Tag Archives: British Virgin Islands

HURRICANE MARIA (SEPTEMBER 2017)

Hurricane season has arrived in full force. As cruisers, we spend an inordinate amount of time monitoring weather systems. The latest shows Hurricane Maria intensified into a catastrophic Category 5 storm Monday, with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (260 kph), as it surged toward islands in the eastern Caribbean.

Projected track for Hurricane Maria, September 18, 2017

Projected track for Hurricane Maria, September 18, 2017

Hurricane warnings have been posted for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat.

A tropical storm warning was issued for Antigua and Barbuda, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, St. Lucia (where Pilots’ Discretion is currently located), Martinique and Anguilla. Many of these islands are still recovering from direct hits from hurricane Irma. (See http://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/cat-5-hurricane-maria-threatens-storm-battered-caribbean/ar-AAs6sKy?ocid=spartandhp.) We are continuing to keep all those affected in our thoughts and prayers. We will post additional updates after this storm passes.

Hurricane Irma (photo from Marine Weather Center's post)

HURRICANE IRMA – 2017

First, thank you, to everyone, for reaching out to see how Pilots’ Discretion, and her crew, fared as Hurricane Irma tracked through the Caribbean. In preparation for the storm and in accordance with our hurricane plan, we spider tied Pilots’ Discretion, with doubled lines, in a double slip, on a floating dock, alone with no other boats, in St. Lucia. Irma was set to track north of St. Lucia, however, to be on the safe side, we left the boat in St. Lucia and flew to Florida to stay out of harms way!

As predicted, Hurricane Irma passed north of St. Lucia. We were incredibly grateful to learn that our pre-hurricane preparations were sufficient, and that St. Lucia was spared from the ferocity of the storm. The island received some rain and wind from the outer bands of the storm, but on the whole, the island and our boat, weathered the storm and are fine.

Having flown to Florida, we then holed up with family in Spring Hill, just north of Tampa, on the west coast of Florida. Having just gone through the hurricane preparations drill in St. Lucia our crew was ready and able to  assist with preparations for the “high impact” potential hit headed for our relatives in Spring Hill.

We listened to reports, and observed, painfully, the pictures of the devastation from the direct hits on Barbuda, St. Barthélemy (St. Bart), St. Maarten/St. Martin, Anguilla, Antigua, the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. We have travelled to all of these islands in previous cruising seasons, and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the storm.

Paraquita Bay, British Virgin Islands (Before and After)

Nanny Cay Marina, British Virgin Islands, post hurricane Irma, 2017

Isleta Marina, Fajardo, Puerto Rico, post hurricane Irma, Sept. 2017

Foxy’s before (2016) and after (2017)

Forecasted Track for Hurricane Irma, Sept. 7, 2017

Forecasted Track for Hurricane Irma originally had her skirting up the east coast of Florida, Sept. 7, 2017

In Florida, the original forecasts had the storm tracking up the east coast. Slowly, the storm edged west with the later predictions indicating she would run up the middle of the Florida peninsula. Finally, within the last day prior to Florida landfall, the forecast consensus had Irma tracking up the west coast of Florida. We weathered the storm just north of Tampa. The eye passed just to our east during the middle of the night. We were extremely fortunate that a slight variation in the actual track of the storm placed us on the weak side of the circulation at the same time the storm was beginning to fall apart. We had a few hours of heavy rains accompanied by gusty winds mostly in the 40 knot range. Like most, we lost power and had a few downed trees to deal with but for the most part we came through the storm wiser for the experience but without taking any direct hits. We are all very aware of the potential devastation that just barely sidestepped us.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all those affected by the storm. Florida, the islands, and those living and cruising in Florida and the Caribbean islands, are a resilient bunch. Communities have already banded together to address immediate needs and start the lengthy rebuilding process. Click here for additional photos, and to see several prominent business owners (including the infamous Soggy Dollar, Foxy’s, Corsairs, Willie T’s) who have already vowed to rebuild!

Patton, Loblolly Beach, Anegada, BVI

Happy 15th Birthday Patton! (by Randy)

imageYesterday was a pretty important day aboard the Pilots’ Discretion. Patton, our intrepid, world traveling Cocker Spaniel turned fifteen (15) years old. Way back when we initially left the comfort zone of our home marina in Tarpon Springs, Florida (2 and 1/2 years ago) we had some concerns with how well our then 12 year old buddy would adapt to a life at sea. Our concerns were completely unfounded. Patton is the first one up every morning and the last one to turn in each night after surveying the boat to assure himself that the entire crew is accounted for.Patton Kindle

Patton crew

Patton crew

He loves excursions in the dinghy and he has his favorite spot picked out under the Captain’s helm chair for long passages.

Patton driving the dinghy in the BVIs

Patton driving the dinghy in the BVIs

Randy & Patton in front of Tthe Indians, B.V.I.

Randy & Patton in front of the Indians, B.V.I.

The story would not be complete without acknowledging there have been some concessions made due to the decision to cruise with Patton. We do not patronize places along the way that are not dog friendly. We have on rare occasions had more difficulty clearing immigration as a result of declaring Patton as part of our crew but all in all, he has been a very positive addition to our crew and we would not consider having it any other way.

Cable Car, Loma Isabel de Torres, Dominican Reupblic

Cable Car, Loma Isabel de Torres, Dominican Republic

 

For those of you following our blog who are not dog people, I am sure you just scratch your head when you see me acting like a very proud papa when talking about Patton. To the dog people following us, I know that I need to say no more.

Happy birthday Patton, the crew of the Pilots’ Discretion loves you❤️

Patton enjoying the sunset from The Bight, Norman Island, B.V.I.

Patton enjoying the sunset from The Bight, Norman Island, B.V.I.

 

Ronan at the helm, BVIs

Developing the Boys’ Mariner Skills: Part 2 (by Theresa)

Last year while cruising around the British Virgin Islands (BVIs), we spent a significant amount of time developing and honing the boys’ maritime skills. (April 17, 2015 post, “Developing the Boys’ Mariner Skills”.)  The BVIs is an excellent cruising location to advance one’s mariner skills as all but one of the islands are within eyesight of one another. It was here that Ryan and Ronan mastered picking up mooring balls, keeping their dock lines neat and how to safely maneuver the 25 hp dinghy.

Wow, what a difference a year makes! With each passing day, the boys have been devouring their marine environment, learning about all of the various systems on board. While they are still adept at previously learned skills, they are now more interested in how to run “the big boat.”

They are planning routes and plotting courses between the islands. They navigate the vector (digitally created layered charts) and raster (scanned paper charts) charts with ease and are more familiar with the Rules of Navigation and crossings than some of the adult boaters that we have encountered.

Ryan & Randy changing the oil in the generator

Ryan & Randy changing the oil in the generator

When not running the boat, they are often tinkering about in the engine room helping Randy with some boat project or another. After taking on fuel they are responsible for managing and running the fuel polishing system. They also help with basic maintenance projects such as changing the generator oil and filter, changing the water maker filters, and washing down the boat after a day at sea.

As our world revolves around the weather, monitoring sea and wind conditions has become routine for us all. While the Caribbean is mostly sunny, every good mariner has foul weather gear close at hand.

On sunnier days, the boys get a charge watching our battery voltage increase from our solar panels. They understand how the solar power is harnessed and distributed throughout the boat. They also now wholly understand the mechanics of the patent pending solar powered picnic table catamaran in Cane Garden Bay, Tortola.

This is not how any boater wants to return to the dock

This is not how any boater wants to return to the dock

Ryan and Ronan routinely monitor the VHF radio and listen to transmissions between the Coast Guard and vessels in distress. They know that having capable crew on deck is important to running the boat safely and efficiently. Having witnessed other vessels in distress only heightens their safety awareness. Nobody ever wants to return to the dock like the boat we saw being towed in on air bags in Nanny Cay!

As the saying goes, “all work and no  play makes Jack a dull boy.” Hence, as we have been cruising around the BVIs, honing the boys’ mariner skills, the boys have also been honing their having fun skills. They have reconnected with friends met during our previous stay in the BVIs, as well as having made some new ones.

We have thoroughly enjoyed cruising the British Virgin Islands, and are grateful, once again, for the maritime lesson opportunities they have provided for the boys. Alas, weather, time and immigration restrictions have us pressing on. We have discussed our go forward cruising plans and have decided that at the next appropriate weather window we will be continuing our Caribbean journey heading south towards Grenada where we will ride out the next hurricane season. Our next port will be in St. Martin where we will post additional updates.

 

Technical Services in the British Virgin Islands

Given that the BVIs lie approximately half way between Florida and Grenada, it is a logical place to plan to stop to attend to the inevitable maintenance issues that come up on a cruising boat. We have encountered several mechanical issues that required the help of well qualified technicians both on our way south last year and again this month as we cruised the British Virgin Islands. As has been our policy in the past, we are not going to focus on the vendors that we have encountered that did less than satisfactory work but rather provide you recommendations for companies and individuals that we have found to be both honest and competent.

Welding and Westerbeke Genset

Our list of reputable firms in the BVI has to begin with BVI Marine Management in Nanny Cay. Mr. Tim Brown is the Service Manager there and he is a tremendous resource to call upon if you need anything boat maintenance related. We utilized BVI Marine Management to do some stainless steel fabrication and welding last year when we were redesigning our tender lift to better deal with the sometimes rough conditions that we have encountered in the Caribbean. Additionally, they have helped us obtain parts for our Westerbeke Genset (BVI Marine is a Westerbeke authorized dealer). BVI Marine Management can be contacted at (284) 494-2938.

Cummins QSM 11s

Sanchez Christopher

Sanchez Christopher

When we arrived in the BVI earlier this month, we needed to have some work done on our main engine heat exchangers and after coolers. I called Tim Brown at BVI Marine Management and asked if they could do the work and he informed me that they did not have the capacity to work on QSM 11s but he had a solid recommendation. I was referred to John, the Service Manager at Parts and Power, in Road Harbor, Tortola, (284) 494-2830. Again, we were dealt with honestly and the work performed was excellent and more than met our expectations. The technician assigned to our boat was Mr. Sanchez Christopher.  Sanchez is a very knowledgable and hardworking diesel mechanic and it was a pleasure working with him.

Air conditioning and Refrigeration

Our final recommendation for the BVI is Mr. Alfred August , Manager at Marine Cooling Systems. If you have any refrigeration or cooling issues while in the BVI, Alfred is the guy to call. Alfred can be reached at (284) 441-6556 or email at marinecoolingsystems@gmail.com.

We recognize that there are many other well qualified technicians in the BVI and this list is in no way intended to be all inclusive. We have always felt more comfortable calling on someone whom we have had a favorable recommendation from a fellow cruiser; someone who understands the lifestyle and the resulting demands on our mechanical systems aboard our floating home. If our recommendations can provide you with that little bit of extra comfort factor while trying to address mechanical issues in unfamiliar territory, we are happy to help out. We will keep our list updated as we establish relationships with other vendors and technicians along the way.

Cane Garden Bay, British Virgin Islands

Mad Dash for the British Virgin Islands, 9 Countries in 6 Days. 

Underway

Underway

We had a great time in St. Lucia, we got a lot accomplished and look forward to returning in the future. Unfortunately, the various delays that we encountered in St. Lucia, waiting on parts and technicians left us with our scheduling backs against the wall. We had plans for meeting our good friends Mike Cleary, Bridget Finnegan, and Mike’s daughter Madison in the BVIs. They had a Sunsail sailboat chartered in Tortola beginning on February 19, so when we literally dropped the solar panel technician on the fuel dock in St. Lucia on the morning of February 13th, we knew we had some serious real estate to cover to be 350 miles north in just six days. During our dash north we cruised through the territorial waters of St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts, Nevis, Statia, St. Marteen and finally the British Virgin Islands. Wow, I am tired just writing about it.

Most of the trip was run in seas of 4-6 ft, with a few periods of 8-9 ft, and even a day with the Caribbean Sea as smooth as a small mountain lake. Our speed averaged 8-10 knots but when we had the opportunity, we ran as high as 25 knots to keep the scenery moving. We have visited all of the countries we just mentioned during our trip south last year so although we are disappointed that we had to hustle through these countries to meet our friends, it was worth it to get to be in the BVI with friends that are virtually like family to us.

Norman Island (The Bight) and North Gorda Soud

Bridget, Madison & Mike, Bubbly Pool, Jost Van Dyke, BVI

Bridget, Madison & Mike, Bubbly Pool, Jost Van Dyke, BVI

Once in the BVI we began our trip by heading off to the Bight on Norman island. A mandatory stop at the infamous Willie T floating bar and grill was followed by a trip to Gorda Sound, Virgin Gorda, and Jost Van Dyke.

We followed that up with a two day trip to Anegada, then over to Marina Cay and The Baths.

Anegada

Marina Cay

The Baths

After that whirlwind, we capped the Cleary clan’s trip to the BVI by meeting our cruising friends Jeff and Izzy Rogers for an evening of good food, conversation and music in one of our favorite spots in the BVI, Cane Garden Bay.

Cane Garden Bay, British Virgin Islands

Cane Garden Bay, British Virgin Islands

Our friends have gone home and it is time for our adventure to continue. It occurs to me that this nomad lifestyle works well for our family. I have an idea, I think we should keep this trip going. We will discuss it at dinner tonight and I will get back to you. For now, keep following our progress as our  life adventure continues …

The British Virgin Islands

Anegada

Anegada departure

Six months into our journey finds us in the British Virgin Islands (BVIs). We have so enjoyed cruising around the BVIs that we applied for, and received, an extension from immigration to lengthen our stay here.

The BVIs are a veritable paradise for cruising yachtsmen. Since most of the islands are within eyesight of each other, one can easily motor (or sail) from one island, or adventure, to another, with each island serving up a different flavor of local culture and quaintness. Below are a few highlights from our adventures in these beautiful islands thus far:

ANEGADA:

Randy and I have visited Anegada on two prior occasions in bareboat chartered vessels and on both occasions were in awe of its clear blue waters and pristine white sandy beaches. On our last trip chartering in the BVIs, Randy purchased the Anegada Approach chart, which we then had framed and hung in the Pilot’s Discretion galley. We have looked upon that framed chart for the past several years dreaming of returning in the  Pilot’s Discretion. We experienced yet another surreal moment in our journey when we arrived at the Anegada Approach in our own boat!

In terms of seamanship, Anegada is the furthest island away from all of the others and requires more time on open waters to reach. The island is completely surrounded by reefs (home to the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world), however, with careful navigation, and GPS, the approach is easily manageable. The beachside dining at the  Anegada Reef Hotel and the snorkeling at Cow Wreck Beach and Loblolly Bay make it well worth the trip.

Cow Wreck Beach

Loblolly Bay

Departing Anegada

 

JOST VAN DYKE:

Jost Van Dyke has several harbors on the south side, all offering good anchorage, mooring fields, protection, restaurants and amenities. While moored in Little Harbor, we hiked the trail behind Sidneys’ Peace & Love to the top of the island and were rewarded with spectacular vista views.

During our stay in Manchioneel Bay, we hiked the trail behind Fox’s Taboo to the infamous “Bubbly Pool.” At The Bubbly Pool, the Atlantic Ocean presses through a crevice in the rocks creating a natural bubbly whirl pool.

After a long day’s hike, we availed ourselves of the various restaurants on the island. While on Jost Van Dyke, the boys declared the pizza at Corsairs beachfront pizzeria in Great Harbor, the best in the world. Although I thought the pizza was excellent, I found it improbable to note the pizza and ignore the fresh lobsters that they serve that are the size of a small pony.

VIRGIN GORDA:

Virgin Gorda, BVI

Virgin Gorda, BVI

In Virgin Gorda, we picked up a mooring ball at Biras Creek in North Gorda Sound (aka Gorda Sound). Biras Creek has fewer mooring balls than other parts of Gorda Sound. As such it tends to be lower key, all the while providing easy access to all that the Sound has to offer.

Our top three favorites in Gorda Sound:

Hiking the Biras Creek Resort trails

The Rotti (a Caribbean curry dish) at the fat Virgin Café

The Bushwackers at Saba Rock

TORTOLA:

Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI

Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI

Tortola is is where most people begin their visit to the BVIs since the main airport is located here and the largest town, Road Harbor is also on the island. One of our favorite places on Tortola is Cane Garden Bay, a beautiful harbor with lots of dog friendly beach front restaurants and shops. It is very family friendly location, and as this past week was spring break for many schools, the mooring balls filled up quickly.

We are currently staying at the Nanny Cay marina both because it is a very well kept marina with several very good restaurants, a pool and beach as well as easy access to good provisioning. In addition, Nanny Cay has a full service boat yard, and marine vendors of every description. It is here that we are attending to our open maintenance issues before departing for St. Martin, the next leg of our journey.