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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Getting Ready Part 10 or "Put a Fork In It Its Done"

Well as the saying goes: "time marches on"!  There are a lot of other sayings but I'll stick with that one for now.  Since my last up-date I have remained retired and despite what some think, am enjoying it.  Not getting a lot accomplished but that's ok.  Well I did remodel the lower level laundry room / half bath and fixed things as they needed fixing.  We have done a little traveling.  Most recently, down to Houston for the Southwest International Boat Show and a nice visit with the Kingwood family.  In early March we headed to Aubrey TX (outside Denton which is outside Dallas) to celebrate my dad's 82 birthday.  The whole event was hosted by my brother and his wife in their new home which is beautiful.  Relaxing in his media room made me wonder where I could put one on a boat.  Daughter #2 rode down with us and Daughter #1 and husband came down from AR and were able to bring grandson #1.   On the day of dad's birthday we were hit with an ice storm that made everyone's departure and trips home a little more stressful then we would have liked but all arrived home safely.

After a brief attempt at selling our home on our own, we have once again engaged the assistance of someone who knows what they are doing and the house went on the market in mid February.  So we are back to making the bed every day.  We also drastically reduced the listing price to the point it impacts the boat decisions when they come.  After a series of long discussions, we decided that the dream of being out on the water was more important than the "dream" boat.  This is not to say that if I hit on the Powerball that 50' Catana won't be on order.  Given my odds are both slim and none on wining the Powerball we have adjusted out wish list and are focusing on getting out there, wherever "there" is. 

Part 10, or the last time we went sailing:
If you know nothing else about Jo you must know she hates cold.  Not in the, I really hate it when __fill in the blank_______; no hate it in the most profound of ways.  The other thing you should know is that way out here in West Texas the weather can be best described as bipolar and really polar.  For example, this past Saturday 12 April it was 93 and on Monday the high wasn’t even 43 with a low that night of 25, in Texas, in April.  Now my friends up north are thinking boohoo, but again, it is Texas not Minnesota.  This particular fall it was unusually cold very early and that set the stage for all, well some, future decisions.  Being a college professor, as glamorous and high paying as it sounds, well it is neither and as a result, we have to carefully budget our sailing adventures.  For example, sailing one summer, a new driveway the next; never sailing two summers in a row, except!  Cold trumps most everything and one late October day in which we looked out into the courtyard and say white flakes falling from the sky the decision was made to book a charter for that summer even though we had just gone the previous summer.  So on the phone I went to contact BareCat Charters and booked a Lagoon 410 named Eyes of the World, yes the owners were Dead Heads.  We chartered her for 2 weeks, later extended to 18 days in late July through August, is way off season.  The other thing different about this time was we were not going to bring either daughter, it was just Jo and me alone on the boat.  Although we invited our neighbors later in the coming spring they could only come down for 5 days, but I am getting ahead of myself.  Winter continued to confirm Jo's belief that her attitude is determined by her latitude and I will admit that I too was quickly losing any fascination I had with the cold.  Spring came, slowly, then summer arrived like a freight train; all the while we checked off the days. 

One of the great joys we have is sharing our excitement and experiences on boats with others.  First Jo with me so many years ago, then with our son when he was younger, then our daughters, and this summer with our neighbors.  There is always a risk when you expose someone to something radically different then what they are use to that disaster will ensue.  We were pretty sure our neighbors would enjoy the experience and if not, well they would head home and we would never speak of it again.  We did our best to prep them for life, albeit for just a few days, on the water.  Stuff like Navy showers, no A/C in the tropics, potential nasty weather, the joys of a marine head (bathroom), etc.. but they were game.  We were flying in from different locations but met in Puerto Rico and flew on to Tortola  BVI. When we got in it was late and we shared a buss/taxi with another couple as we headed on a white-knuckle ride to the BareCat base in Sea Cow's Bay.  When we got there, of course nothing was open and our provisions weren’t scheduled to arrive until the next morning, there was, however, a bottle of Cruzan Rum waiting for us as a welcome gift, and Jo was smart enough to pack with us some Raman Noodles and Crystal Light, so our first dinner on board was Crystal Light, made with warm tank water and mixed with the complementary rum and the Raman Noodles.  Now I won't say it was the best meal we had on our charter but at that particular moment, it was pretty damn good.  The freezer and fridge weren’t working and an alarm kept going off that I misidentified as a bilge alarm (it was the inverter being overloaded by a laptop we were trying to get up and working) but we were all tired so we would wait until the morning to work the bugs out.  My instincts told me to check the shore power breaker and I should have listened to them because that's what it was.  We were stuck at the dock until early afternoon while we waited on our neighbors lost luggage but we were on island time so it gave us time to buy more rum, ice, beer, and other essentials, get the provisions from Bobby's Market stowed away and to arrange for a pilot to take us up to Anegada later in the trip.  When the luggage finally arrived we motored out of Sea Cow's Bay and set a course for Soldiers Bay went through the "Happy Hooking of a Mooring" drill described in Part 9 of this blog.  You might notice we sent our first night in Soldiers Bay on our last charter and did on this one as well.   This is no because it is a "special" anchorage but it is an easy sail from the charter base and somewhat secluded.  Being somewhat secluded, it is often missed by the guys picking up the mooring fees ($25 then now $30) for the privilege of using their mooring and being basically cheap I was hoping on a free night, which I got, this time.  The next morning, after breakfast we headed out for some basic sailing with no particular place to go.  The wind was barreling right down the Sir Francis Drake Channel so we got a lot of tacking and gibing practice in as we made it to the Cooper Island Resort located in Manchioneel Bay for a relaxed dinner at the resort.    The next morning involved a quick trip to the Baths, the rock formation not the tub and a sail over the top of Tortola down to what was suppose to a relaxing swim at Sandy Spit and some snorkeling but turned into an anchor recovery exercise when the anchor chain jammed on the windlass (the winch that raises and lowers the anchor).  Once recovered on deck we made for Jost Van Dyke and picked up a mooring outside the infamous Foxy's.  A little doctoring on the windlass and several libations at Foxy's and all was good.   Unfortunately this was not our last issue with the anchor windlass.  A trip to Cane Garden Bay, because as Jimmy taught us I hear it gets better, that’s what they say, as soon as you sail on to Cane Garden Bay.  We wanted to visit the Callwood Rum Distillery but it was closed for the Emancipation Holiday, as were most places but a nice visit was had.  Some snorkeling at Monkey Bay then it was off to Trellis Bay for our friends last night with us.  Early the next morning I took our neighbors to the dingy dock for the short walk to the airport and their flight back to reality and I hung around waiting for our pilot who was required by the charter company to take us to Anegada for the first time.  As I said earlier, you are never sure when introducing something like cruising on a sailboat to someone if it will be a disaster or success but I can say without a doubt it was a resounding success and they are almost as anxious for us to move aboard a boat as we are so they can come visit and welcomed crew they be.
Our romp across the open ocean to Anegada was uneventful.  I picked up a lot of pointers from our pilot, a charter captain from South Africa who looked the part.  Once into the only real anchorage we did that, anchor.  No mooring balls or fees and the anchor windlass behaved itself.  When we sailed in the Bahamas we almost always anchored.  The sea bed was a mixture of sand and turtle grass but in the BVIs, for the most part, all the islands are volcanic and where there is sand it is very deep the exception being Anegada which looked more like Abaco than the BVIs.  There were mooring balls to be had but why pay the fee when you can anchor for free.  We spent two wonderful days there.  Rented a car and went in search for the Pink Flamingos but all we found was some pink plastic staff stuck in a mangrove tree.   We swam at Loblolly Bay and had lobster at the Anegada Reef Hotel.  We also encountered the first of two "credit card captains" as we came to know them on this trip.  A nice enough couple came over to our boat for drinks and a visit.  They were on a 30-something foot monohull on a mooring ball off our stern.  They were quite amazed that we were anchored and were sure we would drag into them during the night.  Once I assured them we were, or should I say, they were fine the evening proceeded and then refused to end.  They told us their life story and that they were promised a power cat from the "M" charter company but the boat they reserved was unavailable and they were given a sailboat, told to just motor around in this and they could even pull out that white cloth at the front of the boat, or as we like to call it, the jib.  Of course they had no idea what they were doing and I was even more concerned when they told us they both had their Coast Guard "Six-Pack" operator's license; I doubted their veracity.  The evening came to an unceremonious end and in the morning they motored away and since I didn't hear of any "M" brand charter boats sinking for the next two weeks I will assume they or should I say the vessel survived; as for them, I won't venture to guess.  The rest of the charter to quote  Zach Brown: Flew by like a drunk Friday night. 

We had planned to sail to the Spanish Virgins and the USVI but had entered full cruisers mode, "no hurry mon,"  and just enjoyed the cruising grounds on a relaxed pace.  That's not to say it was uneventful, like the time we went to anchor in  a small little bay where there are no mooring balls and room for maybe three boats.  As we headed in there was already one boat there and of course in the prime spot but there was still room.  As we entered and began to find a location to drop the hook, I had Jo go forward to prepare the anchor rode.  As she inched it out, emphasis on inched, the afore mentioned windlass decided it was not finished with us and started running freely.  As I watched all the chain (200') followed by the line (rope) head to the bottom of the bay I wondered if the bitter end of the line was cleated off; and yes, that is why it is called the bitter end!  Well the anchor gods took pity on us and the rode did not all end up on the bottom of the cove but we did have several feet of line and all that chain to haul back on board by hand.  I am sure the entire escapade provided fine entertainment for the monohull successfully anchored in the bay.  Not wanting to trust our ground tackle, or precisely, the windlass we made our way over to Marina Cay and picked up a mooring ball.  The rest of the charter went from great wind to no, I mean no wind.  You come to appreciate a little breeze when trying to sleep in the Caribbean heat, in August, with no breeze but it did give us a taste of the cruising life; well maybe just a nibble. 

Earlier I mentioned two credit-card captains, the first being the couple we met in Anegada; the second was witnessed while resting peacefully one morning after the tropics version of a Pub crawl.  This one involves starting at one end of the beach lined with establishments specializing in "adult" beverages and making your way to the other end.  We had to do it, I mean we had coupons left from the Drinking Mans Guide to the BVIs.  Well needless to say, the next morning I was moving at a measured pace enjoying a cup of coffee while Jo slept when I see this monohull from the "M" brand charter company heading in towards White Bay.  Now to get into White Bay you need to cut through one of two channels at either end of the reef that surrounds it.  One is barely marked with a buoy of questionable placement and the other, smaller and not marked at all.  The channels were located, one at one end of the bay, one at the other.   Well this captain credit-card decided to split the distance and was going to go between the two channels.  I got on the VHF radio as well as others witnessing this to try and warn the captain but to no avail.  We heard him hit where we were so I can only imagine the noise on board the charter boat.  A few of us hopped into our dinghies and motored out to see if we could help the young man with his wife, kids, and parents on board get off the reef but he assured us he had it all under control.  We left White Bay several hours later, the monohull still aground.  As much damage as it did to the young man's ego and the vessel, the real damage was to the reef and that's the real shame.

Well the charter came to an end after a quiet night in a cove on Peter Island, just us and a 175 foot motor yacht from Puerto Rico.  The next day we fueled the boat back up cleaned it up and returned it to the charter base.  We learned a lot this trip about the life we thought we want.  We realized it can and will be boring at times, challenging at times, entertaining at times with us providing the entertainment occasionally, but in the end I walked away convinced that it is something we have to try.

Post Script-

Well this is the end of the  "getting ready" chapters of the blog.  The next step will be finding a boat, buying a boat, learning the boat, and a thousand other things that go along with it before we "cast-off".  If you have been following these posts you know that the execution of this dream is dependent on selling this house.  The other elements, selling our possessions, kids moving out, Bagel the Beagle going to the happy howling grounds after 18 years of tormenting me to my wife's amusement, oh yes, I retired, got really sick, got better, so here we are.  Additionally, if you have been following this blog you know shortly after we put the house on the market in March 2011 we had a contract for close to asking price and you might remember that deal fell apart leaving the dream hard aground.  Well although we don't have the check-in-hand as of yet we do have another contract on the house!  We have made it past the option period, the inspection (survey in boat terms) went well, now we wait for their sold home to close and as of 8 May (knock wood) we will be homeless!  The offer was nowhere near the original asking price but what is important is that it is enough to get out there because to quote the "pleasant" Captain Ron: if it's going to happen, it's going to happen out there! .  So stay tuned as we move into the next phase of this adventure that will include shopping for, buying, and surveying  a boat, taking all our stuff to the boat, getting rid of the stuff we took to the boat when we realize it is still too much stuff, and finally sailing off out there!