

cutting slot for blade
For the short handle, the slot is in the end, so I cut that on the bandsaw.

Finally, I cut groves for the tensioning string, so the string would stay in place, rounding them over with a microplane file.

tensioning string grooves
Finally, I needed a piece of wood for the Spanish windlass which tightens the blade. I had a nice scrap of walnut that would add a bit of color and contrast to the piece. I cut a shallow groove near one end for the string.

After rounding over all the sharp edges on the router table, and giving everything a good rub with linseed oil, I assembled the saw.

The finished saw
The 1-inch x 30-inch blade (only thing I bought, about $10 at the hardware store) is tightened by the Spanish windlass on top. This is just a long piece of string, wrapped about 6 times around the saw. The walnut lever is inserted in the gap between the strands and twisted, round and round, until the blade is tight. The lever is long enough so it stays in place after tightening.

You'd be amazed at how powerful that Spanish windlass is. If you build one, don't over-tighten the blade. It just needs to be tight enough so it doesn't flex when you use the saw. Too tight, and you will take the set out of the teeth, or so I heard on the Intertubes.

And there you have it! A saw big enough to tackle the largest log in my pile. A nice weekend project, and I'm sure it will come in handy on some future boatbuilding project.

Now I just need to build one of these:

Log holder

Next Episode: Hello Agnes!

Hello Agnes

Goodbye Fiona. Hello Agnes!

Sailing on Fiona was never part of a plan. She just showed up and we jumped on board. Twice we hastily packed everything we thought we might need, dropped all commitments, canceled scheduled obligations, and sailed off on an adventure to the unknown aboard Fiona.

Not so with Agnes. No, with Agnes it will all be different.

Back in September, after getting off Fiona, I remarked, "I'd like to do that again!" That was all John needed to hear. Next thing I knew, we had a plan and that rarity of rarities (in our life anyway), a real, budgeted vacation. A voyage aboard Agnes.

Agnes rounding St. Anthony's Head
Agnes is a wooden sailing ship/boat (I can never tell the difference). Her owner is the famous boatbuilder, Luke Powell who builds big, traditional Pilot Cutters. He and his wife Joanna own one of the biggest of these ships, and in the summer, they take folks on sailing trips. Folks like John: adventurers, looking to extreme sailing experiences --- climbing up masts that are 50ft high just for the fun of it, and things like that. ('Extreme chill-out experience' would be more accurate. This is France, after all. -- Ed.)

So here we are, scheduled to sail on Agnes from Cornwall in south England to Brittany in France. Agnes is a "working boat", i.e., we all get to work on the boat if we feel like it (thank you). The trip will take about 8 days... well not just the here to there, but once we are across the English Channel to Britanny ("the passage" should take a day and a night), we will go up north from port to port.

There are only other 4 passengers on board besides us, besides Luke and Johanna. We are going to be fed at least two scrumptious meals a day, sleep on bunks (private maybe?), do lots of sailing, knot tying, and other sailing duties, and -- most important -- tour the harbors and islands of Brittany.

I am sure there is more to this trip than what I just mentioned, but I've left all the planning to John, so most of this trip is going to be a surprise. Reminiscent of Fiona, perhaps?

Tomorrow, three days before we leave, we will start to pack. You know what that means... yes, more drama of what to take and what to leave behind.

Oh, and we started to practice our French... well, better late than ever.

Next Episode:  Packing

07 July 2014

I Install A Knob (Really)

Continued from last time...

The second demonstration I was anxious to watch was John Brook's Routers. Specifically, using routers for boat building.

Having recently purchased my first router, I am hooked on the usefulness of the tool. As John pointed out in his presentation, while most power tools are direct replacements for traditional hand tools, routers do many things that no hand tool ever did. It's one of those rare things: a new tool.

Routers are so flexible, its hard to imagine half the things they can do, so getting tips from experienced builders can really give you a boost along the learning curve.

Speaking of curves, John's first demonstration was how you can use a router to make complicated pieces using a pattern.

Using a pattern 
In the photo above, the pattern is attached to the bottom of the stock. The router bit is a trim bit with the bearing on the top (the router is upside down in the photo above.)

The pattern rides on the bearing, and the wood is cut away by the bit. To make a symmetrical piece, like the one above, you use a half-pattern, flipping it over to cut the other side.

The trick here is to make the cut in sections, according to how the grain runs, moving the piece from left to right or right to left, to avoid making a climb cut, which besides being somewhat dangerous, could break a piece off if the bit catches the grain the wrong way.

I noticed that this expert woodworker and boatbuilder made his own router table, and it was pretty much as rough and ready as mine! Even his fence was similar. His was twice as big, though, and had two holes cut for two routers. Saves changing bits when he's doing production work. Great idea. Also note the shop-built guard. More tool making!

Scarf cutting jig
Another interesting tool was John's plywood scarf cutting 'jig'. To make the scarf, the two planks are laid on top of each other. Then two battens are clamped to the work and table. The spacing between the two battens determines the length of the scarf. The router is mounted on a wide plastic base which rides on the two battens (and fits into the router table). With a straight bit installed, it's a quick job to cut the two scarfs at exactly the right angle.

It took me a minute to get my head around the idea of using the bottom of a straight bit to do the cutting, but if you think about it, you can see how it works.

When I think how much time I spent scarfing two bits of plywood together for Cabin Boy's sheer strake, I could cry.

Another enormous time saver is John's 'Gain-o-matic'. This simple jig is used to cut the gains in the kind of glued lapstrake boats John builds. A gain is the kind of ramping cut that allows lapstrake plank ends to blend together.

 The plank is inserted into the jig. The router -- again with wide base -- rides on the rails on either side of the jig. These slant, so as the router with straight bit goes down the ramp, it cuts the angled gains precisely -- something that is not so easy to do with a hand plane, as I can tell you.

The theme of all the demonstrations was the same: simple, often shop-built tools can not only make a job easier, but can help you do the job better. Good tips for unhandy builders like myself.

Speaking of boats, there were two more boats that caught my eye at the show. One was a Oughtred Caledonia Yawl, built by Geoff Kerr of 2 Daughters Boatworks. These are very popular boats, and for good reasons. Every time I see one in person, I'm impressed with how well thought out they are. As much as I love my Blue Moon, I can definitely see the advantages of having an 18-foot boat that you can pull out of the water and store in the driveway over the winter.

Caledonia Yawl
The other boat that caught my eye was a strip-planked kayak build by Nick Schade. There's a lot to be said for strip planking, but I have never been a fan of bright-finished strippers. They always look too busy to me.

But this year Nick had a beauty where he took the time to select and match the strips so that they blended together well enough that from several feet away, you could hardly notice the strips. In fact, it looked planked, rather than stripped.

Strip planks that don't looked striped
These are all strips of cedar, but cedar varies greatly in color. You can see how Nick has selected the colors to create a sheer strake and bottom, with a couple of trim stripes for accent. Very well done.

Another boat I'd like to build sometime. Where will I find the time, though?

Finally, I made two purchases at the show: a decent riggers knife that Hamilton Marine had on sale for an irresistible price:

My new riggers knife
This is something I've needed for a long time, but good knives are so expensive I've been making due with an old one that didn't have a spike. Eric was never without a sharp riggers knife, and seemed slightly disgusted that I didn't have one in my pocket, not once, but several times!!! I won't be embarrassed the next time someone asks, "do you have a knife?" Seems like a really nice tool.

At another booth, two young men were showing off their blacksmith skills. They had a wide variety of caulking irons and other heavy duty tools that I probably will never need, and a small variety of shop-made cabinetry hardware, like hinges and knobs.

The little drawer that I made for my new galley still didn't have a knob, because I've been waiting to find the 'right' one. The ones you can find at Home Depot and hardware stores looked a bit too polished for my little gallery. I just couldn't warm  up to any of them. But I was instantly taken by the wrought iron knobs made by these two gents. They didn't have any stock, but they let me buy one of the demonstrator knobs.

Hand made iron knob
It looks positively medieval, with the hammer marks showing in the iron, but I love it. I think it looks just right on my rather crude hand-made drawer.

Love it.
I would love to give these two young guys a plug, but I've lost their business card. If you were at the show and visited the blacksmith booth across from the Wood Mizer booth, and have any of their contact information, please leave it in the comments below, or send me an email. Thanks!

So, all in all, a very productive and worth-while show.

And, I'm back to building, at least for a little while...

Next Episode:  Bucksaw

06 July 2014

I Install a Knob

Sure, all that sailing in Brazil and the Caribbean are fine, but it interferes with the important stuff, like building!

Thank goodness for the Wooden Boat Show, which always helps me put sailing and building back in their proper perspective. I've returned from the annual pilgrimage filled with a lust for sawdust, and with one important missing piece of my new galley, which I will get to in a moment.

A small piece of the 2014 Wooden Boat Show in Mystic, CT
This must have been the busiest WBS ever, because I've never had trouble parking at the show. This year, I was turned away from the South lot, which is my favorite because it is closest to the demonstrations, and I do believe I snagged the very last spot in the North lot. 

However, the show is so spread out, and the Seaport so large, that it didn't seem crowded at all. It was a  beautiful day, and thanks to the unusually cool weather we've been having this spring and summer, not as blazingly hot as the show often is.

There was the usual collection of gold-plated boats and, more importantly, some excellent demonstrations. I chose Friday because of two demonstrations in particular: 
  • Harry Bryan's Shop Made Tools
  • John Brook's Routers
Harry Bryan is a well-known designer and builder who has also made something of a name for himself as a tool maker. His book "Making Hand Tools" is terrific, but I was really hoping he would demonstrate silver soldering, the technique he'd discussed in the JUL/AUG 2010 issue of WB. I was not disappointed.

Harry Bryan demonstrating silver soldering
Silver soldering is a way to join bits of metal, like bronze or steel, with a very strong bond. You can use the technique to make all sorts of useful metal fittings. For example, the original Blue Moon Builder used it to make the steel fitting that held the two ends of the BM's original boomkin together. Not having the nerve to try the technique, I was forced to use elegant nuts and bolts for the replacement fitting.

To demonstrate the strength of the bond, Harry joined two 1/4-inch rods together, end to end. The only tools required were a fire brick to protect the bench, some flux and silver solder, and a torch. 

For safety, Harry recommended using an instant on/off torch head, like this one:

Instant on/off torch
The head lights the torch with the press of a button, and shuts the flame off as soon as you put the torch down on your bench. This makes the torch much safer to use. He told a story of a builder who left a torch burning on his bench and accidentally put his arm in front of it. I was convinced!

Instead of propane, the torch burns Mapp gas, which is hotter.

Like most types of joinery, its important that the two pieces fit closely together, so the ends of the two pieces of rod were cut square. When laid on the brick, end to end, they fit together very closely.

He then heated the joint until the pieces glowed red hot, removed the flame, and quickly touched the joint with the solder. That's all there was too it.

To show how strong the bond was, Harry clamped one of the ends in a vice and bent the rod double at the joint. So much force was required to bend the rod, I was sure the joint would fail, and actually held up my hand to shield my eyes (I was in the font row.) But no, the joint held. 

When done correctly, the joint does not consist of two pieces of bronze with some silver in between, as if it were a glue joint. Instead, the molecules actually mingle in the joint, so you have bronze molecules, then a mixture of bronze and silver molecules, then bronze molecules again. 

I found this explanation fascinating, but the important thing is, it's a really strong joint. I have several projects in mind where this sort of soldering, or brazing, will be very handy. Stay tuned.

Incidentally, one of Harry's boats was at the show: this absolutely scrumptious beauty.  What an eye he has.

Harry Bryan day sailer.
I'll finish this post tomorrow.

Next Episode: I Install A Knob Part 2

23 June 2014

San Juan Viejo

April 19

We woke up to a torrential down pour.

Breakfast was in a local, but very known touristy bakery. It had a feel of a European cafe: tables crammed together, busy atmosphere, music in the background accompanied by a live trumpet player filling the air with soft happy latin music. The place was called Mallorca and the specialty was mallorcas. Sweetish pastry that looked like pancakes, filled with ham, cheeses and eggs, and, covered with confectioners sugar. Delicious.

Back in the hotel we picked up Gloria and started our exploring of the Old San Juan. We took a tram, and rode around a city that is preserved within a 500 year old fort, El Morro. Impossible to capture on camera, but here are a few attempts:

First view of El Morro and throngs of kite flyers

John & Gloria in the central square

A look down on the fort's many strategic levels

Enjoying the view, and the warm breeze!


Look at those trade wind clouds

Too many views
San Juan is also a big port -- ship using the inlet the fort was built to protect

Lots of exercise required for this leg

What can I say?
The houses, most of them in pretty good shape are painted in colorful tones.

There is a constant breeze throughout the city, the blue cobblestones (brought as ballast by the Spanish fleet) pave the streets, giving it a unique feel and coloring. We walked for about 4 hours absorbing the history and energy.

Lovely old neighborhoods

I'll take that one!
Latin music is a constant presence, in plazas, restaurants, bars and shops. People look happy and the place is clean. Hundreds of cats roaming the streets. Ok, we are ready to move here!

The parties start early in San Juan...

And end late!
Dinner in a Spanish tapas restaurant followed by Flamenco dancing. San Juan is muy hermosa!

Next Episode: I Install A Knob

The Last Leg

April 18

John has planned this trip perfectly (what a man!).

Today his mother arrives from Jupiter, Florida, to spend a couple of days on dry land with us.

When first hearing of this plan, the Captain was a bit startled, then he asked, “Is she staying on the boat?" (Like, are you guys setting me on a blind date?) It was the first time we'd seen actual fear cross Eric's face.

John and I had a big laugh over that because Gloria, my dearest mother-in-law, would not board a sailboat to meet King Solomon himself.

The journey across to Puerto Rico was short--only about 4 hours--but what a ride! The waves were very, very large and coming behind us. I find it cool when we take a wave for a surf. The boat gets pushed, and the wind gets punched out of my stomach.

Pictures never seem to capture the size of waves
I have been trying to describe the different blue colors of the ocean and inlet waters. My mother could easily paint them, so I have been thinking in colors: Navy, cerulean, sapphire, aqua, aqua marine etc.  Probably more. I will keep working on it.

Fruit flies came on board in South Africa, after Fiona ran into a bit of bad weather, and food and drinks were spoiled on board. We found a couple of their breeding places: rotten onions in the head (bathroom), a lost glass with some juice left on top of a bunk, garbage that took too long to throw out… They have been abating since the big clean up, but a few still linger. Amazing how they love wine. I might have drunk several of them. They taste like chicken.

Puerto Rico is approaching fast. A turtle comes to the surface and sticks her neck out just to take one last look at us.

First look of beautiful Puerto Rico
Finally, we arrive at our final port: Marina Del Rey. It has a large concrete dock. It is so large, that we need golf carts to get to the main building.

We said our goodbyes, once again, to Eric and Fiona. Fair winds to our companions.

Off we go to San Juan… and our next adventure.

The taxi trip was about one hour long and my first taste of what Puerto Rico reminded me of a combination of Brazil and Florida. Perfect.

In the distance, the tropical rain forest mountains, covered with mist and green. The high rise buildings and luxury condominiums, modern highways, poor neighborhoods, rivers, beaches, the rain, the sun, the smells…

Old San Juan - my kind of town.
I am already loving it.

John arranged for a hotel in San Juan Viejo and for the next two days we will explore this town.

Because of Good Friday mostly all stores and restaurants are closed. Not a problem, we were very tired and didn’t mind a quick bite to eat, a hot shower (with lots of shampooing and soaping) and a nice fluffy clean bed.

Before collapsing, we eat at Punto Del Vista. Delicious…

That's my husband!

Next Episode: In Old San Juan


April 17

After an eventful and restless night, we are on our way back to the USA. Not bad, considering we visited a hand full of countries in the last 5 days.

Last look at the BVI
We left very early today, and the wind wasn’t helping. Wow, that was a tough passage. Of course, I was sent down below to stay out of the way of the manly things they do on deck, thank you very much. But between the high seas, no breakfast, big waves, and no wind, by the time I was allowed out of the cabin, I was not feeling so good. I took a Dramamine and slept on my bunk for about 3 hours.

Just looking at this pic makes me sea sick!
By the time I awoke, lunch was being served: tuna sandwiches. Mmmm. Amazing how the simplest food (Eric's speciality) tastes good on a boat.

We sailed past reefs, rocks and a few power boats blasting their way through the waves. Because of those seas, John hand-steered for most of the way across, and what a great job he did.

Meanwhile, back on deck and feeling better after lunch, I was dealing with a big, caked-hair mess. I called it the one dread-lock do. Nothing can go through it, not even my fingers. My hair has been battered by wind, salt water, some fresh water, sand and wind. When squall hit us, I was determined to do something about it. The only problem with washing hair in the rain is the cold. The rain was so cold, it was hard not to give up after a couple of minutes. But I stuck with it, rinsed off, and ran down below as soon as possible.

While I am on the subject, last hair washing was 5 days ago. In case you are thinking sailing is a breeze, I can tell you sailing on Fiona is not for everyone. However, by this time tomorrow we should have showers again. Ah! Proper cleaning with shampoo and conditioner and drying with a clean towel. Heaven.

We arrived at the small island of Calabria under heavy wind. To take the sail down, we did suffered some mild damage. John’s knee got cut, but I immediately applied Neosporin, a spray of my perfume (for the alcohol), and a bandaid. ("Okay, that was just weird." -- John)

Once Fiona was somewhat securely anchored, Eric and I went ashore to do the customs clearance. John stayed on the boat, just to make sure it didn't drag. We rode the dinghy to a bar, tied up and started walking for about 20 minutes in the direction of the airport.

Seaside bar
Customs were sort of cleared, Eric picked up John, and we met at a bar that was right on the water. The fish -- tarpons -- swimming around the dock were huge, about 3-4 ft long. Those fish lead a very happy life eating food scrapings thrown at them by the customers. Pirañas had nothing on those fish. I did not fancy falling into the water with them.

3-foot long fish alongside the fish restaurant...
Not very smart!
We motored back to Fiona: double portion of rum for happy hour, mac and cheese for dinner, accompanied by nice classical music. Eric declared it a movie night, but I was so tired, I didn't last through the opening credits.

Tomorrow we are leaving for the main island of Puerto Rico.

Next Episode: End of Another Voyage

04 June 2014

Jost Van Dyke

April 16

Without time for breakfast or coffee, Fiona lifted anchor a bit after 7. There was no wind and the Captain decided we would motor all the way... for the next 5 hours.

Motoring is a bit tricky. With no wind to stabilize the boat, Fiona lolled from one side to another, making it difficult to read, walk or do anything, really. The smell of the diesel engine is a bit nauseating, too.

But it was worth the effort. By noon we arrived at a Sandy Cay Island.

Jost Van Dyke
Google Maps - click to enlarge

Sandy Cay was a small (about 300ft wide) island with beautiful clear waters. John and I swam ashore and walked around the island. Taking our time, it took approximately 5 minutes to circumnavigate. The supposedly belongs to a rich mogul, but a nice one, since he doesn’t mind people anchoring and walking all over his beach.

Sandy Cay
Afterwards, we headed for Great Harbor on Jost Van Dyke island to clear customs.

We lowered the dingy, the Captain climbed onboard, and while fidgeting with the engine, the dingy just drifted away.  Ah, sailor’s language… John got blamed for letting go the dinghy's painter too soon, and when Eric turned the engine on, the line got tangled in the propeller… more sailor’s language. All ended well, though, and we finally headed for the beach.

The main attraction -- Foxy's
Great Harbor is a nice little one-street town, with a very famous bar (apparently “the” most famous watering hole in the BVI), Foxy's.

At Foxy's
After a couple of very strong drinks and a nap on a hammock hanging under umbrella trees (these trees do very well in sand -- in Brazil they can grow to be very wide and large), we headed back to Foxy’s for dinner. It was a very late dinner. Although the lobster was delicious, it was served an hour and 15 minutes after we ordered. Heads would have rolled in Gordon Ramsey’s kitchen.

Captain at the bar
Back on Fiona, the full moon that had been with us all week was up again. Romance was in the air and so the night ended.

Not so fast.

I am awakened by an expletive from the cockpit. It’s John. It’s 3 a.m., it’s raining, it’s very windy, and John is not happy. He is looking about with his head lamp set on “red” and I wonder if the wind has taken his shirt or his favorite hat overboard (we have a bad habit of leaving things hanging on deck).

"No," John says "We are dragging!"

My turn for the #@$%^@. Oh, that means lifting up the anchor, moving the boat, lowering the anchor, making sure it stays in place this time. I am always very nervous about the anchor chain. The equipment is not always reliable, so I cannot wait for the ordeal to be over, so I can count John's digits and make sure they add up to 10. This is a very dangerous maneuver.

After 3 attempts, we are finally anchored for the night, I hope. Again, I am going back to bed with damp pajamas.

Tomorrow we are leaving the BVI and and heading back to American.

Next Episode: Culebra

Copyright (c) 2009-2011 John Almberg -- All Rights Reserved

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