Saturday, August 30, 2014

Wrapping up in Coral Bay

Well, much accomplished in the last few days.

I found a coconut, brought it home, and enjoyed nibbling it while I read.

I got up the nerve to go see Alan to get the name and number of the fellow who owns the boat I hit, Gigi, so I could call him. "Well, the guys is hardly ever down here, but is arriving today," he said with a wry look. I hung my head, groaned, and said "well, I guess I'll catch him when he arrives."
Later I saw the boat hatches open for airing out and, figuring that there is no time like the present, grabbed my paddle and went over and said "Alan probably told you.." "Told me what?" "Ah! I guess he didn't. Well, I am the one who hit your boat a few days ago and I will definitely take care of it." ""Well, I guess you better come aboard for a drink!". And I spent the next couple hours drinking, talking, and laughing with Larry and his friend Michael and I will fix it at my leisure and all is well.

I bought some line and replaced one of my mooring lines. When I pulled up my chain swivel I found only my anchor chain, not my mooring chain, so had to hire a diver to find it for me: thank goodness I did that before leaving. I've put little bits of gray gelcoat on all the bits where the old stuff has come off, have gotten measurements and photos for replacing drawers, salvaged a part for my front hatch from a derelict, and have measured my main sail for replacement: seems endless, but satisfying as well.
I woke yesterday morning to glassy still water. Quite beautiful, but the mosquitoes and midges can really fly quite a way when the air is still, right to my boat, so I need to use mass quantities of deet to keep them away. Often I can simply sleep in the v-berth and soak a cloth slightly down wind in the stuff so that I don't need much or any on myself, but sometimes, if I want to sleep out and enjoy the cool air and shooting stars, I have no choice but to slather it on when the wind dies. Fortunately, the wind here is usually pretty darned steady.

Once the wind picked up, I took a final sail (my first sail in days) to dry my sails and take a final snorkeling trip. So slow in the light winds....but eventually I reached Princess Creek, tied up to a mooring, and began swimming along the shore. Shallow, grassy, lots of interesting corals, lots of fish, water so warm I felt myself sweating under water. I assume that larger waves would have mixed in the cooler water a few feet down, but we had calm. I swam on to deeper waters with far more fish and dove down to find a large spiny lobster and a nice spotted spiny lobster, a protected species. Twice I peered into holes and found a large face looking out: big pufferfish. I am eager to snorkel along Johnson Reef and all the other places I can find: if these places that are not even marked as having reefs have such beauties, what else is waiting for me?
Finally, while packing and cleaning in preparation for my trip, I found this little lizard egg on my boat. I am sure it is non-viable, but it is so perfect and tiny. The container is the lid to a gallon water bottle.

Well, my flight leaves at 2:30. I better continue to get my stuff together, dry out a few things, and generally leave things ready for storms, sun, etc.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

These days are far too interesting.... (sent this out yesterday)

Busy day yesterday! I woke very late and missed sunrise, but still did yoga on the bow of the boat. Then off to breakfast of banana bread and coffee and The Simpsons (there was a marathon running on the TV at Pickles). Then off to explore the reef Peter had told me about, one unmarked on the park map!

After pulling into Princess Creek in Hurricane Hole and catching a park mooring, I paddled over to the dive spot and slid in. Beautiful! Lots of nice elkhorn coral and nice fish, much more than most other places I've been and exceptional for a place this accessible.

As I explored the shore I found schools of little fish, clusters of 3, 2, 2, and 1 lobsters, a BIG pufferfish (maybe 10 lbs), loads of dead coral and quite a bit of live stuff.....and something that looks like fire coral.....and a *%^$ LIONFISH, a tremendously invasive and destructive species in the Caribbean and one I have not seen in the wild. I marked the location with landmarks, then looked online for who to call (“Lion busters!”...well, actually some government sponsored dive group allowed to kill them in the National Monument.)
Then off to sail, shoot some pics of houses on Long Point, and enjoy a really nice sunset.

3:43am: Was sitting awake, watching stars, when an extraordinarily bright light shone on the water, my boat, and Angel's Rest (Peter's bar). It came from the road and I saw other orange lights...and sure looked like a police car. And then they drove onto the beach property and shone lights about and three people walked around. I waved, but said nothing. I assumed they were here in response to some complaint by Vi, the neighbor who has been squatting on the land for a couple decades. By 4 they had left and I tried to sleep.

9:10 Damn, damn, damn! This has NOT been a good day so far. Mosquito bites (including one on center of upper lip!), clutch/cleat for main halyard failed, got a slosh of fresh water through my open cockpit portlight and into my tool bin, saw the lionfish hunting and had no spear, I hooked my prop on my mooring and had to go under and deal with it...and nearly struck another boat, Tracey's boat is on the rocks and I'm not sure if she is ok or missing. On the other hand, I marked the lionfish and watching it hunt was fascinating, freed my boat, and have reasonable hope Tracey is ok.

More on lionfish: at 7ish, I paddled over to the lionfish spot and slipped into the water. Dove to the exact hiding place and found three lobsters, but no lionfish! I looked about, then saw it hovering over some unsuspecting little fish, pretending to be a harmless bit of seaweed. Of course, most things that appear to be seaweed here are really stinging gorgonians or other weird relatives of jellyfish or corals, so it is harder to hunt that way than it would be at the Cape where all seaweed is a wonderful and harmless hiding place. It did not catch anything while I watched, but I ached to have a spear in hand, to take action, to taste some nice poached lionfish fillets. I'll have to get a good spear in St Thomas. And I wonder if they hunt at first light and if that might be a far easier time to find them than later in the day when they are digesting meals in their quiet coral nooks where I can't see them well and will dull my spear points.

Lionfish gps location is 18deg 21.163' N, 64deg 42.001W

5pm: OK, fixed clutch/cleat and cracked teak handrail near bow of boat and found a rather fast leak in my water system that was emptying the tank in a matter of days. On the neg side: stomach unhappy... and ran into a moored boat... and nearly into a second one! I attribute the impact to being way off in some way: tired or ….just off. Perhaps I'm upset at the missing acquaintance. Her boat was on the rocks with the sails up. This means to me that she was not aboard when it struck.....but why not? Perhaps her little dog fell overboard and she jumped in after and the boat sailed on. And the most probably reason I can think of for her to still be missing is that, well, she never made it to shore. Damn, that really sucks...and is darned scarey as well. Add that onto the lionfish, fire coral, tangling my prop on my mooring, a leaking thru-hull fitting, and hitting another boat (and needing to face the music on that) and there is a pile of things to fear and dislike.

8pm: Sailed back to Hansen Beach and had a drink with Peter. His place was shut up fairly tight with no customers aboard, so I assumed he was off somewhere. I called and we chatted a bit and it turned out he was aboard, less than a hundred feet away....and Tracey was fine (hooray!), just spent the night on the rocks (or maybe on the boat) after going in after the dog, putting the dog aboard, then the boat sailing onto the rocks without her. The story is a bit muddled, but I'll ask her. Peter lost a sandal and stepped on an urchin and damaged his outboard while getting her boat off the rocks.

So, that is very good news re Tracey, bummer for Peter (although she says she will fix his outboard).…. and I am NOT looking forward to dealing with the damaged boat....and will do it asap to get it off my mind. And I know now that I need to have a clear mind (and clean boat bottom!) to sail in close quarters.

So, what to do with this distress, this darkening of the light in my life? What the heck, relax and read now, work on that later.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

still here! (wrote this yesterday...but forgot to post)

Wind whistling, rain rattling against the boat, boat shaking and shivering and tossing about, wires and lines clanging in the mast, occasional moments when the rigging hums like a giant cello string: so much stimulation makes me just want to go to sleep.
I look out the port and see whitecaps. I've never really gotten to observe whitecaps from this relaxed and close vantage point before and the waves look like they are being pushed along by the bullying gusts until they stumble. Sometimes their white cap is lifted and tossed ahead. I took pictures of the wildness, but waves always look milder in photos..

I've cut off 99% of the leaks my boat had when I bought it, but, after hours of rain, things get damp. (Very mildly) irritating.
My phone just gave out a horrible noise and a flash flood alert. I think I am safe here, eh?
My water tanks are full and now the faucet overflows into the sink. Right now it is about ten gallons an hour, but sometimes it is one or two a minute...
So, I am sheltered, I've washed several seat covers (wash while you have water! And now the cabin is in more disarray), I had a great walk this AM, my breakfast and lunch were quite satisfying, the weather seems to be ending (hmm...the forecast says it will continue right through tonight), I have plenty to read and eat, and my boat and I are fine. Life is good.
Note: today I could not resist going out in the light winds, then they picked up and I put in my first reef I've ever done while sailing! A bit messy, but effective. Besides, I wanted to try out teh new line setup I had created to make reefing easier: I think I saw a similar thing on newer boats we sailed on my 8-day course 15 months back.
I sailed to Flanagan Island as the wind had come around to an unusually southerly direction and made the shelter there even, it is nice and private. I put out all my damp or wet things to dry, covering the boat with horrible-looking mess. 
Then I dug into the aft stateroom to find out just why it is so damned wet back there! Turns out that there is a bit of leak from the wheel pedestal, but the major leak is a 1/4" hole in the aft water tank! No wonder it won't hold water!
The tank is LDPE, same as gallon water jugs and inexpensive kayaks, and nothing (well, except maybe duct tape) sticks to it, so the repair they had tried failed. I carved a shingle into a dowel and drove it in and hope that it will swell and seal nicely. No water leaked out on the sail home: so far so good!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

photo of the week: Storm coming in tomorrow night!

I've watched this system for nearly a week....and it has suddenly increased in probability that we will get a tropical storm or hurricane in the region. We shall see what happens... well, at least I should get a nice bit of water for my tanks...unless it blows so much that it is salty. Last storm (Bertha) sent two boats ashore (they have since been re-floated) and sunk another (that is still awash in Johnson Bay). Wish me luck!

Under the sea...with company. Plus exploration and other progress.

Busy week! I ran into Don and Catherine while on my morning walk and invited them to sail. It turned out to be their last day, so we went to Hurricane Hole to see the nearly unique ecosystem of corals growing on the roots of mangroves. Very beautiful. I had first discovered it a couple days earlier when the wind made me wonder about going to the more exposed Flanagan Island with Carrie, another person I had met. On that first trip we even captured, examined, and released an arrow crab: they look a lot like spiders! Wonderful place! And I would probably not have gone there if not for meeting someone who said "let's go somewhere I can't get by car". I have no photos, but there are some online of the mangrove coral community and of arrow crabs.

And here are a couple pics from the Dorado Guest Book:

Yesterday and today, when I dropped anchor at Hanson Beach, a long, sinuous, emaciated, sharklike critter swam around my boat. I would say it measured between 2.5' and 3'...and when I looked closely at it underwater, I realized it was a remora and was probably living attached to my boat. I hope it does not starve since my boat is probably not a very good place to find food.
This morning I also emerged from my cabin, a few minutes after dropping anchor at Hansen, to see two porpoises making their relaxed way away from my boat. I jumped into the cabin and brought out my camera, but got nothing more than indistinct gray shapes under the water. Still, very exciting!
Saw LOTS of turtles this morning: apparently morning is a far better time to see them than mid-day. Also tried, a few days ago, to seine up some of the huge school of silversides (?) I saw at Hansen Beach, but they are incredibly good at avoiding anything that looks like weeds or whatever, probably due to evolving in an environment in which "plants" are often sessile animals that sting and "shelter" is often hiding a predator. Shelter is found in shallow water where the pelicans will dive down and eat your attackers and numbers that confuse the eye.
Anything else? Well, I'm going to sail over to Salt Pond Bay to spend the night on the NPS mooring. In the morning I hope to hike a nice trail on Ram's Head and then swim before going to the yoga class. Classes make me nervous, so wish me luck! And it is likely to rain around dawn...

A couple thunderstorms have come through, close enough to see flashes, but not to see bolts or hear thunder. I have mixed feelings about this: I love lightning and thunder, but I sit a few feet from a 50' aluminum mast....

Lots of leaks in various places in the deck: clearly I did not get them all last fall! Still, things are improving and I continue to make steps, but am often displeased by the ones that seem to go backward:
Leaks in var places.
At least two voids in the cabin roof (easy to hear when I tap...but I've filled one with epoxy quite nicely)
Age/wear damage to the mainsail. (Will I need to buy a new one soon? Ouch!)
lost my kayak paddle....AGAIN!
cutting my hand slightly on lobster spines
missed the yoga class

There are more good/forward items:
becoming more comfortable on my boat and keeping it in better order
finding great new places to dive (just dove in Reef Bay yesterday and hope that I can often find days when conditions are peaceful for diving there)
grabbing a spiny lobster at Reef Bay
meeting interesting folks (& I got advice on catching lobsters with a mop..)
finding new places to moor & learning the regs (
fixing leaks and voids!
finding good places to walk, despite the heat/humidity (hiking up Carolina, a steep road, just before dawn & in the rain or wind often works well)
talking to new folks about getting a new paddle and finding a seller in St Thomas.
swimming with a remora
beautiful sunrises

a great deal on diving stuff ($15 for this bunch!)

nice sailing, sometimes letting the boat sail itself!

swimming with a 3.5' barracuda, a school of little jacks (some rubbed against the barracuda!), and a small school of trunkfish, all of whom seemed very happy to see me and my boat.

And, finally, the bungee I added to my kayak painter has made a world of difference in the impact force when it hits the end on a downwind run. I used to wince every time it would surf down a wave, then take up the slack with a audible "whack!". Amazing how much tension and stress a little change like that can relieve.

Friday, August 15, 2014

playing Sherlock in Chatham

​Wednesday morning (July 30) I accompanied Andrew on one of his long walks to the south cut, walking along the outside shoreline exposed by the low tide, then following it into the inside. We found a couple quahogs exposed by the strong currents, then Andrew said "Hey, look at that!" and pointed to a red camera in the sand. I snagged it and water ran out (obviously NOT waterproof), then put it in the plastic bag with the three clams. I assumed we would simply toss it out, but forgot and put the entire bag in the fridge.

On August 2, I cleared the clams from the fridge and put them out on the mooring and brought the camera inside. I took out the camera card, rinsed and dried it for hours, then put it in my computer....and the computer read it. Ann suggested I could use Facebook to recognize the people (although I am not yet a member). I quickly copied the pics to the hard drive and took a look.

Chatham, bandstand, parade, Vermont, Borego Springs/Joshua Tree.....and Stage Harbor....on a Beetle Cat....along with pictures of people and a boathouse. I knew the spot, so grabbed the computer, camera, and card and set out. Five minutes located the boat and boathouse, so I went to the nearest house and, after a few moments of suspicion, the gal who came out (bearing a couple of young kids) said "I am pretty darned sure I know these folks! They are going to be SO surprised!"

So, leaving her with camera, card, and my email, I headed home, rather pleased with my little sleuthing efforts....except that I took no photos! Still, here is one of the bit of shoreline I first recognized....

Perhaps I'll check, when I return in two weeks, to make sure the right folks got their photos...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

back in the USVI!

"As you travel down the road of life, be sure to stop to eat the roses" (Far Side) continues.

I needed to get Andrew's sailboat back before I left, so Stewart and I decided to be a bit insane and, warmly dressed, sailed the Hobie back to Jackknife Harbor in an intermittent storm. At times the rain came down so hard that, despite a nice breeze, the hissing droplets flattened the waves leaving only our wake, creating patterns behind us that I've never seen before. I brought nothing with me but my wetsuit, but Stewart had his phone camera.

I planned to take the last bus of the evening (8:45) to the airport Sunday, then spend the rest of the night there and catch my 6:15 flight...but the bus driver slowed, said "All full! Sorry!" and drove on. The next bus (3:15) would get me there at 5:00....barely OK....but it worked out well, thanks to my mom who was willing to get up that early to bring the car back home. Then the flight into JFK was waved off for another approach and I needed to walk/jog about a half mile and catch a shuttle bus to catch my next flight while it was still boarding. Excitement and exercise and success!

Boat did fine while I was away, despite Bertha. The chafing guard I installed on my mooring line has a hole in it, but the line is fine. Some of the things I sealed are not 100% watertight and I see some stainless steel stanchions cracking, so am wondering what to do about THAT. Had some wonderful brief intense showers yesterday that filled my water tank....and I think my other tank has a leak. The joys of boat ownership! (I confess to still enjoying it)

Yesterday I wrestled the sails back into place (they were stored safely inside the boat), sailed slowly up to Johnson Bay (where the water is clean and clear and I saw two surprised turtles), and caught a mooring. Then emerged a couple hours later with lots of tiny shrimplike critters in hair and on skin and the bottom of the boat far smoother.....and about ten or twenty jacks well fed on the debris scraped off. Once again, I slept on the bow until I got chilly, then went below where it is a bit warmer and far darker: the moon light hardly comes in.

Had a very nice sail this morning, the boat moving far better with the bottom clean. Sailed almost to Salt Pond, then back, getting more spray than I recall ever getting on this boat...and big whitecaps. (and a bit of nausea...hmmm). Now back in Coral Harbor, cleaning, modifying, repairing, and writing.

Maybe it is now time for more sailing... or another nap.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

August 2, 2014: Argh! Bertha is hitting to St John....and I am not there yet!

Every day, I turn on my computer and pull up my home pages. One shows hurricane warnings and, last Saturday morning, showed a weak system that had a small chance of becoming a problem. Well, Friday morning it got upgraded to the second named Atlantic storm of the season and should pass west of my home today. I wish I were there to keep an eye on things....and to collect lots of water! Oh, well, I will get there Monday afternoon.

Speaking of getting back, this is going to be another Loooong night: the last bus gets me to the airport a bit after 10pm and the flight leaves at 6:15, so I will have a long wait. This gives me, however, an excellent chance to catch up on some reading and thinking, then (perhaps) sleep on the flight. Crossing fingers that it all works out well.

Thursday, I met up with Penny Keith at 7am to sail from Jackknife Harbor to south of south cut, walking and pulling the boat for a bit. We each got plenty of steamers, although I am not sure who will eat the ones I got or where they will get cooked. We left the boat in Outermost Harbor, my bag of clams dangling from it and spitting sand. We contemplated sailing back to Jackknife, but, after visiting the frustrated bass fishermen, decided to head to Outermost Harbor instead.

Yesterday, I met up with the St George family (David, Jill, Ruthie, and Tom) and we sailed/walked/dragged again past the south cut, exploring the route for them to follow in their motorboat at high tide. Good fun. Headed back after a couple hours, dropped them off at the Morris Island stairs, and picked up Heather for a speedy, wet, and wild sail into Nantucket Sound as far as Harding's Beach (avoiding the weir on our return), and then back to Morris Island at 2pm so she could head home to prepare for her weekend of work in Boston.

David and I planned to bring the Hobie around to Jackknife at 4pm, leaving me 2 hrs to kill. I found myself a bit cold, weak, and shaky and, after a bit of contemplation, narrowed it down to cold plus either hungry or tired. I scarfed down the remaining food in my daypack, then lay down on the boat under the warmth and shelter of the sail, and napped. This really helped and I woke much refreshed and sailed the boat to the beach where David and I were to meet.

A little gap-toothed boy, perhaps 6 or 7 yrs old, came shyly toward the boat. His father asked if he could photograph the kid beside the boat and I said "Of course!". The boy asked all sorts of questions and found things like the roller-furling jib tremendously exciting. Then David arrived and he and I waved farewell to the family and took off and headed north, fighting wind and the incoming current.
After failing to make much headway through the cut, we sailed further south and headed into the ocean through the southern south cut (this place is getting too darned complex!). Barely making headway against the current, we finally eased out of the cut and into the open ocean. Light wind pushed us slowly, waves humped up over sandbars, seals splashed in surprise and dismay at this interloper, gulls sat on the shore under gray skies and waited for nightfall. Entering the harbor, we decided that, given the late hour (6pm), tide (current about to switch against us), and the dying wind, we should simply anchor at Claflin Landing and bring the boat around the rest of the way over the weekend. David's family drove up and met us and, to my immense gratitude, dropped me and my clams back at Andrew's house. I will take the boat to Jackknife over the weekend.
Well, rain coming in here, rain coming in to St John....and I am watching both on the radar and weather sites. Not sure why: wouldn't I be better off reading or relaxing? But there is something mesmerizing about watching the oncoming storm...

Saturday, August 2, 2014

July 25, 2014: tube worms, steamers, fox prints, sunrise & sunset