Tuesday, December 9, 2008

BVI Day Four: Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda to Marina Cay

(map, right) A view of the convoluted route we took today, dealing with a sailing mishap. Not many photos of today's events, the long enjoyable time spent at the 'Baths' in the morning/afternoon were all without the camera, and we were too panicked in the afternoon during the 'mishap' to take many photos, and then, by the end of the day, we just wanted to get to an anchorage and enjoy what was left of our 25th anniversary. Not really sure how accurate the 'sailing' route is on the map, I think we were probably a lot further out in the channel than I have indicated, but we had other things on our minds at the moment.

Another rolling night at the mooring ball outside Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda, and the morning dawned with cloudy, overcast, with sporatic rain and gusting breezes. We found the weather report on the VHF, and a high pressure system seems to have moved into the area for the rest of the week, promising heavier than usual winds, high seas, and intermittent rain squalls. We took our time getting up this morning, and eventually took the dinghy into the nearby marina to try and find some ice and pay for the previous evening's mooring ball charge. We picked up a few more provisions at the grocery store, along with the ice for our freezer, and just as we were loading everything into our dinghy, the skies opened up with a strong rain that continued until we reached the sailboat.

We decided to brave the 'iffy' conditions and motor down to either Fallen Jerusalem or the Baths to try our luck down there, maybe do some exploring ashore, or some more snorkeling. No one was at Fallen Jerusalem today, and no wonder, because the pass between the south end of Virgin Gorda and the out island was open to the ocean, and some incredible swells were rolling in, which made the passage quite exciting, but when we eventually got the mooring ball, the conditions looked too shaky to attempt tying up there for any length of time, so we aborted and headed back north for the Baths (which had several boats tied up there already at 10 in the morning). The weather seemed to be improving a little bit, the clouds breaking up and the sun starting to come out, but by the time we arrived at the Baths mooring area, the sky opened up yet again, and Terri had to climb to the bow to tie on in a drenching rain squall. We scurried below for some tea and a game of cribbage. After the game, we peeked outdoors, and saw that the sun had once again come out, and we prepared the dinghy to go ashore, along with our snorkeling gear (decided to travel light this time, and just do the trails in our bare feet - a smart decision).

The Baths were beautiful - a couple of beaches surrounded by piles of ginormous boulders with trails winding through, between and over them onto the next beach, and then out in the water, swarms of interesting and colorful reef fish swimming around the submerged rocks. We also found ourselves in the middle of a huge swarm of Germans on the trails through the boulder field, not sure where they all came from, perhaps from a cruise ship excursion, but several of the males of the species wore some interesting bathing attire (little 'penis pouches' on a sling some of them looked like - Tim dubbed them 'nut sacks').

After spending a couple hours hiking and snorkeling, and laying on the beach, we successfully re-entered our dinghy and set sail for Marina Cay on the opposite side of the Sir Francis Drake Channel, to our northeast, and what we hoped would be a nice easy beam reach sail, as the winds seemed to be favorable. Not to be however, as we hadn't yet had our daily 'excitement'.

The winds proved to be a bit more than I had anticipated, and grew stronger, along with stronger waves the further we got from shore. I was tooling along at a pretty good pace with just the headsail out, but got greedy and asked Terri to also set out the jib to perhaps give us just a little more speed. The jib proved to be a bit too much in the growing breezes, and when we were in the act of aborting our sail choices, we lost track of one of the jib sheets while furling the genoa, and it ended up in the water. Tim started the engine to try and gain some control over the situation, but should have gotten the sheet out of the water before hand, because it wasn't long before the engine conked out, and we found the port jib sheet wrapped around the propeller, the engine dead, the transmission stuck in forward, and us stuck out in heavy growing seas and difficult winds. At first, I had forgotten that we still had the main sail up, and was making plans for us to drift with the prevailing winds and try and phone for help (actually my first response, was 'maybe I could put on the snorkeling gear and try to free it myself?' which Terri smartly vetoed right out of the box). I eventually smartened up, and took stock of the actual situation and realized that I could still maneuver fairly well (if conditions didn't change drastically) with just the main sail, until help arrived (and when Terri called, they weren't sure how soon help COULD arrive). We were advised to avoid collisions, and try and circle around the same general area until a diver could come help us free the jib sheet from the propeller.

(image above) "Gun" prepares to go diving under our boat to cut loose our headsail sheet which had gotten wrapped around the propeller. After 2 hours of sailing back and forth without a motor, we found ourselves right back at the 'Baths' for our rescue.

After about an hour and forty five minutes later, and two or three passes back and forth in front of the Virgin Gorda sailing grounds we have been hovering around the past 24 hours, help arrived in the form of a young man with size 16 feet named "Gun", who helped bulldoze us towards shore and moor up at one of the 'Baths' mooring balls, and he went below with one of our kitchen knives and freed up the propellor. Very nice young man, and did a good job of corralling a pair of panicky sailing tourists. Brought us a new jib sheet (since he had to cut away a portion of the one we fouled), and also took our trash, which was very nice. We were back on our way to Marina Cay by around 4pm, and this time we played it safe and motored across (the seas were still quite high and rolly, but it wasn't too bad once we got in the lee of 'The Dogs' (a quintet of islands west of the northern half of Virgin Gorda).

(image above) Tied up to a mooring ball at the Marina Cay anchorage. The fuel dock and gift shop are visible on shore.

Marina Cay is a very cute little anchorage, featuring a tiny little islet, sourrounded by a large coral reef (which we hope to snorkel tomorrow). We found a nice restaurant ashore to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary (surprised we made it this long). The restaurant was very nice, Terri had Red Snapper, and I had some Blackened Mahi Mahi, and we also each tried a rum shooter featured at the bar, and at the end of the meal, the restaurant was nice enough to give us a bottle of Zinfandel, in a baggie of ice for our celebration back on the boat. Unfortunately either our corkscrew is screwed up, or the bottle is, because we can't get it open.

(image above) motoring around in the dinghy at Marina Cay - time to go back to the boat and 'dress up for dinner'.

Tomorrow -- well, not sure. Perhaps the weather will dictate. Would like to go over and check out the 'Dogs', but they are an iffy anchorage.

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