Friday, November 23, 2018

BVI 2018

We recently returned from a sailing trip to the British Virgin Islands. This was our first trip back after hurricane Irma hit the islands in September of 2017. We had visited the islands in 2015 and were anxious to see how the reconstruction was coming along. The people of the BVI have a lot of spirit and we were happy to return to help with the tourism.

This time we rented a 40-foot catamaran from The Moorings out of Road Town, Tortola. We went with our good friends Bruce & Karen and were joined by our friends Bob & Stacey. This trip would be a good mixture of sailing and snorkeling with a little island exploration. Our itinerary included a stop on the hook at Peter Island, mooring ball at Leverick Bay, mooring ball at Anegada Island, on the hook again at Camanoe Island, mooring ball in Jost, mooring ball Normans Island then a final night on the ball in Cooper Island before our return.

Mooring Base

The Moorings base is pretty busy. I'm happy to report that they have done a great job repairing the base but there is much work to be done. You can still see a lot of sunken boats and boats on the shores. It is not like the BVI of 2015 but they are ready for your visit.

Breakfast before the first sail

Still stunning

Ruth, Stacey & Bob
We had great weather for sailing all week. Wind speed between 15 and 25 knots with some squalls hitting over 35 knots. Waves were reasonable with 3-5 foot seas with the occasional 8 footer. The motion of the catamaran is different but it definitely rolls around a bit. There's no way you are leaving  your coffee on the table and expecting it to stay put during sailing. The accommodations when you are at anchor are extremely comfortable but after this trip we prefer monohulls.

Gorgeous (lady & scenery)

Here we are just off the Baths. This is the number one tourist attraction in the BVI and is not to be missed. Interesting snorkeling and rock formations. Grab a ball early as it tends to fill up.
Stacey & Bob having fun

The Baths

Leverick Bay

Scene on Leverick Bay. This is in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda and the other resorts have been completely destroyed. They are busy rebuilding Saba Rock and the Bitter End Yacht Club and it was very sad to see the destruction the hurricane caused to this part of the island.

Open ocean out to Anegada
 Our last time we did not make it out to Anegada Island and we definitely wanted to go there this time. Conditions on the island were pretty good and it is only 12 nautical miles from North Sound to the harbor. It is a low lying island so make sure you check your bearings and stay well away from horseshoe reef. The sail went fast and the open ocean was rolling a bit but not too bad. Easy sail and a highly recommended stop.

Ruth at Anegada


The mooring field at Anegada is pretty busy. We took the free shuttle to the Anegada Beach Club and the place is beautiful. For dinner I had a full Anegada lobster with all the trimmings. It's not like Maine lobster, but still delicious.
Great sunset

Lee Bay

We definitely needed a quiet stop after Anegada and decided on staying on the hook at Lee Bay, Camanoe Island. There was only one other boat behind us and I dove on the anchor to make sure we were secure. Great stop with a nice breeze and no rolling during the night.
Sunset - Lee Bay

Great Harbor

Next stop was Great Harbor on Jost. We walked the town and they are definitely still suffering from the hurricane although spirits are high. Foxy's was open and we had a nice lunch and dinner ashore. Make sure you visit the local establishments if you go. It was also time to purchase another 100 gallons of water.
Bruce & Bob checking that we are secure

The ladies

Showing some skin

The Indians

After a night on Normans Island we got up early and moored by the Indians. This is a fantastic snorkeling location and we were the second boat there. Definitely pays to get there early and this spot is not to be missed.
Rainbow of USVI

Ruth enjoying helm time

Captains Bruce & Drew looking over the situation


Having fun yet?

Great game of Jenga

This was a great trip and the BVI is definitely worth a stop again. There is still a recovery process going on but I can't say enough about how beautiful the island and the people are. Make sure you provision well in Tortola because there is not much in the out islands. It is different from the days before the hurricane but the people and the island are slowly bouncing back. We did 110 nautical miles for the week and got to see if we wanted to buy a catamaran or monohull for our boat. I'm happy to report we are leaning towards a monohull.

Happy Sailing!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Turtle put to bed, BVI coming up!

Our marina at Lake Nockamixon requires us to have the boat out of the water by 10/31 each year. This is really a shame as the leaves are a really nice color right now and there is usually a bit more wind this time of year. Ruth and I took the boat out two weeks ago and the Turtle is sitting safely in our front yard. A few things we do to put her away for the winter include:

  • Power wash the bottom to get all the gunk off
  • Neatly stow the lines for next year
  • Inspect the sails and put them in their bags
  • Make sure the mast and rigging is tightly secured
  • Empty out the gas in the carburetor 
  • Cover the boat
Next spring we will do a touch up paint on the hull and top sides then lubricate any motor parts for the season. Pretty easy to do as long as you stay on top of everything. Last phase will be to do a thorough inspection of the rigging to make sure it's good for the year.

Sailing is almost over for the season for us. We have a great trip planned for BVI in November and look forward to sharing pictures from our trip in this blog. This time we are planning on sailing out to Anegada Island if wind and sea cooperate with us. I normally like sailing monohulls but we have a big 40' catamaran chartered this time. Hopefully our ASA 118 training will do us well.

Happy sailing!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Spinnaker Flying

What a great fall day on the lake! If you are from the Northeast you know how much rain we have been getting this year. So far I believe it's the third wettest year on record and we still have three months to go. However, this weekend was beautiful. Ruth and I did some chores on Saturday and then enjoyed a nice bike ride up the Schuylkill River Trail. Sunday was taking Ruth's mom to church and then out for a sail.

Sunday could only have been better if there had been a little more wind. The temperature was great, the lake wasn't crowded and blue sky as far as you could see. We decided it would be a great time to try out our spinnaker. Our setup is not great, our whisker pole does not have a topping lift and our spinnaker halyard is below the front stay. Not to matter, it was time to let it fly!

 We managed to get the spinnaker in front of the front stay. Ideally the halyard should be above this on a fractional sloop but we made it work. We ran the sheets outside the boat to our stern cleats.

Such a pretty sail. The wind was a little light but it managed to fill the sail and move us along. By adjusting the sheets on each side we were able to keep things balanced pretty well.

There were some kayaks and paddle boards also out enjoying the day. Ruth took up one of her favorite positions on the lake.

Bringing in the fenders

Ruth sporting her new shirt from Montana

Taking a nap

Kayaks along the lake

We are hoping to get out at least one more time before we have to pull the boat at the end of October. A fall color trip would make for some nice pictures.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Keeping The Dream Alive

One thing I've learned from this experience is that it takes a lot of planning. Young attractive couples can sell everything, move on their boat, develop some clickbait, and be off and running on patreon with supporters. I think that is great for them and support them living their dream while they are still young. Their videos on youtube are enjoyable and I know they put a lot of effort in building up their audience. I don't begrudge them a bit. It would have been nice to have taken a year or two off after college to do the same thing but love and family were a higher priority for me and I've been happily married for over 32-years now to my best friend.

I'm referring to couples nearing retirement that want to sail off in their early retirement years without having to return to work. We started thinking about the sailing cruising lifestyle in 2014. Right now we have set a date for sailing off on October 10, 2022! It's a Monday and Columbus day so that seems like a good choice. It's sailing superstition to never set sail on a Friday, so why not Monday? That is a little over 8-years from concept to reality. Ruth and I (Drew) thought it was important to set a date otherwise this would just remain a dream. Now we have a real goal to attain. I think it's the engineer in me that wants to plan this and just not take off without being ready.

In terms of the planning, here's a list of the things we wanted to accomplish before setting sail:

  • Take ASA sailing classes (DONE!) (I'd still like to do a multi-day ocean passage though)
  • Charter a number of bareboat trips (Ongoing process but we've done quite a few already)
  • Learn about diesel engine mechanics (Plan on taking a class next year)
  • Understand paper navigation (DONE!) (100% score on ASA 105)
  • Gain knowledge of celestial navigation (Ongoing process)
  • Save enough money so we won't have to go back to work when we return (Ongoing)
  • Prepare the home for either selling or renting (Ongoing)
  • Organize a mail forwarding service (one of our children?)
  • Setup a blog and youtube account (DONE!)
  • Buy the cruising sailboat (Ongoing)
  • Read and learn as much as possible (Ongoing)
Of course there is more to do, but I think these are our highlights. We have been researching boats and have a pretty good idea of what we are looking for. Everything I have read says don't buy your boat too soon, so we are anticipating another two years before we start seriously looking for a boat. We have a list of things we want in a boat instead of a specific boat in mind. Hopefully we will find a good deal as boats can be difficult to sell.

Ruth and I also ran through a fun exercise in which we sat down and talked about WHY we want to do this. Here's the list we came up with:

  • Fun
  • Togetherness
  • Learn new things
  • Get away
  • Spent time alone together
  • Freedom
  • Exploration
  • Travel
  • Being responsible for oneself and your actions
  • Help local communities
  • Immerse with local and different cultures
I know that four years will go by very quickly. Til next time....

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Glacier National Park & Banff

Ruth and I (Drew) love to sail but we also enjoy hiking and the great outdoors. I completed a bicycle trip through the Glacier National Park (GNP) area 8-years ago and always wanted to go back. Whitefish Montana is one of my favorite towns. Ruth went with me this time and we turned it into a hiking trip.

Our first stop was in Whitefish Montana. We found a great B&B called the Garden Wall Inn. Garden Wall is named for one of the famous areas in GNP. Our hosts were great with a short walk into town and very comfortable accommodations.

Garden Wall Inn

Hike Up Whitefish Mountain Resort

It was cold for early July with winter jackets, hats and gloves being the norm. We decided to hike to the top of Whitefish Mountain Resort and enjoy the views. After the long hike, we took the Gondola down. I had an excellent emu burger at the top of the mountain and Ruth got to watch the world cup soccer game.
Snow at the top

Tired after a long hike
New Friends
Being sailors we decided to stop down at the local lake to check out the boating scene. It was mostly power boats but we did run into one couple that was renaming their boat (notice the branch on the front of the boat) and needed some help with the renaming ceremony. We were happy to help them tie up their boat, go through the ceremony, and share some rum with them and Neptune. Good luck with the new boat!

From Whitefish it was off to Waterton Lakes Peace Park in Canada. This is also part of GNP but on the Canadian side. We stayed in the Prince of Wales Hotel and did some interesting hiking. They had a huge fire last year but firefighters managed to save the town and this historic hotel. Many of the trails were closed but we did manage to hike a few. 

View from our room, not bad

Prince of Wales

Still cold, July 4th!

Fire Damage

Next stop was Banff. The town is pretty busy but we found a nice little place to stay called the Banff Avenue B&B. You did need to drive out of town to get to the hiking trails but it wasn't far. This time of year it's also light until about 11:00 pm (23:00 for you sailors) so there's lots of time to enjoy the day. Eating dinner at 10 did take a little getting used to though.



Lake outside Banff

Leading edge of a glacier

Tea House after a long hike

After Banff it was down to the east side of GNP. We stayed at St. Mary's and Many Glacier. They had a "problem" bear at St. Mary's that the park ranges kept trying to scare away. It is very important to not have the bears associated people with food. As they say, "a fed bear is a dead bear". By this time it was warming up and winter coats were put away.

Rustic cabin and our vessel for the two weeks

Lots of snow still


Hidden Lake - we found it

Ruth with a novel approach to going down

Grizzly county, we carried pepper spray and made noise

View from Many Glacier area

Little Red Hiking Hood

Iceberg Lake

Beautiful Vistas

This was a fantastic trip and highly recommended. They say in a dozen years there will be no official glaciers left in GNP so now is the time to visit. Hope you enjoyed the hiking and next blog back to sailing!