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July 3, 2006

Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor , Virgin Gorda
It has been a great season, one that I wish was not over although Sue needs some time at home. We have been told that if you want to cruise for awhile you need a home base for some part of each year, those who forget this rule often sell their boat in three years or less.

The boat is secure for the storm season and we head out to Parker today.

May 3 – 4, 2006
We left North Sound, Virgin Gorda heading towards our ultimate destination of the Puerto Rican Virgin Islands. We had heard very good comments about them and thought we would spend our last days checking them out. We also wanted to check in at the Marina at Puerto Del Ray to view their facilities for haul out. Rather than hurriedly sailing we took our time and spent a night at one of our favorite islands, Norman, N18 18.993 W64 37.045. We stopped at the Bight and made our usual trek to Pirates Bar there at the island. Having had a nice evening we set out the next day for St. John. Our chart plotter in the cockpit had been acting up so we stopped midday at Christmas Cove, St. Thomas to see if we could determine what the problem might be. Christmas Cove is a beautiful small cove just off Great St. James Island, N18 18.542 W64 49.888. There is not a lot of room so you need to drop the hook early but its well worth spending the time as the water is crystal clear and home to many stingrays. The only downside is the resorts from St. John bring snorkel boats over but the anchorage is big enough to share and they generally leave early afternoon. That night we had one of the worst rainstorms we have encountered since being in the islands. The boat swiveled like a corkscrew on the hook and we found a new leak in the engine control panel. Fortunately, the hook held so we did not have to worry about re-anchoring. The next morning we left for Culebra one of the PR Virgin Islands.

May 5, 2006
We entered Ensenada Honda late in the afternoon just before a rainstorm and hooked up fairly easily. It rained the remainder of the day and night but we were well protected. Ensenada Honda is used by many cruisers as a hurricane hole and you can see why. It is very large, well protected and has mangrove fields where a boat can tie itself into. We saw several boats where owner had tied up for the season. The next day was clear and sunny and we explored the island. The town is like stepping back into the 60’s. Very little development and no major resorts have disturbed the island. There were several good restaurants, a great little deli and liquor store and two grocery stores where we were able to provision. N18 18.327 W65 17.919

May 6, 2006
We decided to take an overnight trip down the coast and anchored in a beautiful cove called Aldomovar. There were several small power boats anchored as this is a weekend retreat for sailors from Puerto Rico but there were not a bother to us. Several very beautiful homes lined the hillsides but overall this end of the island was deserted. N18 17.795 W65 15.344

May 7 - 8, 2006
We came back to Ensenada Honda and took the ferry the next day over to Fajardo, Puerto Rico. We took a cab over the Marina Puerto del Ray and toured their facility. While they seemed to have good facilities and services they had no room for us as their Power Boat Program is a priority with them. This program allows Power Boats to lay up there and if a hurricane is headed towards them they guarantee a pit for every boat. Obviously they make more money from the power boats than us sailors so there is very little if any room to haul out for sailboats. Being done with our business and still having several hours to kill before the next Ferry back to Culebra we found a great seafood restaurant that had been recommended to us and had a fabulous lunch of lobster and swordfish. N18 18.327 W65 17.919

May 9, 2006
Our next stop in our visits was to the island of Vieques. It took us about ½ day to sail to the south side where we pulled in to bay at the town of Esperanza Real. As with Culebra this island is very laid back and a place where time has essentially stood still. They seem to have more tourists than Culebra as they do have several resorts. The island was at one time owned by the US military and served as target practice for the Navy. Several years ago the Department of Interior took possession and at this time there are no plans known as to what they will do with the island. Much of the island is marked “no trespassing” by the US Government but there is still quite a bit open for driving and hiking. This island has 30 plus miles of secluded beaches and is one of the most beautiful islands that we have seen. We had a wonderful dinner at the restaurant “Bili” where Sue had the most remarkable red snapper we have ever seen. You’ll have to look at the picture to see what I am talking about. N18 05.448 W65 28.536

May 11, 2006
Having spent a couple of nights at Vieques it was time to head back to Virgin Gorda where we had decided to haul out the boat for the upcoming hurricane season. We went across the channel between the Spanish and US Virgins as we had before. We always listen to the weather reports before we head anywhere and had not heard of any reported storms; however, half way through the channel we encountered a localized storm that was heading northeast. The storm came up very fast as Sue went down to fix some lunch because it was calm and when she came up all thoughts of lunch were gone as we watched the wind climb from 15 to 20 to 40 knots all in a period of 15 minutes. We turned on the VHF radio as were close enough to St. Thomas and were apprised of a severe storm moving from St. Croix to Anegada. We prepared for a storm ride as best we could and watched the boat slam into wave after wave, even though the engine was running at 2800 rpm we were barely making 3 knots of forward speed. We finally made it back to St. Thomas and decided to spend the night at Christmas Cove before heading onward.

The next day was sunny and beautiful and we headed out to Norman Island and the Bight. Since this was our last night at Norman for several months we had dinner at the Willie T’s where we watched the usual antics of girls jumping off the upper deck topless in exchange for a t-shirt. The next morning we made a leisurely trip to Spanish Town and Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor where we would spend our last week and get the boat ready for hauling out.

May 14 -23, 2006
Most of our time has been spent in getting the boat ready to be hauled out for the hurricane season. Time in the marina seems to drag on and I realize that we are much happier out on the water swinging slowly around our anchor than sweltering in dirty water with no breeze.

We have prepped the engines and emptied the refrigerators and most little things have been stowed away.

During this time we met with Chris Cooke to talk about repairing the oil burning generator, Geoff Cooke to arrange to have some standing rigging replaced and repaired as well as NEW discharge hoses on the aft head. It seems the hoses absorb an odor after awhile and the boat develops a smell. We had done the forward head this January but felt since we had a fresh water toilet in the aft it would not be a problem, but it became one.

We also met with an electrician to discuss changing the refrigeration from 110 volts to 12 volts with the hopes we could perhaps have ice cream without having to run the generator three times a day. Part of this change would include tying the windlass/thruster battery into the house bank, replacing a bad house battery, installing a new panel that would monitor usage on both the engine and house banks, as well as a new wind generator. We had investigated using solar but it did not work out in terms of cost benefits.

With all of this work complete we were going to head home until the first of July to haul the boat.

June 27 – July 2, 2006

We arrived back in Virgin Gorda on Air Sunshine and settled into Fischers Cove Hotel.

The first two nights back we stayed on the boat which was kind of depressing since we had packed much away before we left and the marina was essentially empty.

The plan for this trip was to obtain the quotes for the planned work which we had not received yet with the exception of rebuilding the top end of the generator engine. I had hoped that this job would be complete but nothing had been started.

We meet with the yard manager, Keith Thomas, and expressed our concerns about the contractors as none had responded with quotes during the previous month, not returning emails or phone calls. Mr. Thomas assured us there would be no problems. I had asked at that time about bringing people over from Tortola to do work and we were told we were required to use the contractors there. We had heard the same thing from the lady who was doing the new fabric on our salon cushions, that she could not work in the yard and we would have to bring our cushions to her.

On the 29 th we hauled the boat and placed her in a hurricane pit, a concrete lined hole in the ground that the keel sat in. The concept is the boat should not be able to blow over and the boats on either side of us were in pits as well. This pit thing was part of our insurance agreement. We had initially paid for insuring the boat out of the water in Puerto Rico and had to pay an additional $700 for keeping her in Virgin Gorda.

The keel looked pretty good, not a lot of growth but I intended on getting a better bottom paint for next year.

Once we were in the pit Sue and I took down the bimini and dodger, covered the binnacle and winches with plastic and began to pack everything below into plastic bags. Our concern was that anything that was not sealed would end up moldy or rotted since we expected the boat to become quite humid being sealed up.

Once everything was secured we headed back to Parker until our return scheduled in October.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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