Saturday, June 25, 2016

25 & 26. Boat Work in the Exotic Location of Saint Martin

Well, we’ve licked our wounds for almost two weeks now so I guess it is time to share our passage story :)
Many of you may have seen Andrew’s account of the engine breakdown on the Abby Singer Facebook page but I will give you the “cliff’s notes” here.  We left you last week just as the engine had died and we realized we would be sailing the rest of the way to St Martin.  No problem, we do live on a sailboat - right?!  
    Last you saw us.
Sailing started out quite nice.  We colored pictures, read our books, ate the soup in a cup I had planned as our main meal and made it through the night smoothly.  
About mid-day we could see land, unfortunately that was about the same time the wind died as well.  Let me tell you, there is nothing more frustrating than seeing where you want to be but bobbing around trying to keep your sail full, moving at a whopping 1-2 knots!  The afternoon felt endless!  Everyone was trying to keep their spirits up but watching hours tick off the clock and no time being reduced on the “time to destination” window was agonizing.  
Andrew tried several attempts at getting Abby started by bleeding the lines, re-seating seals and anything else he could think of but she was not having it.  The closer we got to land, the stronger the east wind pushed us off.  We would sail for 45 minutes or so and turn to tack and make minimal progress up wind.  Everyone in the caravan that had left BVI was anchored and set and calling on the radio to find out how we were doing.  The sun set on us and we reckoned with arriving in an unknown anchorage in the dark.  Friends in our destination gave us accurate descriptions of where we were headed but you just can't make sense of it in the dark.  Even when the bay came into view we still needed 3 or 4 more tacks to clear the rocks on our starboard (right) side.  And wouldn't you know it, just as we turn for our final approach, the wind shifts, blowing us out of the cove!  So add 2 more tacks to gain more ground.  It was the day that wouldn't end!  But our amazingly diligent friends on Aqua Vida & Singing Frog jumped into their dinghy as we entered the bay at midnight to make sure we arrived safely at anchor.  They guided us in and helped us set the anchor properly.  They even delivered a home cooked meal of spaghetti complete with a fresh French baguette from a proper French bakery - our sailing family is truly one of a kind.  So our 19hr trip ended after 31 very long uneventful hours at sea.  And we awoke the next day to beautiful St Martin.

To check in to St Martin is all computerized and very easy, just fill in the blanks, but I did feel like a dumb American when I didn't know how to find “United States” in the French drop down menu :) Luckily the guys working the counter were gracious enough to to help me and one of our first purchases was a French/English dictionary.  We quickly learned that St Martin had all the resources we would need to get the boat back in tip top shape and do a few other projects as well.  
But first things first, must have latte & yummy pastry to start the day right.

The project of polishing the fuel and locating the blockage that had caused all our drama was lengthy but never out of Andrew’s scope and the girls kept busy by discovering some of our neighboring sealife 
and using the boat as their play gym.

Andrew got acquainted with our fuel tank and smelled of diesel for days.

We did squeeze in a few sights and some yummy meals among all the work.
    Large barge squeezing through a tight bridge

    Local sail school for kids

     My crazies at Pineapple Pete's

And the girls got to do a bus trip all over the island with friends from other sailboats.
    This horse follows his master around like a puppy, no lead lines or anything.

Before we knew it, our boy’s birthday was upon us!
We loved on him the best we could and tried to let him know how much he means to us, but it is hard to put “everything” into words :)
    Birthday fun!

And if that wasn't enough celebration for us, the locals had a Billfish Tournament at our marina on Father’s Day.  It was quiet the weekend!

Why are we at a Marina?  Good question.  
The wind was predicted to kick up pretty strong over the weekend and we wouldn't be comfortable at anchor so what do we do?  Start another big project!  
Our salon (living room) floor has been plywood since we left Jacksonville.  One of the last projects we did at home to get the boat ready was replace our main water tank, which required us to cut our beautiful teak and holly floor.  It was painful to see it go but the water tank was a necessity; it allowed us to put an all new battery box in for powering the boat and freed up lots of storage space and we hardly notice it any more.  But to make good use of our time here and with some good deals cut by the guys at Island Water World, it was the perfect time to beautify Abby.
     A tiny hatch under the galley (kitchen) floor said "do not cut", 
     You know Andrew had to cut it!
Now she is looking better than ever!

Things learned aboard this week:
There are a lot of reasons to celebrate Andrew Paul Howell; Birthday, Father’s Day, but the best reason in my book is because he’s one of a kind and he’s all mine!
Our girls are so good!  Our already very small home is a lot smaller when we have a big project going on down below.  All of the seatee (sofa) cushions get moved to and from the girl’s bed every morning and night to keep them out of the way and the doors to the cabins are all kept shut to keep the dust or fumes or whatever out of them while we work.  They have found ways to entertain themselves and stay out of trouble, mostly :) and have gotten along remarkably well.  
Yay for good girls!

Our time in Saint Martin wasn't particularly exciting but very productive!  Excited to head on south and get back in the water, doing what we love.  
But sad to say goodbye to the beautiful pastries!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

23 & 24. Goodbye, BVI!

    View from Hog Heaven, Virgin Gorda.  
This weekend is “dance recital week" back home, our favorite time of year!  The girls and I spend all year honing our skills and working on routines to showcase what we love.  As many loved ones as we can sucker into coming to the performance are treated to the best show in town.   Tonight I would have everything packed from spare tights, extra bobby pins and plenty of makeup, to costumes of all sizes and colors and all the lineup sheets and anything else we would need to make the day run smoothly.  We would get to bed as early as possible to wake up with the sun and head to the theater to claim the perfect spot in front of the mirror and have one final rehearsal before the show begins.  Instead, tonight we are on the open water between Virgin Gorda & St Martin.  Our last night passage was way back on April 19, heading into Culebra, PR.  We have been so far and seen so many things since then.  Even this week we did things we’ve never done before.  So, even though we are sad not to be back in Jax where the anticipation is stirring and we wish all our family at Scott Jones School of Dance the best of luck; I can't imagine not being here and having this adventure with my family.  This year the twinkle of lights in our eyes are the millions of stars in the dark ocean sky and the only glitter we need are the tiny bioluminescence dancing on our wake!

    Anegada sunset
Our trip to Anegada was perfect!  We originally hadn't planned to even visit this beautiful little island in the northeast Carribean, but I am so glad we did.  
    Dance party on the way to Anegada.
We anchored at the back of the mooring field and took a long dinghy ride around to the southwest beach for some kite surfing and beach fun.  
Andrew did a few tutorials with the kids and had a great little session, even in light wind while the kids were quick to make their mark on the sandy shore.  
    Castles and holes and moats, oh my!

The fun continued as we ventured to the northside of the island to the Anegada Beach Club, 
via their free shuttle, to a perfect piece of paradise.  
A sweet swimming pool,
complete with beach bar 
and a beautifully unpopulated beach that stretched out endlessly.
Andrew was able to work on kite handling with the oldest Take Two boys before wearing himself out jumping and rolling and freaking out the snorkelers that were unlucky enough to to be in his wake :)
They even had strong enough wifi for me to video chat with all my family- bonus!
With a chance for the kids to do more kiting and me to do more pool laying, we headed to Anegada Beach Club for a second day.  Just as beautiful as the first w/ the hint of a storm brewing over the horizon.  What we didn't realize was that the storm was right over the mooring field and kicked up winds sustained at 50knots!  Poor Abby was left all alone and so she tried to go on a walk about and almost ended up on the sandy shore behind where we left her.  Some nice local fisherman from Neptune’s Treasure and Jay from Take Two chased her down, reined her in and got her re-anchored in her proper spot.  
    Abby's Adventure
To receive a call at the beach club on the other side of the island that your boat has dragged was quite un-nerving, as you can imagine.  Andrew raced off to make sure everything was alright but they guys had it all under control when he got there.  So, not only does Neptune’s Tresure have the best smoked fish dip I have ever had but they also have some salt of the earth guys working there that refused any sort of payment for their help, just our gratitude.

As if that wasn't enough Anegada excitement, on our way back to Virgin Gorda our engine cut out.  So after an hour of bobbing around in the waves while Andrew tried to fix the problem at sea with no luck, we sailed in through the cut and had the help of a local dinghy to get our hook set again in Leverick Bay.
    Leverick Bay sunset
We really enjoyed being at Leverick Bay.  The girls entertained themselves and stayed out of trouble, mostly, while we tackled some projects.
    I'm sure work is getting done, never mind the beer under the arm ;)
After multiple days of hard work and Andrew being very productive getting the engine repaired,  jib bags sewn and our new main sheet traveler installed; 
it was time for some new fun!  We headed over to the Bitter End Yacht Club to try our hands at Hobie Cats.  
Having never sailed a Hobie before, we thought we would start with a challenge and entered the Beer Can Regatta.  They had a great course set up and every time you cross the finish line you can grab a beer or other drink of your choice.  We finished second in 3 out of the 4 races we ran and Andrew drank at least a six pack, but who’s counting?  We had a blast!  
So much fun that we had to do it again the next day!  
We got two Hobies and split up with the girls.  Andrew’s was the go fast ride and on mine I operated the sails while whichever girl I had was in charge of steering.  They would zip through the mooring field and into open water and would have to count down if they wanted to turn.  I had Sky first, who did a great job and wanted to push the speed as fast as possible.  Paige just wanted to tip over right up until the moment we did :)  Andrew was so far out of site he didn't even know we needed assistance, luckily a near by charter boat came to my rescue and helped me right it and we were on our way again.  We even got the Take Two gang in on the action and they quickly kicked off the grown ups and were racing girls against boys, some healthy competition.  
While the girls and I watched the feeding of the tarpon at Saba Rock, Andrew actually met the designer of Hobie who was in town on vacation and at the bar enjoying a drink.  We got a chance to thank him for all the fun we had just expereienced.
    Feeding the tarpon & Elvis the Eel at Saba Rock

We also rented our own safari bus (fancy name for pickup truck with benches) 
and toured the entire island of Virgin Gorda.  
We hiked to the highest peak.
We toured the abandoned copper mine.   

Enjoyed some local flavor at the Island Pot.  And had our own private bay to play in at Spring Bay.  
    Look closely and you will see the king of the mountain enjoying the view with a beer.

That sealed the deal - Virgin Gorda is my favorite island.  Not to live on, like Culebra; but to visit and vacation to.  It has such a wide variety of landscape and unique features, you can never see it all.  

So after soaking every minute out of our month in BVI and even squeezing in one last sleep over, 
    Fort building & fun w/ Sky's latest partner in crime, Kaylee.

it was time to head out.  

   Goodbye, Leverick Marina.  

So we are off to St Martin.  The trip started like all the rest, One Direction on the radio and spirits high.  It took a while to get our sea legs on and a night time passage always turns Andrew’s stomach when he looses the horizon, but all was well.  But just to make sure we pack all the fun we can into this expected 19hr trip, the engine cut out at midnight. 
So ahoy, we sail!

Things learned this week:
We have mad Hobie skills! 
The cruising community is like a weird little family:) Our support of each other is vital.  It is great to feel close to people even when you've known them such a short while and to share a meal w/ perfect strangers and come away friends :)

We made it back to civilization since I was able to post this blog, but you have to check back in next week to see how we made it and if anyone was thrown overboard when our 19 hr trip took 31 long hours to complete!