Monday, December 31, 2012

Back to the BVI

We had a wonderful Christmas holiday home - meeting our new granddaughter, visiting with our other two grandchildren, spending time with all of our kids and their significant others.  Also, we were able to connect with many dear friends to share smiles, good will and lots of Christmas cheer.

But now we are back to cruising, looking forward to exploring St. Maarten, Anguilla, St. Barts, St Kitts, Antigua Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada.  

These islands have beckoned us for decades and we are so excited to finally personally experience them as we visit on our own terms… on our own boat… the SV Blue Pearl.

Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of Glen and Pam, family and friends on the good ship Blue Pearl.

Waiting for the New Years party in Trellis Bay, Tortola

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What the heck!!!???

So Pam gets to go home to meet our new grand-daughter, Chevy Louise.  Glen stays behind to transition Blue Pearl to Al and Maria.

Air Canada trusted Al with a $130,000,000 AirBus 330 before he retired last week so we figure we can trust him to baby Blue Pearl while we go home for grandbabys at Christmas.  Maria took care of principal-Glen for 10 years in the school office - surprisingly successful at keeping him out of trouble.  They sail a C&C 44 at home in Vancouver but this is their first experience sailing in the Caribbean.

The moment Pam left everything went hell-west and crooked.  (Acadian phrase meaning disaster according to our friend Dorothy.)

We couldn't get the anchor up.  Turns out electrically challenged Glen forgot to connect up the windlass battery to the boat system.  Six weeks into our shake-down cruise the battery finally had enough.

Finally got the anchor up.  So off then to Honeymoon Bay on Water Island to plan our transition cruise.  Had a nice night, a visit to the Pueblo and Crown Bay grocery stores where Glen, once again, tried to guilt our new guests into buying a "thank-you" bottle of the $4999.95 bottle of wine they stock.  No gratitude!!!  We need richer friends.

Off we go to new adventures.  But first we have to get the anchor off the bottom.  Don't know what it got stuck on but it took motoring over it slowly to finally get it to release.  What would Pam have done???  What else is going to go wrong?

Onto Christmas Cove for a snorkel lunch and Francis Bay for a night anchorage.
Maria going Spotted Eagle Ray spotting
Eddy the Eagle... Ray

Al's art shot with his new underwater camera

So when did Barry Balmar the Regulator decide to go south?  We have a 140 amp alternator dying to charge our batteries but a regulator that is having "issues?"   Dang, that ain't good!

Glen read the Boy Scout book on marine regulators and found a "patch" that will get Maria and Al through their sojourn on the boat.  Al, the pilot, is not used to "patches" so we are crossing our fingers.

We wanted to check out the charging so we motored 4 miles to Cruz Bay to have a look.  Yan Diesel seems happy enough with the patched regulator so all is good.  Found a nice shoreside pub and spent a very happy Happy Hour there.
Checking out a different captain's seat

Getting ready to jump in

Cruise planning

Marooned on a USVI park pay station

Enjoying lunch with Iggy

Anyway, we are roaming around, hoping nothing else goes wrong.  We will spend our last night at a marina at Red Hook.  Then it is a taxi to the airport and the ride home for Glen!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Getting ready for a visit home

We are thinking about our trip home for the holidays.  We have a new grandchild to meet - due next week - and old ones to play with - if you can call 3 and 0.5 old.

We cleared in from the BVI to wonderful, friendly, efficient and polite Customs and Immigration officials in the good old USVI.  There must be an international protocol on how to greet law-abiding folks as they try to legally cross a border.

We spent a couple of days in Francis Bay on the north side of St. John and then after a rolly night with bad internet (bad combination) we gave up the internet and spent two quiet nights on the south of the island in Lameshur Bay.  It is very popular during the day for snorkellers but very quiet and private in the evenings.  Pam is pretty sure there was a 6 or 7 foot beast parked under the boat.  We took a quick peak but couldn't locate him.  We have really enjoyed the south side of St. John, escaping from the northern swell.

Our own private anchorage

Exploring an old sugar mill

Looking for the Beast
We arrived at Honeymoon Bay, near the airport in St. Thomas - somewhat prematurely - getting ready to ship Pam off to Vancouver to be a "Gran-in-waiting."  Glen will follow in a few days.  We are doing mindless boat jobs, playing cards, reading, swimming, snoozing and generally lounging around.

6000 passengers, 2000 crew
Today, we watched the Allure of the Seas arrive in the west St. Thomas harbour.  It is, according to Pam and Wikipedia, the largest passenger ship ever built.  It is a full two inches longer than her sistership, Oasis of the Seas.  They each carry more than 6000 passengers and 2300 crew.

There were 4 other cruise ships in town today - a good day not to be in town with thousands of tourists searching for treasure.

Pretty isn't it... rain on fresh varnish (cetol)
Glen chose a perfect time to sand and varnish a piece of teak in the cockpit today.  While banging the lid back on the varnish it started to rain.  So much rain that Pam set up her apparatus to collect rainwater into our tanks.  So, later in the afternoon, Glen looked at the perfectly blue skies and put on another coat of varnish.  Half an hour later the skies opened up and there were beads of rain on the second coat.  Half an hour might have been enough drying time because the rain beaded up but dried away without leaving marks.  Cross your fingers!

Friday, November 23, 2012


If you are thinking of coming down to join us, please consider bringing useful gifts like this boat slide.

Seadoos and kayaks won't fit but we could use a boat slide.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Back to Cane Garden Bay

When we leave for St. Maarten after Christmas we will likely leave from Leverick Bay at the top of Virgin Gorda.  What a beautiful spot.  We enjoyed 3 nights up there after Don and Pat left us.  We spent an evening ashore being entertained by the Jumbies - young dancers on stilts.  Very impressive and fun to get up and dance along.  We used the marina's laundromat, pool and grocery store.  When you tie up to one of their moorings you get 100 gallons of water and a bag of ice for free!  One day we took the dingy to visit the classy Bitter End Yacht Club resort across the bay and had a beer in the "English Pub."  

Approaching Leverick Bay Marina

Bitter End Yacht Club

Sir Richard Branson's Necker Island-see the remains from the fire? 
The Necker Belle - Sir Richard's luxury catamaran - for charter if you can afford it.
 After 3 days of lounging around and boat projects - cleaned the carb on the generator and installed a new prop on Murphy the dinghy - we set off for Anegada, which apparently means the drowned island in Spanish?  It is surrounded by a huge horseshoe reef which has claimed over 300 ships over the years.  The island is only 23 feet high at its max - so you don't need to worry about getting a nose bleed climbing the hills.  The passage there is well marked and it is north so we had a nice beam reach for a couple of hours sailing up there.  Anegada's claim to fame is the plentiful beach bars, many of which specialize in Anegada lobster.  At $50 for the lobster we opted for the $11 hamburger.  We also chose not to rent a car for the day to drive the 12 miles of road and visit snorkelling beaches and flamingo ponds.  We've seen lots of great snorkel beaches...  and flamingos, well, our Bahamian friends call flamingos "red turkey."  Many people love Anegada so much that they have purchased vacation homes. We met a lady - we think she was the owner of the Anegada Reef Hotel - moved there from Yorkshire 40 years ago.  Wow!

Expert dolphin spotter
But… here we are back in Cane Garden Bay - one of our favorite spots - after a 4 hour beam reach at 7 knots the whole way.  Once again we were accompanied by dolphins for part of the way.

We are surrounded by charter boats. There are very few cruisers like us.  They are only down for a week or two and they've paid a ton to charter so they are here for a good time.  The $30 per night for a mooring ball is part of the experience.  So is the daily trip to town for a tee-shirt and a burger with a beer.  Or maybe several beers.  And many of the beach restaurants feature dinner menus with entrees at $40 or $50.  We simply can't afford to do that for the months that we are down here.

For the most part we also pay the $30 for the mooring ball because they cover the anchorages and there just isn't room to swing on an anchor.  But that's the charm of Cane Garden Bay.  We've found a cool spot where we can anchor that is close enough to shore that we can pick up internet.  The scenery is gorgeous and the live music at night is wonderful.  We have our share of cold beer in our fridge and we certainly aren't lacking for great food.  Last night, Pam made roast pork tenderloin with jambalaya rice and a salad.  We chased it down with Chilean champagne.  Tonight we had Pasta al Deborah - penne with oregano, garlic, onions, bacon and tomatoes accompanied by a Chilean red.  Mmmmmm!

Cooling off in an afternoon squall...
These things come on you fast and leave you fast, Boss!
So that's why we love Cane Garden Bay.  We will hang out here for another day or two and then head back to the USVI to do some boat chores.  Then back home for a dose of grandchildren!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


We just dropped Don and Pat off at the Soper's Hole ferry to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas after a delightful trip around the islands.  As you can tell from our SPOT fixes, we went from Jost van Dyke (and the bubbly pools) to Cane Garden Bay to Marina Cay (there is a movie about Marina Cay starring Sidney Portier) to the Baths on Virgin Gorda to Norman Island and then back here to Sopers.

We've developed our own recipe for Painkillers with orange and pineapple juice, cream of coconut, nutmeg and rum.  That helped us a lot with our oversupply of Pussers rum.  Even Don had seconds!

View from the top of Marina Cay

Local guy selling fresh fruit and vegetables at outrageous prices

Taking the pain out of schlumulligan

Enjoying the shade

The Baths

An elderly couple we met there

Blue Pearl in the background
Except for yesterday, we were in the water several times each day to snorkel, cool off and do daily ablutions.  It's impossible to keep up with the Macdonalds in the water.  They are like fish and it encourages us to swim more.

So now they are off to continue their Caribbean vacation exploring Puerto Rico.

Today we are tackling the mundane… defrosting the fridge, taking out the garbage, replacing broken screws, cutting Glen's shaggy mane and getting a good charge on the ship's batteries.  

Over the next few days we will try to head east to explore the north end of Virgin Gorda and maybe Anegada.  We'll see!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Virgin Island Tour

We rented a car from the airport on Monday and toured St.Thomas.  We knew Don and Pat would like to see the sights but it was also cool for us to zoom around at speeds greater than 5 knots and see all the great sights from the lookouts high up on the hills.
Carigas Bar near Budget Marine

Not a bad view ... Charlotte Amalie

Unsavory characters

Looking over Magen's Bay - Tortola in the distance

We left on Tuesday for St. John, stopping along the way at Christmas Cove, St. James Island to have a snorkel.  We saw spotted eagle rays and sting rays along with lots of different fish.  Barry the Barracuda was about 4 feet long - quite intimidating when you don't see him until you look up beside you about 5 feet away.

We spent a nice night in Francis Bay - Don and Pat were in the water most of the day.  We took some time to do a hike that took us past the ruins of an old plantation.  The next day we went around the corner to Leinster Bay near WaterLemon Cay.  We snorkelled (Glen napped) and hiked up to the ruins of an old sugar mill.
Cooling off in Francis Bay, St. John

Annaberg Sugar Mill, St. John

Dolphin spotting....
On Thursday we cleared into the British Virgin Islands at Soper's Hole.  We won't complain too much about the process - filling in the same information on 3 different forms and not reacting badly when they told you not to abbreviate CANADA to CAN.  A quick dinghy ride across the harbour took us to the Pusser's store where our wonderful children had arranged for a case of rum to be waiting for the boat - Glen's 60th birthday present.  
A whole case of headaches

Sopers Hole
Later in the day we left Sopers for White Bay on Jost van Dyke and the Soggy Dollar Bar for Painkillers before heading to our hot, hot beds.  Very muggy night.

Soggy Dollar Bar - called this for the wet money used to buy drinks after swimming to shore

Enjoying Painkillers

Drying out soggy dollars

Where next?

Callwood's Rum Distillery

Today is Glen's birthday so Don and Pat treated for lunch in Cane Garden Bay.  We are enjoying internet (can hardly wait to find out who won the election) and cooling off in the bay.  Tomorrow we go somewhere else… not sure where.  We need to learn how to plan!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Old Macdonalds Had a Trip

After waiting outside SJU for 20 minutes we finally saw two familiar faces - happy but maybe a little tired from travel.  We loaded them up and drove from San Juan across to Humacao where the boat waited at the Marina at Palmas del Mar.

We spent the rest of the day keeping cool at the pool and enjoyed Pam's tacos for dinner.  Then a final blissful sleep in the cool of Blue Pearl's dockside AC and off we went - a marathon (OK only 4 hours) trip to Tamarindo Beach on the west side of Culebra.  

Moments after taking a mooring we were in the water to snorkel and just cool off.

Don decided that the boat was too hot for sleeping so he decided to try the cockpit.  Apart from a couple of drops, the night was relatively dry.

Next day we moved the boat around to Dewey and went for a short, hot walk around town.  Apparently the tourist season hasn't started because not many of the stores and restaurants were open.  The social hub of the town, El Batey's was so we tucked into Medalla beers, Batey burgers and grease with fries.  Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Then back to the boat and out to Dakity so we could get off early to Saint Thomas.  Next morning we enjoyed a quick breakfast and set out to Brewers Bay, by the airport in Saint Thomas.  There wasn't any wind for the rest of the day - very still and hot - but during our trip we had 15 mph on the nose which made for a bumpy crossing.  That's usually the way it goes - the wind is coming from where we want to go.
Virgin Islands Agricultural Fair

Cool wood carvers

We went to shore to enjoy the last of the VI Agricultural Fair - some great music, food and crafts - and then back to the boat to listen to overwhelmingly loud gangsta rap from a beach party. 

Another blissful night on the boat - once the music stopped - with good friends and cool drinks.

Today we adventure around the island in a rental car.  More later!

Monday, October 29, 2012


We are thinking about the poor folks up north having to deal with Sandy.  We certainly hope that people come through it safely.  So sorry to hear that the HMS Bounty replica out of Nova Scotia had to be abandoned at sea.  Hope that the two missing will be found soon.

And a big earthquake at home near Vancouver Island!  What the heck???  Sounds like the Mayan calendar was right after all.

It is hot and muggy here but getting better every day.  This morning it is clear with very light winds.  These have been our past few days...

Thursday - splashing on Friday but the old propeller nut won't work.  We checked locally - nothing.  Drove to Puerto de Ray Marina in Fajardo - nothing.  Tried the Skipper Store, West Marine, local propeller store - nothing.  Then we met Bobby the propeller man.  He said, "Go the the local ferretaria (hardware store).  They have everything.  And they did!!!  For $3.32 we got the correct nut - in stainless steel and with a nyloc (won't come off) insert!  Propeller is on and good.

Another propeller nut dead end
Installing a wifi antenna on the backstay
Cleaning the stainless
Launching Murphy
Propeller nuts!

Friday - waiting for the travel lift we spotted a huge manatee in the harbour.  Good omen!  Getting ready to splash we found out the main bilge pump was toasted.  So we checked that the manual pump worked and into the water we went.  Yan Diesel fired up immediately and we coasted 100 meters to our new spot on the dock.  We noticed that the fixed prop doesn't CLUNK as we change gears from forward to reverse.  It also seems smoother!?  Fired up the fridge - goodness how we love our fridge.  Within an hour the freezer was at -10 C and the fridge at 6 C.  Yay for cold beer!

Ready to go!
And... in we go
At the dock
Saturday - spent the morning driving into San Juan - closest place to get a new bilge pump.  Glen spent the afternoon cursing and yelling into the bilge until the job was done.

Sunday - put on the main sail and Mack Pack (the thing that catches and covers the sail when it comes down), put on the dodger and bimini and reinstalled the solar panels.  Also, installed a new galley fan so chefs can be cool as they prepare their masterpieces.  Pam is concerned that it will muss up her hair.

Today - Costco run

Tuesday - install new water heater and put on the head sails.

Wednesday - hang around the pool.

Thursday - drive into SJ to pick up Don and Pat for their Spanish/US/British Virgin Island tour!