Saturday, May 30, 2020

BVI to Grenada

British Virgin Islands to Grenada

Saturday, 30-May-2020

On the Move Again
Grateful for BVI's having us for so long and Grenada for opening their borders
but look at all the islands we are missing. Maybe next year.

We have received permission from Grenada to enter the country. Our arrival period is scheduled from June 3rd to 5th, we are hoping to arrive on the morning of June 3rd but Mother Nature will have the final say on the insignificant plans of man. As I have been saying, Grenada, at 12 degrees North latitude is south of the usual Hurricane tracks and storage of international sailboats is an important part of the Grenadian economy. They have come up with a very organized plan where you apply for entry stating your desired arrival. There are only three arrival days per week and they only schedule a certain number of entries per week. Once in Grenada, there are four coordinates in a rectangle on the more protected west coast. You must register your arrival and stay in the quarantine anchorage for fourteen days. You may swim around your own boat but you may not swim to any other boats.

Grenada has had thirty-one cases of Covid 19 and no fatalities. They are trying hard to maintain that while opening an important part  of their economy. The Marine and Yachting Association of Grenada (Mayag) have worked hard to put this plan in place and as we enter the second week of implementation we hear it is being very successful. So a thank you to Mayag is indeed in order.

Secondly, our departure from the BVI is a bitter sweet moment. The local islanders have always been friendly and always helpful. The islands are beautiful and the snorkelling incredible. For the last month we needed to stay close to wifi while we sorted out our Immigration status and to stay in contact with Grenada. The Marina staff are handling their changed role very well even while there is obvious economic hardship on the Islands. We would happily leave the boat here but the signs of hurricanes Irma and Maria are evident still so leave we must.

I hurt my back a few weeks ago and fortunately Eureka Medical Clinic is close to the Village Cay Marina. The GP and Radiologist I first dealt with were extremely good and within an hour I had been checked, five xrays taken and was in to see Dr. Klas Buring an Orthopedic Surgeon. Two cortisone shots over the following week and I am feeling much better.

As you will see on the accompanying map we are passing a lot of islands on our trip to Grenada. It had always been our intention to stop at most of them on our trip south but most are still closed or would require a quarantine plus we would not be able to do any sightseeing. We are hopeful that next year we will be able to cruise north through these islands, the Lesser Antilles, before heading west to Cartagena, Columbia.

Not certain when we may get a flight back to western Canada and will have to do another fourteen day quarantine there when we arrive. The new Corona Virus normal. Hope you are all well, stay safe.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Village Cay Marina wifi at last

Village Cay Marina, Road Town, British Virgin Islands

Tuesday, 5-May-2020

Covid 19 Update
Kanilela's route in green, ferry routes dotted lines, I borrowed this map

From what we hear the BVI’s have only had six Covid-19 cases with one fatality. The shutdown of all incoming travellers and a three week 24 hour per day curfew appear to have worked for now. We have just finished an additional week that has seen a easing of the 24 hour curfew to a 6:00am to 1:00pm opening with permitted shopping at locations that have been inspected and are able to adhere to the new safety requirements. Basically these are: no mask no service, a hand wash station with running water and soap at the entrance that must be used, limited numbers inside the establishment based on the size of the store, line-ups, both to get into the store and to the cashiers must be clearly marked with six foot spacing between people. Some places have sufficient space that they have placed chairs at six foot intervals and seniors are generally invited to go to the head of the line. When this was offered, it must be my grey beard around the N95 mask, I commented that I was fine waiting in line but the young man controlling the movement of the line said, “No sir, it is not based on need but just our respect for the elderly.” Some locations have laser thermometers checking your temperature prior to entering the store and many places have installed clear plexiglass barriers at the cashiers. The vast majority of people wear masks even when walking on the street to the point that you notice people who are not wearing a mask. Most people are very supportive of their Premier and the measures being taken.

Kanilela at the near empty Road Town, Village Cay Marina
At the marina, we have greater mobility than most because we are able to leave the boat to go to the laundry, showers, toilets and wifi access in the closed open air restaurant. There are only three boats with people onboard on our dock that would normally have 30 plus cruisers. We came into the marina the day after the full quarantine to re-provision and access wifi to determine what our future options may be. Our visas for the BVI’s expired on April 13th and now that Immigration has re-opened we have an interview scheduled for May 7th, after which we will probably return to Cooper Island.
There are at least 200 charter boats moored in Road Town and an equal number in the other bays.
This is a huge hit to the local economy that only has a five month long season.
Since our last post of day six at The Bight on Norman Island we sailed over to Nanny Cay Marina to re-provision and were greeted with the news that there would be a lock down of some sort coming so we quickly shopped and managed to buy a new mppt controller for the solar panels. We topped up fuel and water and headed to Manchineel Bay on Cooper Island. 
The closed Cooper Island Beach Club rebuilt after hurricane Irma and Maria
Cooper Island has a few residences, a couple of which are available for rental and a large resort, the Cooper Island Beach Club. I still had a tee shirt from the Beach Club that I bought twenty years earlier but when we went to the dinghy dock we were met by a young lady who told us we could not go ashore, they were closed. We asked about the people in the bar and were told that it was just staff and when we asked if we could get the wifi password she said, “No, we are shutting it down.” Not very friendly, especially considering we had been coming to buy an expensive meal. I could do a blog about our four weeks anchored in the bay during which the resort staff, when walking on the beach or the few times they went swimming would not ever look at us. Finally, four weeks later the wifi is still operational and we still do not have the password. 
Kanilela and Raven at Manchineel Bay, Cooper Island, usually just the two of us for 4 weeks.
When we arrived at Cooper there were seven boats in a bay that usually has fifty and after two more days there were just two boats, Kanilela and Raven with Eileen and David from California on board.

The water is very clear in the bay and there is a reef on the south end at Cistern Point so snorkelling from the boat was great. After one week at anchor, the government issued a notice that there would be a two week total lockdown and for three days prior to that shopping would be permitted alphabetically by last name letter so we were the third day. 
Kanilela's routes in green
We heard that lines were long in Road Town on Tortola so we sailed up to Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda. The marina was closed but they let us stay, the only ones on the dock, for two nights. There were line-ups at the store and only a few people had masks. Spacing was somewhat haphazard. People were still coming to terms with what this meant and many felt that Virgin Gorda was remote from the problem. All of this happening when the signs of devastation from hurricanes Irma and Maria were still so evident. At least 30 to 40 big boats up on the hard, many with no masts or broken masts and visible damage everywhere.

Kanilela at a very empty Spanish Town Marina
We returned to Manchineel Bay on Cooper Island for the two week total lockdown. 
Green Turtle about 90cm, 3'
Again the snorkelling was great and Mags got to use her new paddle board. We were certain that the turtles became less cautious as the weeks progressed. Possibly no charter boat crews chasing them and no locals who still eat turtle out on the water. It was strange to look out on Sir Francis Drake Channel and not see any boats other than the small freighters that were provisioning the islands. 
Baby French Angelfish about 12.5cm, 5"
A couple of times we saw a police boat and a Custom’s boat run past Cooper but with only two boats in the bay they just passed by staying well off shore. We heard that the bays with more boats had frequent visits and people were told not to go ashore or to go on paddle boards.

Just as the second week was coming to an end the Premier added an additional week to the quarantine period. The fatality had just occurred so they were watching contacts. 
One of our resident Barricudas about 120cm, 4', lots of big Tarpons and Remoras liked the shade.
On Kanilela all was good, fresh foods dwindling and internet problematic but texting was still working quite well and one of the residences for rent on Cooper “Quart-a-Nancy Point” has a live web camera so family and friends could see our boat. Google Quart-a-Nancy Point to find the site. We rowed the dinghy from Quart-a-Nancy Point to Cistern Point numerous times and often walked the south end of the bay, never encroaching on the Beach Club’s property, just to feel terra firma under our feet.
Mags taking it easy off "our" beach, cute pink and yellow cottages with no guests for 4 weeks.

Going forward is a question mark. As our friend Rob on Avante said, “Making cruising plans is so 2019…..” Obviously we are in the hurricane zone and the season begins in early June. Seeing the devastation that Irma and Maria left in their track staying is not an option. Our best, closest destinations are either Grenada or Trinidad, both are south of the usual hurricane tracks. Grenada, 410 miles south, is our preference and we have been in contact with one of the haulout boatyards for space. We have not received confirmation yet in part because Grenada, like all of the Caribbean Islands, is closed to any entries and the yards are not sure how many bookings are coming. We have registered with a group called who are working with the marinas and boatyards that store boats through the summer months to lobby their government for some relaxation of the entry of boats for storage. We are prepared register with Immigration by radio and to do a two week quarantine once we arrive there. Storage of the cruising boats from June to November is a big industry for Grenada so we are hopeful some arrangement can be made. A flight back to Vancouver is far enough down the road we are not even looking into it given the ever changing situation.

To all our family and friends, be safe. Until we have an antiviral vaccination for Covid-19 take the logical precautions, adhere to social distancing protocols, wear a mask in public, and wash your hands. Remember, you wear a mask to protect me from you and I wear a mask to protect you from me. I hope I never have to live with the thought that I brought the virus to someone who later died and I hope that you too will never be confronted with that thought. This is easy. All we have to do is ignore stupid political rhetoric that has no factual basis.
Banded Butterflyfish about 20cm, 8"
Juvenile Damselfish about 7.5cm, 3"

Whitespotted Trunkfish about 40cm, 16"
Blue Chromis about 10cm, 4"
Four Eyed Butterflyfish about 15cm, 6"
Juvenile Stoplight Parrotfish about 30cm, 12" with Sargeant Majors and Urchins
Southern Sting Ray about 150cm, 5' with a Jack
Squid about 25cm, 10"
Smooth Trunkfish about 25cm, 10"
Juvenile Stoplight Parrotfish about 35cm, 14"
Porcupine Fish about 45cm, 18'
Stoplight Parrotfish about 60cm, 24"
Xmas Tree Anemones and corals
Finger Coral and Featherduster Anemones

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Norman Island, Day 6

Norman Island, Day 6, British Virgin Islands

Tuesday, 24-March-2020

The Bight
Green Lines are Kanilela's route, dotted lines are ferry routes, I borrowed the map....

Well isolated at the anchorage still. The Pirates Bight Restaurant has closed until further notice but they are such good people that they left the internet connection on for the cruisers who have to remain. The numbers in the anchorage are now below twenty as the last of the charter boats leave. Those who are left are typical friendly cruisers albeit from a greater distance. There are a few other anchorages we can venture to without being around people but for now The Bight is good and we have not exhausted all of the hiking trails.
A south side bay, the water clarity is incredible.
Yesterday we hiked up to the ridge and looked down into the bays on the south side of Norman Island. After I post this we will probably hike the ridge above the north shore. No people, no contact.
Mags up close to a cactus. It is a surprisingly dry island.
So what is this egret, a water wading bird doing at the top of the ridge?

We hope all family, friends and blog followers are well and handling the new constraints successfully. There will be an end to this and if we do a good job of limiting exposure it will be sooner rather than later. To any of you providing essential services, we are eternally grateful. Protect yourselves as best you can and do not be shy about insisting people maintain a safe distance.
Kanilela riding a mooring buoy.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Norman Island, BVI

Norman Island, British Virgin Islands


The Bight

Rather than sit in a marina waiting out another front coming through, we checked the anchorages on the various islands of the BVI’s. Our considerations were both wind exposure and the swell that can enter the anchorage. The Bight on Norman Island has a west facing orientation and is considered the calmest anchorage for swell in the BVI’s. The wind does come over the surrounding hills and shifts as it curls off the various irregular steep faces on the north, east and south sides of the bay. The forecast called for winds to be in the mid-twenties to thirty with squall gusts into the mid-thirties. Winds during the last two nights have registered into the low thirties as we were hit by heavy rain squalls, but being on a mooring that I had dived on to inspect, I felt confident we were secure. Because the wind had no fetch there were no wind waves and the Bight was living up to its reputation for having no swell curl in, it was just the constant swinging on the buoy and the noise of the wind to contend with.
The Bight, Norman Island, BVI

Pirates Bight
The Bight has two restaurant/bar venues and no residences, private or public. The infamous floating schooner The William Thornton, known affectionately as Willy T’s on the south side of the bay and Pirates Cove Restaurant on the beach in the northeast corner. When we were here twenty years ago Willy T’s was notorious for the patrons flashing passing boats and the passing crews returning the favour. Although not the same schooner, having been replaced a couple of times, most recently after Irma sunk the previous one, the tradition tries to live on. Unfortunately due to the dwindling numbers of boats due to the Covid 19 virus, the patrons on the Friday we stopped in were a rather subdued collection. The staff were not certain how long before they had to close but it was anticipated Saturday would be their last day.
Willy T's

We had dinner at Pirates Bight last evening and they anticipated closing after Sunday’s lunch service. For any who were here years ago this was the site of the Billy Bones Bar. The unfortunate part is that the restaurant was just rebuilt after the devastation of Irma and now, once again, the employees and owners incomes will be severely impacted.  Most of the patrons were on short term charters and the concern was whether their flights would be available. We were approached by a couple of cruisers who suspected we also were cruisers, it must be my crusty, sun-baked, bearded appearance, wanting to share information on the impacts of the virus. It was becoming apparent that the BVI’s were to be home for the foreseeable future.

When we had entered the bay a few days earlier we were amazed at the number of mooring balls placed, at least seventy, and yet there were several empty. I doubt there was 25 mooring balls twenty years ago when we were here but they were always full and many additional boats were always at anchor. The past two days have experienced an exodus as the charter fleets end their weeks and no new charters are arriving. There is a strange isolated feeling as we look out at twenty six boats in a bay that would normally have eighty to ninety this time of year.

Fortunately, we have food and although our solar controller has just quit working we have diesel to generate power. The water is crystal clear and just around our south point are some caves for snorkelling. There are trails for hiking and as the day progresses and our boat numbers dwindle further, we have no problems with social distancing. Better weather is forecast for Tuesday so we may change our anchorage but it will be here in the BVI’s as we cannot go to anywhere else. Stay safe all.
Thinking of all of you and hope you are well.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Tortola, BVI's

Tortuga, British Virgin Islands


Soper’s Hole, the West End
Our track is the green line.
After a short uneventful 12 nm crossing from The Lagoon on St. Thomas to Soper’s Hole on Tortola, British Virgin Islands we took a buoy and headed to Immigration and Customs. We had an additional form to complete with our usual Immigration form and Customs declaration, it was a short medical questionnaire regarding Covid 19 virus and flu symptoms. We had not been unaware of the impact the virus was having in China, Iran and Italy but with our limited internet we had not come to terms with how it was to impact us. We completed the form and were admitted to the BVI’s.
Pusser's at Soper' Hole, West End, Tortola

One of our first stops was to get wifi at the Pusser’s Restaurant and Bar where we were told that St Martin’s had closed its ports for cruising sailboats. Then as we opened our emails and texts we found out that our visitors were probably not coming. After Cathay Pacific flight cancelations from Vancouver to New York, Dusty and the girls were scrambling to make alternate arrangements. As the hours ticked away so too did the opportunity for their visit. Possibly no return flights with potentially long delays in airports and probable quarantine requirements when they finally returned to Canada spelled an end to a long talked about visit. 
A few of the rums I was going to share. 
With Bree working in the medical profession in New York, her employers urged all staff to cancel any leave in anticipation of an overwhelming need and if they did go away then they would have to self-isolate for two weeks on their return. The new masks and snorkels in little girl’s sizes, the new SUP and the boat fully provisioned complete with a few rums from the countries we have visited suddenly were preparations for the dance that was not happening.

The Beach at Nanny Cay Marina and resort

We sailed over to Nanny Cay Marina and Resort where we had booked moorage for three days and a triple room for the family for two days. We checked into the hotel room, swam in the pool, ate dinner by the beach and lamented the twist of fate, knowing full well that others were having a devastating time with this damn virus and our misfortune was quite minor by comparison. Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by Corvid 19. Isolate and stay healthy.
Kanilela just into Nanny Cay Marina.
This stack of twisted stainless from the hurricanes is almost symbolic of the twisted fate that has 
now been dealt to this devastated economy with the Corvid 19 virus. Everywhere is shutting 
down, unemployment is rampant but let's hope it stops the spread of the virus.

ST Thomas USVI

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands


Charlotte Amalie and Benner Bay, (The Lagoon)

After a short 23 nm motor sail, yes the wind was again on the nose, we passed the anchorage on Water Island and saw several dismasted boats and a few sail and power boats high on the rocks. We yielded to a small container ship crossing our bow on his way to the commercial docks and we passed through the narrow and shallow Haulover Cut arriving on the western end of St Thomas Harbour. The Customs and Immigration officers are located at the ferry terminal on the concrete quay side. It is a lee shore and the harbour traffic sets up a choppy set of wakes with ferries arriving constantly from St. John and the BVI’s. Our first surprise was the speed of the traffic on the road beside the quay and the horns blowing were quite unnerving. Our 26 days on the anchor in quiet anchorages had not prepared us for city life. With six bumpers out and doubled bow, stern and spring lines set we left Kanilela to quite literally fend for herself as were headed off to find the immigration and customs. We arrived and received a form to fill out which I dutifully did and waited to be interviewed. Another officer who acknowledged he was not the guy to take the form but did not want to see us standing waiting took the form and stamped our passports. We were feeling good as we started to leave only to be called back by our original officer who had given us the form. “Where had we come from?” “Culebra” “Oh, give me your passports, you don’t need to clear in here.” Whereupon he proceeded to cross out our not yet dry stamps and sent us on our way. So, we had tried to clear out of Culebra and were not required to do so and we had tried to clear into the USVI and again were not required to do so. We do not know if the rules have officially changed or just a whim of the moment. People often ask us about the difficulties of clearing in and out of foreign countries with language differences and varying policy issues but our neighbours to the south of us are often the most problematic.
Our neighbour in the anchorage. His main mast half gone and several mast parts on deck,
the 21' sailboat behind was tied to him. It looked like a scene from a Patrick O'Brien 
novel. The ship returns with battle scars and a "prize" in tow.
Back at Kanilela all was fine but without a bow thruster moving off a wind driven concrete quay is always a challenge. With some bumpers moved to the aft and getting the bow well off the concrete before going into gear forward all went well as we slipped the final stern line and headed out to the anchorage close by.
The old Prison and the hills behind Charlotte Amalie.

It was an entertaining slow trip through the anchorage seeing mock pirate ships, large day tripper catamarans and mega yachts, both power and sail. There were a few international flags on some typical cruising boats but definitely in the minority. Also, we were again reminded of the 2018 hurricanes Irma and Maria with the number of dismasted boat in the main anchorage. We found a spot out on the western edge of the anchorage and had a quiet night surrounded by the lights climbing the hills around Charlotte.
The only cruise ship in Charlotte Amalie, we knew cruises were being cancelled but this
was a surprise. In the past there would have been several.

One of the benefits to arriving into a larger town is the opportunity to buy specialty marine items. We have a pump in the galley that brings in sea water we use for rinsing dirty dishes, always looking for ways to save good potable water. This particular pump is operated by a foot plunger therefore requiring no electricity, another plus in our battery challenged world. Unfortunately ours was leaking and even after stripping it down and silicon greasing all the rubber seals it was still trying to sink Kanilela in slow motion, one drip at a time. I had found Budget Marine on line and their web site said they had the same model new pump in stock. My email from Culebra to confirm stock went unanswered but we are pretty laid back down here and I am the eternal optimist so we headed to The Lagoon further east along the coast where Budget Marine is located.

The Lagoon, as its name implies is a small very shallow mangrove lagoon with numerous marinas of varying sizes from medium to minute. They were all devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria 2018. We were arriving on Sunday and there were no berths available at Compass Point Marina until Tuesday. There is an area in the entrance bay where you can anchor in a maximum of ten feet and if particularly brave you can venture over some six foot shoals to a more protected area in front of False Channel. We draw six feet and with the recent hurricanes possibly silting in some of the shallows I favored discretion. Also, our newly painted bottom had not been dragged over any sand bars since painting in Jamaica. If it had been before the repaint we may have gone for it as we had dragged through numerous sand bars in the Bocas Archipelago in Panama, shallow North Bay in the Caymans and in the shallows throughout the Jardinas de la Reina in Cuba. As it turned out I should have tried to go further in as we had two very rolly nights with the swell wrapping around the corner and in to the Bay.
This was a scene repeated too often. The boat in the mangroves was Kanilela's size.

From the anchorage we could see a few large sailboats washed high into the mangroves. It is always sad seeing a boat sunk but as we dinghied in and saw the number of large sailboats on the shallow bottom and many more afloat but without masts we were dumbfounded. Conjecturing the size of sunken power boats by the size of the flying bridge projecting out of the water was staggering. But the resilience of the people was evident everywhere. Docks being rebuilt, boat reconstruction taking place and the ubiquitous collections of salvaged materials stacked on hulls requiring monumental efforts to return them to their former glory.
Our "Local"

We met some wonderful people at Compass Point Marina, from my first visit with Lindy the office manager to many of the owners and crews of boats moored in the marina, they were nice neighbours. Jennifer and Michael from the Columbia Valley in Oregon were an amazing young couple who insisted we use their car to go to the laundromat about four miles away. We had a great visit hearing about the catamaran and home project on an island in the Columbia River. Lots of hard work and innovative ideas. They also shared some great stories of the life of a charter captain and a gourmet chef.
Those are 2x6's that he/she is on. Well fed and not afraid.

But, cruising tales often have “buts”, when we went to Budget Marine the question regarding the pump was met with blank stares. We did pickup numerous other items as it was the best stocked marine store that we have seen in a long time.

A night heron

The front that drove us into the marina had started to recede so we decided it was time to take the last leg of our trip to the British Virgin Islands for our long anticipated Spring Break visitors. We would be arriving with a few days to spare.

A Sailor's Delight