Archive for 'British Virgin Islands to Bahamas'

Lat: 24 41.211′ N
Lon: 75 20.693′ W

It has been a week since we left the Virgin Islands, and there is still very little wind to speak of. Dallas has been carefully monitoring our fuel consumption and decided that it was safest to stop and refuel in San Salvador, Bahamas. We planned to clear in with customs/immigration, fuel up (to the tune of $6.36/gallon!), and go, but there was another boat on the fuel dock, so we grabbed a spot on the marina wall and hung out for a bit. I had a delightfully long shower at the marina, and when I returned, Dallas informed me that our neighbors on the dock invited us over for a beer. Well, one beer led to another along with a dinner invitation, and before long we had decided to spend the night at the marina and set sail (or more likely motor) in the morning.

Our newest friends are an American couple in their early 50’s who recently sold off their worldly possessions and moved onto a Nordhaven trawler. They are planning on taking the motor vessel around the world (along with their two beloved dogs), although they might make a beeline for Alaska after they transit the Panama Canal. They haven’t really decided yet, and the beauty of it is that as they are retired (already!), they are not on a schedule and have about as much flexibility as is humanly possible! Naturally they had many questions for us, but it felt a little different than usual since they viewed us as circumnavigators. Dallas helped them trouble-shoot problems with their battery bank, shared some charts, and after dinner, conveyed his passion for the islands of the South Pacific. If they end up going there, I have a feeling they will think of him once or twice!

marquesas Photos from the Pacific: Learning to play the ukelele in Hakahetau, Ua Pou, Marquesas (French Polynesia)

chiefsWith the village chief on the island of Malekoula, Vanuatu

Mark and Jennifer were not the first to express surprise that we have circumnavigated (very nearly) in two years. Certainly our schedule kept us on a fast pace as evidenced by the fact that we spent 40% of our time at sea. Had time not been a factor, we undoubtedly would have spent more time in places like the South Pacific and probably would have slept more and endured less stress along the way. However, neither Dallas nor I regret the decision to go ahead and set sail rather than waiting until more time and money was available. I’ve learned that many things in life don’t come easy, but striving to achieve one’s dreams in the face of inevitable obstacles seems to me to represent "living life to the fullest."

For years, Dallas had dreamt of sailing around the world while he was still relatively young and in good health, and I think our age did serve us well in maintaining our activity level. But to me, an added benefit of doing it at our age relates to the process of self growth. The myriad unique experiences, exhilarating adventures, and memorable conversations with amazing people that I’ve had over the course of this trip have challenged me to think and act in completely new ways, and as a result, I have the opportunity to continue on life’s journey with a better understanding of myself and the world in which I live. Such a life-changing experience is definitely worth waiting for, but what a privilege to have had it now.

lauren2 Enjoying the journey

Lat: 22 04.304′ N
Lon: 70 20.572′ W

For some reason, Lauren and I were really dreading this passage before leaving. Maybe it was because we got so many full nights of sleep in the Caribbean, or maybe it was not having a new, exciting destination to sail to next. As it turns out, it’s been really pleasant so far, and we were into the passage less than a day before we were both glad to be out here and enjoying our final days at sea. Passagemaking is incredibly stress-free and relaxing as long as the weather is nice and there are no major boat hassles to sort out. I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I can’t count on getting to sea on a regular basis to chill out.

Every passage is different, and so far this one has been unique for the amount of motoring we’re doing. We got lucky and were able to sail for about the first 12 hours, but since then we probably haven’t had the engines off for more than 30-60 minutes at a time and have been running one for nearly all of the last two and a half days. We took on fuel before leaving the BVI’s, but we were hoping to sail at least half the time, so we’re seriously having to consider making a fuel stop in San Salvador if we don’t find more wind. I really thought that the fuel I bought in Brazil would be the last, but keeping to a schedule in the Caribbean and light winds have combined to cause us to go through quite a bit of it.

We’ve had a pretty large northerly swell most of the time, which has been interesting with so litle wind. Swell can mean a number of things, but in this case I’m referring to waves that have most likely travelled hundreds or thousands of miles to get here. Since they’re "old" waves, their period has lengthened, making them long, slow rollers. Even though they’re 6 feet or more and coming right toward us, we just glide up and over them instead of crashing into them. There’s been virtually no wind at times, causing the surface of the ocean to take on an oily, surreal sheen in which you can see the clouds reflected. It’s sort of unique for us to have that ocean surface look combined with large swells. It looks sort of like big jelly mirrors oozing and sliding around us.

DSC_0397Being surrounded by this is a really surreal experience DSC_0408 Superposition patterns from the wakes from our hulls

DSC_0411 A cloud reflecting off the water.  When it was hazy it was hard to make out the line of the horizon.

At this point just starting to sail past the Turks and Caicos, about 50 miles off to port. We saw the glow from Puerto Rico the first two nights we were out, but I’m guessing we’re not going to see much from the Turks and Caicos. The air is definitely getting cooler as we sail farther north, and the combination of fair skies and cool breeze reminded me of a nice spring day back in the Midwest.

As for the crew, we’re definitely preoccupied with thoughts of our imminent return to the US. As one South African we met in Tortola said when he heard about our trip, "I’m in eempreessed, but what ah ya going to do neext?"

Lat: 19 49.306’ N
Long: 66 50.661’’ W

We had to say good-bye to Kope and Julia and to the Virgin Islands on Tuesday. We packed in a lot of activity while they were here, much of it underwater, so I think they were looking forward to enjoying the creature comforts of their hotel room in St. Thomas for a couple of nights before heading back to work.

In case we haven’t made our case for the Virgins yet, they really are ideal for cruising and diving. We ended up diving six times while there, and each site had something new to offer. The RMS Rhone was site of choice for Julia and I. Nearly all of the sites had an abundance of soft corals (fans, plumes), but here there were lots of hard corals as well that really added to the visual array. In addition to bright red, orange, and even blue hard corals growing on the steel structure of the wreck, there were lots of tube sponges protruding outward, most of them light purple. There was no shortage of fish, either, many of them Sergeant Majors. These medium-sized fish are typically white with a yellow upper body and black vertical stripes, but occasionally we saw the blue variety, which is the same fish but in the blue phase, indicating that it’s a male guarding eggs. I have a few photos of the fish and the site to post that don’t do justice to the landscape but will give you a better idea.

PICT0016 For whatever reason, there were a bunch of these at the Rhone

PICT0068Sergeant Major with propeller shaft of the RMS Rhone in background

Most of our evenings, as Dallas noted, were spent on the boat under the stars. On Sunday night, however, we got a taste of local culture at the Bomba Shack near the West End of Tortola. This place was very Caribbean – open air, sand floors, people’s names written all over the wooden frame that comprised the shack in black marker, and even a few items of women’s underwear that were somehow left behind. (After sampling the Bomba Punch, we got a better idea as to how that happened!) The DJ was spinning a nice mix of dance, reggae, and pop, and Julia and I worked off our Bomba’s barbeque dinner by hilariously (to us) trying out our dance moves in the soft, deep sand. Initially it was just us and a few locals there, but a couple of groups of tourists popped in briefly and joined in the fun. The shack isn’t near the resorts and is in a bay that’s not suitable for anchoring, so cruisers/tourists have to take a taxi there, but Bomba has managed to put itself on the BVI map with its unique vibe and monthly full-moon parties.   

bomba As the sign reads, “Bomba Shack is an Adult Bar”

So now Dallas and I are back at sea, a place with which we have grown very familiar and comfortable. However, we weren’t looking forward to this passage in particular as the forecast indicated that we would have minimal to light winds for the bulk of the 900 miles. So far the weather report has been accurate (we’ve been motoring for most of the last two days), but now that we are out here, we are just relaxing and appreciating what is to be the last long (multi-day) passage of our circumnavigation. It is hard to believe that we are so close. 

Fortunately, we have one last bit of paradise to experience, the Bahamas. We are looking forward to being joined in the Bahamas by Dallas’ brother Tim, his wife Heather, and their two young children, so we will get a chance to expose more people to some of the activities that have brought us so much pleasure over the last couple of years!