February 2007 Letter

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We departed Ft. Lauderdale on Thursday, February 1 at about 5 p.m.  Based on the weather forecast, we decided not to go to Miami, but rather to head directly to the British Virgin Islands.  The first night was spent crossing the Gulf Stream and it wasn't fun.  The seas were very large and the winds were sustained at 30+ knots all night long.  Waves were hitting us on the beam and numerous times broke directly in the cockpit.  With the high wind and large waves hitting us so hard, I thought we were going to get knocked down.  Very scary.  It seemed like the worst conditions we'd ever been in, but I wondered if it felt that way because we hadn't been "out there" in a couple of months, and just needed our sea legs.  Whatever the reason, it was knot-in-the-stomach frightening to me.  Mike thought it was rough, but he wasn't concerned about it.  He reminded me that we're in a Hylas and that's why we bought it.  

To balance the scoreboard, Mother Nature gave us the next 7 days with beautiful blue skies and fair winds.  We sailed for almost the entire week.  It was amazing to sail day and night, day and night, without needing the motor.  It was wonderful!  But it was also weird because we didn't see another soul the entire week.  No boats, no freighters, no cruise ships, and no dolphins, no birds, no anything.  Just blue sky and blue water all around.  As we sailed the final 200 miles, a current wanted to push us to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and we didn't feel like fighting it.  We arrived in St. Thomas and took a slip at Crown Bay Marina for a few nights.  St. Thomas is a duty free shopping area, so we enjoyed walking through the shops.  We picked up a few things, but mostly just window shopped after spending so much money on the boat when we were in Florida.  We washed the boat, bought some groceries, used the laundromat and left the marina to go to an anchorage called Christmas Cove at St. James Island.  It felt good to be gently rocking in a beautiful calm anchorage.  We just hung out there for a couple of days.  We snorkeled and just relaxed.

On Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, we sailed to Soper's Hole, West End, Tortola, British Virgin Islands.  After checking in with Customs and Immigration, we met our friends Frank and Patti for lunch.  They live here on Tortola Island in their beautiful home at the top of the hill above Cane Garden Bay.  We've spent much of the past two weeks at their house enjoying the comfort, the view, Patti's great cooking, the music, and most of all the camaraderie and friendship.  Another treat for us is their pets, 3 dogs, 3 cats, and 3 parrots.  We're animal lovers and it has been such fun playing with them and watching their antics.  Frank and Patti got a house-sitter and spent a couple of days on Aquila with us.  We planned to dive, and went out to a couple of dive sites, but the weather didn't cooperate.  Wouldn't you know, the weather was perfect until we decided to dive.  Then it got windy and choppy for two days!  There was a serious north swell when we dropped them off at Cane Garden Bay.  We took them to shore in our new dinghy which we named "Eagle Scout" (remember Aquila means eagle).  The waves were crashing when we tried to push ourselves back out and our outboard motor got stuck in the sand just as Mike was putting it in gear.  He gave it lots of throttle and ... oops ... we're not going anywhere.  We later found out that the drive shaft severed, the shift control snapped in half and the gear box was destroyed.  The wave we were trying to get in front of washed over us and we knew we had a problem.  Mike paddled our soggy bodies back to Aquila through the swells in the bay.  It was a challenge just getting out of the dinghy and onto the swim step because of the large swells.  We spent the most uncomfortable night ever at this location.  This was in stark contrast to our fond memories of Cane Garden Bay from our previous charters here.  Cane Garden Bay is beautiful and we will return, but not when there is a northerly swell in the ocean.

The next day we sailed around the island to drop off the outboard motor for repair at Tradewinds Marine Services.  Then we sailed over to Peter Island and anchored at a very pretty spot called Little Harbor.  This is a small anchorage so the boats tie their stern to a tree or a large rock so as not to swing.  We had a few tense moments as we figured it all out.  But the entertainment value of watching us was nothing compared to the maneuvering we watched many of the charter boats go through.  You would really believe that many of these charterers had never been on a boat in their life!  When we got the bad news from Tradewinds about our outboard motor, we decided to buy a new motor.  We stepped up to a 15 hp which really is a better match for our new 11 foot rigid bottom dinghy.  Our grandsons were thrilled to hear about the new motor and can't wait to see us in April so they can go fast!

We sailed back to Soper's Hole on Friday so we could meet Frank and Patti for happy hour "Wangs and Thangs" (BBQ chicken wings) at Pussers.  As we were getting ready, Mike was lathered up mid-shower when our fresh water pump quit.  It was too late to diagnose the problem, so I used the foot pump to fill a bucket of water and dumped it over Mike's head so he could rinse.  We zipped to the dinghy dock with our new 15 hp motor and enjoyed rum punch and wings.  The next day, Mike tried to fix the water pump, but we needed a new one.  Had to take a $40 cab ride to Road Town to get a new pump.  Money, money, money, money, money.  We also believe our new house batteries that we bought in Ft. Lauderdale are bad.  We're not holding our volts like we should.  So we may need to replace them, too.  It never ends!  And while I'm on the subject of money... this place is expensive!   Food is outrageous.  To give you an example, a quart of milk costs $4, breakfast cereal $6.65, romaine lettuce $5.15, loaf of bread $3, and one apple is $1.25.  And forget about meat.  Sure glad we stocked up the freezer in Florida.  If we weren't in paradise, I'd have to complain about the cost.  The only thing cheap here is the rum!  Just check out this month's photo album to see how beautiful it is here.

We're going to the full moon party at Bomba Shack tonight.  Frank says we don't want to miss it.  It's pretty wild.  Plus, I heard that there's an eclipse of the moon at midnight.  Hope so.  I'm taking my camera.  Til next month ... cheers!

(click here for this month's photo album)

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