February 2012


More new friends and fun, but some hard decisions.


I desperately hope that we manage to avoid sounding smug in these pages. "Smug" implies comparison of our lifestyle with others and pointing out that our one is better. It isn't better, it's just different. "Heaven" is a state of mind and soul. However, we've been pondering long and hard about the future. A mad scramble to try to get a good school place for libby; advertising copy for the boat; jobs or some kind of business for Penny and I. As we daydream about how it might actually be has caused us to swerve towards a new strategy. We need Libby to get a sensible school place, sensible sustainable work for at least Penny or I, and a buyer for our precious boat. We're setting things up as energetically as we can, but if fate should draw blank with at least two of these criteria, then there may be grounds for renting out the house and staying this space!




Well the month has started with an extended spell of very windy weather. This upsets our routine slightly as snorkeling is much less fun, and a good night's sleep is harder to come by unless tied to a mooring buoy ($25 per night) or secured to a dock, ($ loads). Luckily for us we spent last weekend tied up - right up the creek at Nanny Cay courtesy of our great friend and old Sunsail colleague Cathie Caine. Cathie is someone who can look at the facts around her and make some great and generous decisions. There was nobody on the dock that weekend, so why not let Wild Bird tie up there? What's more, it being the weekend she was able to join us on the nearby beach with her two boys Jahmal and Jaylen. This is brilliant for Libby as they have known each other for some weeks now, so it's the closest she gets to a proper relationship with other kids.




It really was a truly excellent Saturday. Our new cruising friends Craig and Nix Ogier joined us too, along with their kids "Storm" and "Teak". Teak's a lad of four years and his sister is six. Their parents have packed up the super-yacht industry (for now!) and bought a mighty fine 45' catamaran called Safari. They have much more ambitious plans than us in terms of cruising, but for now we hope they will stick around for a bit and join us for the next few adventures, such as Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands.






Libby is wont to pick up a camera-phone and snap away if we're distracted. She did this recently in "De Loose Mongoose" eaterie where Penny and I were making use of the wifi. Thus she has almost caught the actual moment when my laptop went "pop". This is apparently a classic pose, and represents the mood that sometimes prevails when we find internet access. We have to drink beer - that's part of the deal with the establishment - make sure Libby is entertained, fed, watered, not being mean to other kids etc, remember the extensive list of chores requiring attention at the next connect, and until recently at least for me, nurse the wretched laptop through seizures, blue-screens, overheating and general crapness. Here's the expression which sums it all up:




Note the "No Smoking" sign. Smoking is now only allowed in WIDE open spaces or presumably at home. It's now very rare to intercept the whiff of a passing cigarette or cigar. The "parent" in me is very pleased about this. The "child" in me still wants to SMOKE!!




Libby and I went poking around in some more ruins the other day. She genuinely enjoys these excursions which makes me very happy. This ruin was close to the sugar plantation we roamed around a short while back. A yomp of this magnitude is generally all the exercise Libby will need in one day, a good thing when the incessant wind makes swimming less desirable.




In the first ruin we visited, we encountered a buxom young lady in a bright red swim suit. Libby observed she had "Puerto Rico" emblazoned on her backside, (her reading is really coming on!). Said young lady then proceeded to perform a headstand.




I sometimes wish for a longer lens! (Full size copy of this shot available on request.)


At the top of the hill we came across the considerable remains of what must have been a sensational villa, circa 1820. From the terrace we were rewarded with a near 360 degree vista with Wild Bird way below, now almost alone in the mooring field.






Libby wanted to play with the "big" camera. Oh well, why not?!






Earlier this month we sailed up to Anegada. This is a low-lying windswept island to the north of Tortola. It's highest point is but a few metres, and is little more than an overgrown sand dune surrounded by murderous reef. Our sail up there was marred by an encounter with a charter boat. We'd had him in view ever since he weighed anchor in Gorda sound, and I remember remarking that he looked something of a novice. Therefore I accept full responsibility for what happened next, and I beat myself up about it good and proper.

In the fresh nor-easter, the charter boat was attempting to sail to Anegada too. They had all their sails up, but were over powered in the 20kt breeze and way over sheeted. As we proceeded under genoa alone, the other yacht which was about a mile upwind of us and initially enjoying a good lead, started to fall down towards us. We watched in morbid fascination as the crew utterly failed to master the situation, rounding up letting fly until suddenly they were within hailing range. "Get out of our way" they shouted, and that is precisely what I should have done. But by then it was all but too late. I would have had to luff in a big way, losing all our boat speed and control, and gone around their stern. (Yes yes, start the bloomin' engine I hear you cry.) That's what I SHOULD have done. Instead I hailed back that since they were the windward boat, they should jolly well luff and go around OUR stern. Idiot! In the end they did indeed make it across our stern, but they passed so close that they took our fishing line with them. The lucky one. Penny had somehow found herself underneath the line, and in the seconds before it finally parted it sliced across the back of her neck, knocking her to the deck and causing her some degree of hurt. Her silver necklace parted too, but luckily didn't go overboard. Grrrrr

It took us a while to get over that one, but in the end we stayed a couple of nights at Anegada, and made the obligatory pilgrimage to the north coast to wonder at its desolate splendour.



Snorkeling, eating and drinking are the only real activities to be had here, although Libby and Penny found a fun pastime while Daddy was braving it alone out on the reef.



After our active morning, we treated ourselves to their celebrated lobster at the amusingly titled "Loblolly bay".


The return sail was wonderful and provided the needed catharsis; the Bird has an impressive turn of speed and we showed a clean pair of heels to a couple of other yachts, including a 45ft cat. With a locally acquired lure on the somewhat shorter hand line we hauled out a couple of ugly Barracudas. Due to the risks of ciguetera though, these fish are too dangerous to eat, so we sadly returned them to the briny.


Not the most flattering image. I should also point out that it's Penny who is the hunter in the family. I'm a reluctant assistant, although I have very much enjoyed the Tuna Penny has caught in recent weeks.




According to the weather forecast, last Sunday looked like the perfect time to visit the remote "Hans Lollik" islands to the north of St Thomas. We found an idyllic anchorage between the two small islands with just one other vessel for company.


We snorkeled, hunted for lobster, scraped some barnacles off the hull and generally lapped up the serenity of the place.




The skipper from the other boat came over for a chat. He had internet aboard, and was talking about a "swell forecast". This isn't something we've been accustomed to taking note of. Our neighbour was a mad-keen surfer from California, and he was excited about the coming days. I mumbled something about having positioned the Bird behind a reef and we'd be fine come what may.


At around midnight I woke Penny and said we had to move. The other boat had left much earlier on, (ha, no protection from the reef you see!). Poor Wild Bird was now bucking like a bronco in huge swells which had suddenly sprung up no later than three hours after taking the above pictures. The overwhelming urge in this situation is to say "it'll be OK. Let's ride it out". I still think we were perfectly safe per se, but it was horribly uncomfortable. The anchor was wedged tightly under rock and was a brute to break out, but after dancing around in a semi-circle and employing much motor power it finally came free. We had a contingency plan to head to "Magan's Bay" on the north coast of St Thomas, and so it was that we dropped the hook there about an hour and a half later. It had been a bumpy ride but all was well. Libby had clearly been awake and fretting, but always feigned sleep when we checked on her. Poor thing was too scared to admit her fears, and she slept for much of the following day.




It's very easy to take things for granted generally. In the evenings we tend to sit in our comfortable cockpit and read books, listen to podcasts, talk over plans etc. Every now and then I like to take a turn around the deck, revelling in the brilliant starlit sky, the warm planked decks, the gentle cooling breeze. I wish I could capture it all somehow and share it with you. Whilst pondering this the other day I tried to snap the scene with my camera. The sun had long since set and the brief dusk had given way to the darkness of night. It's hard to see the camera dials in the dark, so this is something like a five second (handheld) exposure showing the moon, just under the boom, and the mooring light in the fore-triangle.





I've salvaged the hard drive from my now defunct laptop and hooked it up via USB to Penny's old "spare". Luckily the FTP program works, and I think the ancient external wireless module will work now that I've downloaded the drivers via my phone. Android phone I should point out. Couldn't have done it with one of those "iThings", even if I could afford one! If you're reading this - it worked! Nevertheless, a new laptop must be found. Puerto Rico, here we come.



Following her proof-read, Penny pointed out that she is under represented in the visual media. We shall work on rectifying that in the next weeks.