Journal

Journey to “World’s End”

In the Tobago Cays there is a reef by the name “World’s End”. Those of you who know us, know that we are movie buffs. So when we heard “World’s End” and that an Island we could see from Amara, was where one of the Pirates movies was filmed, we had to get there!  In the movie Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swan are marooned on this island.  They only get off because it was where the rum runners stored the rum.  How could we be so close and not walk on the “set” where Johnny Depp and Kiera Knightly were filmed? Besides maybe we could find some rum.  Looking over to the island from our boat, the trip looked innocent enough.  We have traveled in our dinghy further. The palm trees were waving innocently in the distance. Sure there was a reef and water in between.  We are used to traveling by water.  So no problem, right?

The view from the deck of Amara of the Island where Captain Jack Sparrow, Jonny Depp, and Elizabeth Swan, Keira Knightly were marooned.
The view from the deck of Amara of the Island where Captain Jack Sparrow, Jonny Depp, and Elizabeth Swan, Keira Knightly were marooned.
The calm waters of the Tobago Cays Anchorage
The calm waters of the Tobago Cays Anchorage

 

We called up the crew on “Someday”, Zim and Kim, and invited them to join us on our “Journey to World’s End”. They too are movie fans and thought it would be fun to “circumnavigate” another island together. We picked them up on T/T Amara, our inflatable dinghy, we also call “Tamara” for short. The Horse Shoe reef that stood between Amara and the island creating this peaceful, calm anchorage for Amara.  We knew the reef would be in the way of our path to the Island. We understood it got very shallow in places and there was a cut were we could nagotiate the dinghy through to the other side of the reef. We knew finding that cut would be a challenge, so we brought along our trusted I-Pad complete with Navionics Nautical Chart Apps and it’s Global Positioning System. We placed the I-Pad in not one, but two waterproof cases. Getting water in a dinghy is expected when you plan to go snorkeling.  So we packed up our snorkel gear, shoes for walking, some fresh water for drinking.  We had charted out our course.  We even checked the tide tables to be sure we were not going to cross during low tide.  We thought we were ready for our journey.  We even went ahead and asked directions when we saw a local.  Boy, as I glad we did. Just after getting directions, I discover our “two forms of protection” for our I-Pad had caused it to over heat and shut itself off.  So with Rick at the helm and all of us sea fearing crew navigating carefully, we found our way safely through the reef on to the dark Blue water.

Oh, yes, dark blue water, the “deep blue”, that dark blue color that indicates that the water is DEEP. Did I mention it wasn’t until then that it occurred to me that that the water got really deep there? Also, the surface of the water went from basically flat to 2-3 foot waves. This is when Rick asks “Is everyone aboard OK with this?” hmm, I look around, I am on a very small boat on what amounted to the open sea. The deep, vast, open sea, did I mention deep water? Hmmm, how do I answer that question, especially when it is followed by “since we all have our life jackets on.” Meaning, for those of you who do not know Rick’s sense of humor, that none of us had thought to wear a life jacket. Hmm, what we were doing could become dangerous. Given the right or is that wrong set of circumstances it could become deadly in an instant.  The prudent sailor would be wearing her life jacket any time she is on a boat, but especially when she was on a small INFLATABLE boat on the OPEN Ocean. Was I comfortable? Hmmmm. Now, that you bring that up… I took a deep breath. I remembered how the day before when I went swimming without my fins on my feet. I could hardly force myself below the surface of the water. I am so buoyant in salt water it is ridiculous. The swell as it was called, that being the distance between the waves, was not bad. The little boat with its excellent captain at the helm was riding along without a lot of splash. I took another deep breath. Yes, I am not entirely comfortable. Yes, I could think of things I would have, could have done better (like wearing life jackets or bringing the portable VHF radio); that would make this journey safer. But looking around all I saw was blue sky. I knew the forecast was for lessening winds. We were still discussing the situation when Rick announced it was time to start looking for a spot to beach the dinghy. We had to look hard along the shoreline for a piece of beach without coral. Dragging the dinghy across coral could harm both the dinghy and the coral. We found a perfect little, and I do mean little spot. While Captain Rick turned off the motor and raised it out of the water, the rest of us jumped out and started pulling it safely to shore. Mission accomplished.

The back end of the Beached Dingy
The back end of the Beached Dingy
Zim and Kim of "Someday" on the beach of World's End
Zim and Kim of “Someday” on the beach of World’s End

We headed down the beach to the area where the palm trees waved. The area we recalled as the location of the rum stores in the movie. As all good filmmakers should do, they did not leave a trace. There were no obvious scars on the land. There was also no the bottles of rum, darn it. Although there were some places with piles of palm branches that could have been part of it, but no real signs of the film set or the rum remained.  We completed our second land circumnavigation, this time much more quickly and without running out of water. Then headed back to enjoy some amazing snorkeling, very happy to have made it to the “World’s End” and back again to tell the tale.

Rick and Brenda on the same Island Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swan are marooned on.
Rick and Brenda on the same Island Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swan are marooned on.

Tobago Cays at Last

I pad image of Navionics chart of sail from Mustique to Tobago Cays (from where we remembered to start the yellow tracking line)
I pad image of Navionics chart of sail from Mustique to Tobago Cays (from where we remembered to start the yellow tracking line)

 

We have finally made it. The infamous Tobago Cays. A place that I have heard about, seen photos of, I had bought art depicting it’s beauty already.  A place where the changes in the depths of the water due to the Reefs creates an outstanding mixture of azure blue hues along with the streaks of brown. The beauty is almost overwhelming. It is the kind of beauty that words cannot describe and pictures and art can only brush the edges of. A place also known for it’s designated turtle protection area.  So after over 6 months in the Caribbean, we finally made it and we were very glad people told us not to miss this place.  After months of seeing amazing beauty were still  amazed by just how beautiful it is in person.

A view of Tobago Cay's many colors
A view of Tobago Cay’s many colors

IMG_5732

As soon as, we got near a mooring ball, in the Tobago Cays National Park, the locals were so quick to help us.  Unlike other places, they did not want a tip or payment of mooring fees.   The balls belong to the park service.  They only wanted to invite us to join them on the beach for BBQ. When we told them we were the first of a few boats to arrive, they were all over helping us co-ordinate.   After months of wanting to catch up with the crew of “Solitude”, Gary and Torie.  “Solitude” is a sister ship to Amara.  They too sailed to the Caribbean with Salty Dawg Rally in November, but we had been on different islands since December.  It was great to be in the same place at the same time again.  So along with some stray Dawg’s, Kim & Zim from “Someday” and another found dawg, Salty Dawg, Wayne, from “Meandier”.   We attended “Carlo’s” beach BBQ.  Boy, could those ladies can cook.  I had no idea Conch could be so good. Some day I want to learn to how to make Plantains into a dessert they did. It was a great evening of socializing and catching up.  I believe a fun night was had by all.

Some Dawgs and Stray Dawgs on Tobago Cay. Back row, Wayne, Gary, Zim, then Torie, Kim, Brenda & Rick.
Some Dawgs and Stray Dawgs on Tobago Cay. Back row, Wayne, Gary, Zim, then Torie, Kim, Brenda & Rick.
IMG_5722
Zim, Torie, Kim and Gary on our way to the Tobago Cay’s Beach BBQ

IMG_5726

Mother’s Day Mustique

“Some days are better than other’s” and “what a difference a day makes” are two phrases that come to mind as I ponder this years Mother’s day.  Only in this case I am thinking “some Mother’s Day is better than other’s” and “what a difference a year makes.” Last year I awoke in Colorado to about one-half foot of snow. The furnace was not working and my wonderful, “Mr. fix it”, husband was in Florida. I thought the furnace problem was the Nest thermostat Mr. techno savvy had installed and now he was off fixing the boat. So I was the one calling tech support and getting nowhere. I was sitting in a cold, cold house feeling sorry for myself.

Rhi & Jordie in the Mother's Day snow, May 2015
Rhi & Jordie in the Mother’s Day snow

Fast forward to this year. We are both on Amara at the island of Mustique. Needing a heater is the last thing on my mind. We have been invited to join the crew of “Someday”, Kim & Zim, to hike the island, what better way to see it. Plus I have a long-standing tradition of hiking on Mother’s Day. Many a year a hike was Caleb’s gift, since I loved it and he didn’t. We meet “Someday”, while hiking in Bequia. We hit it off quickly as we discovered we had sailed to many of the same places, like the Newport, RI area last summer with all of its respective islands.  Then have been on almost a parallel course here in the Caribbean since about February, visiting lots of the same islands and heading to Grenada by June. It is nice for both couples to have someone new to talk to and fun to talk about our different experiences in some of the same places.

 

So we agreed to go on what Zim said the hike is about 15km. Hearing that number, I am thinking to myself, the island looks relatively flat and hey, I have done 10 K’s, … I want to get back into shape, so approximately 4 hour walking, it’s just walking, hmm, yaa, I can do that right? So we meet at the dock about 7:30 and set off. Zim has the map. The hike was to be a mixture of roads and trails.   We quickly discover there is not one road sign on Mustique. And no such thing as a trail head or such markers that we could find. So, I will forever remember this as the hike where the other 3 were often looking at the map together. Since there wasn’t room for more, I often was looking around at our surrounds looking for any indications of trail or correct direction I could find. It was not at all easy to figure out.

Zim, Rick & Kim looking at the map...
Zim, Rick & Kim looking at the map…

The road map showed the names of all the Estates, but not all of them had their name posted outside.

IMG_5690
An example of the one of the Estate signs
Enjoying our hike on Mustique with the crew from "SomeDay"
Enjoying our hike on Mustique with the crew from “SomeDay”

We enjoyed some lively chatting and some quiet walking. I was concerned we may not find a tortoise, when we were about half way through; we finally found one, a rather large guy right in the middle of the path, in a shady cooler area. Yep in the shade he was no fool. We had a plan to stop at “ Macaroni Beach” for lunch. When we got there, there were only two other people there. We choose a picnic table in the corner of the beach and discovered it had been decorated with Bougainvillea. As we sat out looking at the surf, it was just such a perfect place to eat one’s Mother’s day picnic.

Mustique is know for it's Tortoises
Mustique is know for it’s Tortoises
Picnic on Macaroni Beach
Picnic on Macaroni Beach

After cooling off in the water, we walked along a an amazing nice stone and concrete path, constructed right along the edge of the water and connecting 3 different large beach areas. It was gorgeous. By the time we had made our way around to the south end of the island. It was very hot. My feet were hurting, and I discovered my 3 Liters camelback was empty. We found the part of the trail that went around the southern tip of the island in an out and back. Zim was already to go.  I felt bad, but I was like “you can go do that if you like, but I am going the shorter way”. Man, am I glad we did that. We got lost a number of times after that which meant many extra steps.  Even though we had walked many of the roads of the island, we had seen few “vehicles” aka golf carts, driving around. Had we seen one when we were about ¾ of the way around I was more then tempted to hitch a ride. But I am glad we didn’t, when we came around to the beaches there on the leeward side of the island. It was so beautiful and picturesque, that I had just started to say how I needed to pinch myself to be sure it was real, when Rick asked me to pinch him for the same reason. It was truly a wonderful way to spend my Mother’s Day.

South End of Mustique
South End of Mustique

Diving “The Boulders” in Bequia, Grenadine’s, W.I.

We had a great time diving “the Boulder’s” today in Bequia.  Our dive master was Max Keir.  He was great at communicating the dive plan and expectations.  He had a shaker to get our attention under the water and pointed out many things we would not have seen ourselves.  Like Frog fish and tiny, baby spotted drums, I could go on and on, but best of all a hawksbill turtle taking a nap under a rock.  The reef was alive and gorgeous.  May have been the best dive we have done in the Caribbean so far.

Brenda Fish
Brenda Fish
Rick Fish
Rick Fish
Is that 3 or 4 Lobster's? But no dinner now, season closed.
Is that 3 or 4 Lobster’s? But no dinner now, season closed.
The Boulder's are full of life
The Boulder’s are full of life
Slipper Lobster
Slipper Lobster
Dive Master extrordinaire: Max Keir,
Dive Master extrordinaire: Max Keir
Butterfly fish
Butter fly fish
Puffer Fish
Puffer Fish

Making way from Anegada to Virgin Gorda in the BVI’s

One of our favorite parts of sailing AMARA so far have been when we can enjoy the experience with friends.   These photos were a double bonus day, because we had the pleasure of enjoying a beautiful day to sail with Linda Fast and Glen Snyder on board with us, and buddy sailing with our friends on Silhouette, Kelly Brown and Linda Strachan, along with their friends, Michelle and Gerald Penner.  All following an EPIC night of eating Lobster and dancing on the beach to celebrate Linda’s 50th Birthday.

AMARA
We love this photo of AMARA with all her full set of sails. Thanks to our friend, Kelly Brown for taking this for us from Silhouette.
AMARA
Brenda taking pictures for Silhouette, at the beginning of the crossing.
Amara undersail
Another view of our crossing from Anagada to Virgin Gorda. This time with Rick taking pictures of Silhouette.  What an amazing day. Thanks, for sharing the photo, Kelly.

 

Silhouette under sail from Anagada to Virgin Gorda
Silhouette under sail from Anegada to Virgin Gorda
IMG_4555
A lovely view from the deck of AMARA.

 

 

IMG_7806
Rick is always wearing a grin when AMARA is under sail.

 

Rick and "Scrub", Glen, putting out the foresail.
Rick and “Swab”, Glen, putting out the foresail.
The newlyweds of Silhouette having fun on the beach.
The newlyweds of Silhouette having fun on the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was truly a great day to be sailing and wonderful people to sail with.  Even if the committee boat personal from LOWISA tried to rig the scoring of the “race”.

We made it!!!

We set sail on Tuesday, Nov. 3 from Hampton, VA.  Had many challenges along the way especially with our SSB system and the wind always wanting to be on our nose.  I am pretty sure the forecast each day was that “tomorrow, the wind direction will change to……(which ever direction we needed)”,  It was starting to feel like, Chris Parker, the marine weather guy we worked with, was holding a carrot on a stick in front of the pony to keep it moving.  Finally on day 10 of the journey the wind did shift to the East, where we needed it to be from and we were flying.  Making 8 knots for the first time since the first day out.   But then our timing to get to Virgin Gorda would have us landing after dark, so we pulled in some of her sails, and took it slow.  We are happy to report that we made it safely to Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda, BVI, Saturday morning Nov. 14th.  Cleared customs and are now enjoying the amazing beach.  Or should I say, I am enjoying the beach.  Rick is back out racing on a “Hobie Cat” sailboat with his new friend, Gary, who also sailed down here from Hampton.  Those two really can not get too much sailing.

Do we stay or do we go…. our first really big decision

We have had a great time of training and socializing at the Salty Dawg Rally in Hampton, VA this week. Now we face the big decision of do we stay or do we go? The forecast from Chris Parker tonight was that we have a window to start tonight or tomorrow for sailing south first end East later, but there is a low pressure system near San Juan that could blow up into something like a hurricane and be in our path or turn into nothing.  This possibility has increased from a 1% chance of trouble to 10% chance.   As of right now, we have decided to start heading south in the morning,  stay near the coast, as always keep an eye on the weather and call Chris Parker if we need to and make a decision as we know more. Once again, sailing is practice for living one day at a time.

Start of the Journey South- Let the Adventure begin

The moving of Amara from Tiverton, Rhode Island to Annapolis, Maryland was the first step of us moving Amara south.  This trip had a multi step process.  The plan was for the two of us to sail to Block Island Wednesday.  Have Eric join us there Thursday morning, sail through the night Thursday and to arrive near the start of the C&D canal by Friday night.  Get a little rest while waiting to ride the tides of canal the next morning, then sail the Chesapeake Bay arriving in Annapolis before dark on Saturday.   This would be a plan checked and rechecked many times along the way by Rick and Eric.  Chart books can be tricky and conditions can change arrival times, so they wanted to be sure we were hitting the tidal flows at the correct times and places.   This plan would start with Rick and I’s first solo sail (or do you call that a couple’s sail?)  Anyway, the plan was to leave by noon, so that we would hit the tide going out of the Sanokete River and get there before dark.  Since Jeff at Kinder Industries had been working so hard to finish our new Bimini and Dodger before we left; And the point of replacing them was to have our crew protected in the cockpit while on the open seas.  We decided it was worth waiting a couple more hours to get it done.   But waiting meant the chances of arriving with day light were not so great.

Pushing off at Standish Boat Yard
Pushing off at Standish Boat Yard

We had a lot of help which we truly needed to be push off the dock at Standish Boatyard.   This is because the only dock available was such a tight fit.  With all the expert help and Rick’s excellent driving, it all went smoothly and we were off and on our way about 2 o’clock.  We sailed as fast as we could but did arrive at Block Island after dark.  I was glad we had been there before, so we had some idea of the shape of the entrance to the “pond” where the mooring field was.   It was difficult going into the channel after dark because the channel markers were not lit up. I was very thankful to have the big spot light we have, which I used to point out each marker so Rick could steer us into the anchorage safely.  I had not picked up a whole lot of mooring balls yet, and not at this location.   These mooring balls had something floating near them that turned out to be attached.  Since I could not see what they were or how the worked in the dark,  I fished for the mooring ball line with the boat hook as usual and found the line to the little bouy a nuisance when attaching the big line to our vessel.  In the day light the next morning, I noted that I could have just grabbed the top of the little bouy instead of fish for the other line in the dark, which would have been easier.   The whole ending of the sail was a bit scary, so we were both so very happy to be moored safely.   I know I was also feeling very accomplished to have completed our first duo sail.

Eric's Ride over from the Ferry
Eric’s Ride over from the Ferry

The next morning, Eric arrived to Block Island by ferry and caught a ride over to Amara with the harbor master with out a hitch. So the day was off to a great start.   We set sail in some decent conditions,  nice amount of wind, not too choppy, etc.  We had a nice comfortable sail all day Thursday, but through the night and the next day the sea state was getting rough.  I for one was very thankful we had waited for the new Bimini and Dodger.  We were warm and dry inside our enclosure.  But the occasional rouge wave, as they call them, would splash in weird ways.  One of them even got my iPad wet on the seat beside me.  By Friday morning, we were getting tossed around a lot.   I found it tiring.   I was being to feel a little stir crazy,  by Friday afternoon, I was wishing I could get off this ride, but that was not going to happen.  As we entered the Delaware Bay it was getting dark.  We hoped we were getting close enough to shore the sea state would calm, but no such luck.    The moon light was good and we could see well.  There were lots of shipping tankers. Most of them sitting at Anchor. Looked like they were smart enough to wait for better seas.  I was so tired of the ride and knew the guys could handle it, so I went to bed. Unfortunately, for them, we could not anchor where we thought!   We had to go further than planned. I felt bad when I learned in the morning they did not get to bed til after 1am. We were up and going again at 5am.

DSCN7244 (1)

We motored down the canal and had 6 bridges to go under.  I don’t know if I will ever get over the fact that from the deck of the boat it looks to me like the mast is always going to hit the bridges we are going under.  It takes a lot of trust in the charts that the height it reports is correct when my eyes are telling me we are going to hit for sure.

Maria waving from the shore.
Maria waving from the shore.

It was great to see our friend Maria, who came to take pictures of us from the shore.  It is always nice to have pictures of your vessel with you on it. The motor down the canal went very smoothly.  It was wider then we expected.

Even from shore it looks like we are not going to fit under this bridge, right?
Even from shore it looks like we are not going to fit under this bridge, right?
View looking up at bridge, that is really way higher than this Mast
View looking up at bridge, that is really way higher than this Mast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a very nice sail down the Chesapeake Bay.  When we got to the Annapolis Harbor mooring field  we were disappointed to discover the only mooring balls that can hold a vessel Amara’s size, were all full. Thankfully, Marci from the boat show had already given us a contact who knows the anchorages in the area well.  We called Ed and he was a great help.  Before long we were anchored and ready to go out to dinner before night fall.  Which was according to plan.  It was great to be safe in sound in Back Creek, Annapolis, Maryland, and get some rest from the Adventure.

Preparing for our first Hurricane

So shortly after our arrived in Annapolis, MD the most dreaded word for cruisers began to be spoken… “chances of Hurricane.”  Here we are in a new place, on our new to us boat.   Where do we turn for reliable information about things like how strong is the mooring ball?  Will it to hold if the winds get over 50 knots? What does it mean “they close the mooring field at 40 knots of wind”.   Which Marina might not be too busy to pull our boat if that becomes necessary?  Where will we stay if we can’t be on Amara. These are some of the many questions we were asking.  Rick made many calls and found as many answers as he could.   We kept catching our weather forecasting apps, as well as, the weather stations.  At this point the predictions were still at least a few days out.  Talk about practice at “living one day at a time”.  Thankfully, we still had a few days to prepare.  I decide my mantra would be,

 “it is best to prepare for the worst, and pray for the best.”

Our first chore was to “get Amara as skinny as you can”.  Since we had already decided we didn’t want to watch our bikes rust away any longer and Annapolis did not appear very bike rider friendly.  We rode our bikes to a bike shop to get them packed up and sent back to Indiana to join our camper.  The next day we went on deck, in the wind and rain, to take down the sails.  We got to see how well our “folly” clothes are at keeping us warm and dry.  We started with the smaller of the two sails, which we were able to get folded and into it’s bag, without to much trouble. The larger sail was much more difficult to get folded.  It was too big to pull out to it’s full length to get flat. There was just not enough space on the top of the boat. We did the best we could but we could not get it small enough to fit into its bag;  So we got a bunch of lines out and attached the sail to the deck itself.  Then we turned our attention to getting anything else off the decks we could and locking all the latches.

The good news was by the time we went back inside,  the software models on our apps, as well as a number of other reports we were hearing we starting to keep the storm off shore in the Northeast.  Even so we went ahead and did our next project of learning where all the “sea cocks” were.  This not only gave us a chance to inspect them, it gave us the ability to make a chart of where they all are for future reference.  We closed the ones in the front head. Where the force of the waves could build enough pressure to cause failure.  It was sort of erie to think of the fact that any of these failing closures failing could sink Amara, there are about a dozen of them. But good to know where they are and how to plug them if needed.

As of today, all of forecasts we are seeing are saying Joaquin may not hit land in the Eastern US at all,  which is great news, but we will keep praying until all danger has passed, and be praying for those suffering in the Bahamas from the storm already.

“Honey, we’re home”

“Honey, we’re home”

Yep, “honey we’re home” that is really what Rick said as we walked up to Amara,  Tuesday, August 18, 2015.  She was waiting for us at the New England Boatyard Dock.  Had you told me 10 years before this day, or probably even five,  I would not have been thinking about this moment.  The only living full time on a boat I had ever thought about was a cruise ship if they needed a Pharmacist or better, yet a cruise director.  I kind of look like Julie from the Love Boat, right?  But a beautiful sailboat as my new home.  Nope, never thought of it until I met Rick who has thought about and prepared for this day for years.

So we arrived at our new home worked on getting the last of our stuff unpacked from our “stick home” unpacked and then packed into Amara.  Putting some of it back in the camper, since things like big plastic tubs do not fit well in Amara’s storage areas.  So everything must have it’s place on the boat so it doesn’t go flying when you are sailing.  By the weekend, we were ready for our first adventure, sailing to Block Island, RI.