Saturday, November 28, 2009

Back to Leverick Bay

We did a four hour motor in light air on the nose back to Leverick Bay. Motoring was OK since we needed to make water anyway. We now have 2 tanks of tasty water.

We'll stay here for three days while I do my PADI certification dives. One day in the pool and then two dives on Monday and two dives on Tuesday. Should be a lot of fun.

Right now we're relaxing to Pink Floyd's Pulse. Quinn asked for his currently favorite song "the clock song". (Time, for those of you who didn't listen to the radio in the 70's, 80's or 90's.) Good stuff.

Jen and Quinn are sitting on the transom splashing with Quinn giggling. Time for me to go for a swim.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 09, Sopers Hole, BVI

Thanksgiving went off very well. Quinn and I started off the day with a nice swim after breakfast. I took the opportunity to check out the port saildrive to look for any damage from the dock line incident the other day. Aside from some missing anti-fouling paint, everything looks OK.

After the swim and a transom shower, Quinn and I settled down to some serious Lego building while Jen started on dinner prep. We skipped lunch but snacked on some yummy appetizers - foie gras pate and brie served on little french mini-toasts. This was Quinn's first try of fois gras and he liked it, but stuck mostly with the brie and toasts. We broiled three Cornish Hens and the green beans on the grill and Jen made her delicious bourbon sweet potatoes. We cooked the hens stuffed with a little onion and fresh thyme and sage in an aluminum tray so we had lots of tasty drippings for gravy. Dessert was pumpkin mousse. We had a mid-afternoon dinner and then settled down for a family nap.

We all woke up around dusk and watched Gabriel Iglesias' "Hot and Fluffy" comedy DVD and then Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving. A few games of Trouble wrapped up the day. It was a fun and mellow Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


We spent a couple of nights back in Road Town in an attempt to score my replacement RAM for my laptop. No luck once again. Tired of waiting I sent off a grumpy email to Dell and we prepared to leave the Village Cay Marina.

This was to be a new undocking experience for us as we were Med-Moored for the first time. I was familiar with the process of Med - Mooring (read about it) where you back in to a dock, drop the anchor a ways out and then continue backing in until you can step off your transom. The anchor keeps you off the dock and you tie the transom to the dock. In this case, there were mooring balls spaced every 30 feet apart, 60 feet off the dock. You use the mooring balls instead of your anchor to keep you off the dock. The only thing is there are no ropes on the mooring balls and you have to back in, stand on your transom steps down by the water and loop a line through the eye-bolt on the top of it. Then as the helmsman backs up, you walk the line forward and cleat it off at the bow.

Jen handled attaching the line to the mooring ball (fastest bowline in the west) and walked it forward as I slipped Mirasol back to the dock. It wasn't too shabby for our first time.

Leaving the dock was pretty straight forward. We freed all the dock lines from the transom and Jen ran up to the bow to free the bow line and walk it around as I brought Mirasol forward and then backed back around so she could untie it from the ball. That went off like a charm and just as I said "See honey? Easy Peasy!" I heard a very disturbing whackwhackwhackwhack noise coming from the port hull. I immediately stopped the port engine and we found what I feared was the case: I had failed to pull the port dock line all the way on deck and it got sucked down and into the prop. The whackwhackwhackwhack noise was the dock line whipping around with the prop, striking the hull as it went by.

Jen gave the fouled dock line a tug and found it was quite stuck. We were in the middle of two long docks with expensive yacht bows armed with pointy anchors on either side. The plan was to try to get Mirasol to turn to starboard and out of the dock area where we could drop anchor long enough for me to free the line from the prop. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing from the starboard side and getting a catamaran to turn starboard while only using the starboard engine is difficult. As we had no headway, the rudder was useless and with the wind on the starboard it was hopeless.

Another option was to turn to port, but there wasn't enough room to clear those pointy anchors. The last option was to try to back into a concrete dock with only one engine, and no dock hands. That being the only choice, I risked a worse tangle by reversing the port engine for just a second in an attempt to free the prop. Lucky us, when I went to test the line it came free with only a slight tug. I tossed the offending, mangled line on deck and ran back to the helm and drove us clear of the pointy anchors and out of the marina.

So as we were motoring out of the harbor, I was busy grumping about how I managed to leave the dock line trailing in the water, and not paying enough attention to the depth gauge. While I was in the marked channel, I was well on one side of it and grounded the starboard hull on a sand bar. Getting my head back in the game, I threw both engines in reverse and walked her back off the bar without too much trouble. Sigh.

With my head hung low I took us the rest of the way out of the harbor and pointed us towards Sopers Hole and said "Honey, why don't YOU drive!"

We made it to Sopers Hole without further incident, tied up to a mooring, rescued an errant dingy (not ours) and headed to shore for much needed sundowners.

We're staying here for Thanksgiving (Cornish hens instead of turkey) and then maybe off to Peter Island. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

New Photos Posted... Finally

It's taken me a day or two to get to it, but I finally uploaded photos to the main website from Bitter End, the Jumbies show, and the Baths. The BVI gallery was getting large, so I split it into two parts, the first one ending with Spanish Town (just prior to the Baths) and the second one beginning with our trip to the Baths.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Baths, Virgin Gorda BVI

Yesterday we spent the morning at the Baths on Virgin Gorda. We had planned on visiting the Baths on Sunday, but as we were getting ready to ride our dingy from Spanish Town to the Baths, a giant sailing cruise ship, Club Med 2, dropped anchor a few hundred yards from us.
Rather than deal with the hoards from the cruise ship, we decided to loaf for the day instead.

Here's a photo of the Club Med 2 anchored close to us off of Spanish Town and the Baths.

The Baths are a stretch of coastline on the south west side of Virgin Gorda that is piled up with hundreds of huge granite boulders. The BVI's are volcanic in origin and the granite boulders were once encased in less durable volcanic rock
which has eroded away.

What is left is a pile of boulders, many of which are 40' or more in diameter. They are piled up along the coastline, there are lots of tunnels, saltwater pools, and arches that are a lot of fun to wander around in and explore.

Quinn just loved it. He saw pirates and monsters around every twist and turn.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


We had a great time last night partying at the beach-side Jumbies Bar in Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda. Every Friday they host a BBQ buffet with a live band. We joined the crew of Windward Passage at a table overlooking the anchorage and enjoyed the local BBQ ribs, chicken and roasted suckling pig. The sides were all local as well, and I enjoyed my fill of island-style macaroni and cheese, which is very spicy and cheesy - just like in the Exumas.

Later in the evening the Jumbies arrive! This is a local (I think family) group who dance on very tall stilts. Quite the show. They sit on the roof to strap on the stilts and then start parading in to the beat of island party music. After a few warm-up songs they start to pull in the guests to dance, and chase those around who are too shy.

Quinn found a friendly 4-year old to play with early in the evening, and they were inseparable. Big games of chase all night. Neither boy wanted to head back to the boat when the Jumbies show ended. Here's Quinn and Axel at the end of the show (the only time we could get them to get close to the Jumbies!).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Virtues of Loafing

Well, I feel like I'm finally back in my cruising groove. We've been hanging out in Leverick Bay on Virgin Gorda for the past three days and doing very little except relax. A welcome change after the 10 day passage and then the cleaning/maintenance/provisioning jobs at the marina in Road Town Harbor, Tortola. Here on Virgin Gorda (Fat Virgin) there's been some snorkeling, pool swimming, sandcastle building and a lot of general loafing. I've particularly enjoyed the loafing. Marinas are all well and good for provisioning, recovering, and maintenance... but we really do enjoy ourselves most on the anchor or on a mooring ball.

Mooring balls seem to be our lot here in the British Virgin Islands. The BVI has an astounding number of charter boats, and many folks that charter have little experience or interest in anchoring (this is my guess/assumption based on some observation, charter folks please don't be offended if I'm misrepresenting you!). So, the locals have met this market demand by filling most anchorages with mooring balls. It's a good source of income for them and simplifies the life of the folks who fly here for a week of low risk sailing with beautiful anchorages and plenty of night life. It's a little inconvenient for us since all the choice anchoring spots are clogged with mooring balls (and charter boats, more on this later) but so far we've been content to pick up a mooring ball for $25 a night. That usually comes with a bag of ice and pool privileges, so we don't mind too much.

The BVI is a small group of islands and cays grouped in a rough oval, with all of the major islands within a very short sail (2-4 hours) of each other. Since they are arranged in an oval, the water in the middle is very sheltered and the sailing is attractive to those looking for easy sailing and line-of-sight navigation in idealic tropical environs. Think of it as Tropical Sailing on Training Wheels and you'll get the gist. I'm hoping that as we move south through the Leeward Islands there will be fewer charter boats, more cruisers, and a minimum of mooring balls. Does that make me a cruising snob? Maybe.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Quiet Day

We spent Saturday night at Trellis Bay along with the Windward Passage crew (Randy, John, Kathy and Charles). Charles had an early flight out yesterday, then it was off to Leverick Bay at Virgin Gorda. We anchored for a while and did a little snorkeling with Randy, John and Kathy, then moved to the overnight moorings across the bay. We all went ashore for swimming in the pool, drinks and dinner at the Leverick Bay Resort.

Windward Passage had to head back to Trellis Bay so Kathy and John can get their flight out tomorrow. I know they are anxious to get back to their boat (Oceana) and get started on their own adventure in the Bahamas.

Today, it rained all day so we just hung out on the boat at Leverick Bay and had school. Not sure what we're doing tomorrow yet - depends again on the weather. We will be heading back over to Road Town sometime this week to pick up a package, then probably back to Virgin Gorda for the Jumbies on Friday night. I will post a photo of the "Jumbies" if we get to see them.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Exploration of BVI Begins

John left for home this morning. He's taking a ferry to St Thomas of the US Virgin Islands and then a flight home to Des Moines. We're glad he was able to join us for the trip down to the islands.

After 4 days at dock here in Road Town, we're anxious to start exploring the BVIs. We'll leave today sometime before noon and head East around the southeast tip of Tortola and either pick up a mooring ball or anchor in Trellis Bay on Beef Island. Snorkeling and beaches are on the agenda for this afternoon and tomorrow.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Road Town, BVI

We made it!

The winds continued to blow around 25 knots well into the night on Monday and we continued to make great time. While sailing at 8+ knots is all well and good, it was going to deliver us to the BVIs around midnight. Aside from the hazards of a night time arrival to a strange location, we wanted to enjoy a morning landfall. To slow the boat down we dropped the main and furled the jib until we only had a tiny hank of it out. In that configuration we were sailing at about 3-4 knots through out the night.

At dawn we were approaching Anegada, one of the out islands of the BVI, and their only coral atoll. The wind had diminished to the around 18 knots and we shook out the full main and jib and headed in.

As we approached the main body of the BVI, the mountainous islands rose up out of the mist of a warm tropical morning. It was exciting to see and smell land again after ten long and strenuous days at sea.

Check out the pictures as we post them on the web site. The landfall was marvelous.

We've spent the past three days in Village Cay Marina in Road Town, Tortola. Road Town isn't much of a destination as far as cruising destinations go, but it is a great place to recover from a long passage, fix the stuff we broke on the way and plan our exploration of the BVI's.

Today I went up the mast to inspect the rigging. Happily I found no damage other than a busted up block for our port lazy jacks. (Lazy Jacks are lines run up the mast from the boom to keep the main sail from flopping all over the deck when we drop the main. Not critical hardware, but makes life easier.) It must have broken as we reefed the main in high winds with out letting enough slack on the lazy jacks.

Quinn and I went on a walk to find a replacement. We found one that should work OK at the local rigging shop. One more trip up the mast tomorrow to install it. I was happy to be able to find what we needed here. We'll have to wait until we reach St. Maarten to replace the reefing lines we wrecked.

Tonight Jen and I will figure out where we'll head off to tomorrow. John leaves either tomorrow AM or Sunday AM. Now that we're in port, he's getting anxious and feeling the effect of living with a family and a 4 year old. I figure we'll head to a local anchorage and do some swimming or hit a beach. We'll let you know in the next post.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Norfolk - Tortola BVI 2009, Days , November 1- 9

Day 1, Oct 31: 164 nm

Gulf Stream crossing.

Day 2: 128 nm

Today started out with light and variable winds. We motored and then motor-sailed. Then at around 10AM the wind picked up to around 20 knots and we were making good time. The wind was from the South so we sailed Southeast towards Bermuda, and worked as much South as we could manage. The crew was still recovering from the very rough passage across the Gulf Stream so heading to windward wasn’t very popular, but we had no choice. Today we noticed that we had almost chafed through the 1st reef line in the main sail. We set the 2nd reef and will change the 1st reef line when the seas are calmer. Today the seas were mostly 5’-7’ from the South.

Day 3: 158nm

Overnight continued to be very windy and the winds continued throughout the day from the South and Southwest. Seas were 4-6feet increasing to 6-8 feet.

Day 4: 130nm

Today started with a nice respite from the rough sailing we’ve had to date. The front we’ve been racing south caught back up with us and gave us light NW winds. We rigged the sails for downwind sailing and set about straightening up and getting some rest. We replaced the chafed reef line and took some much needed hot showers! Love the water maker! The day ended up with the wind filling in from the Northwest, giving us 20 knots of fair winds and following seas.

Day 5: 143nm

Today started out windy with the Northeasterly winds, but then we appeared to catch up with the front we’ve been playing tag with (or another one, it’s hard to keep track) and the winds clocked around to the South and died off. We fired up the motor to help out and did some fishing. Didn’t catch anything this time. I guess the fish were hanging out in the deeps.

Day 6: 141nm

The wind continued clocking around to the Northwest and we had a nice downhill ride all day. Winds were around 20 knots and the seas were 6 foot rollers on the stern.

Day 7: 162nm

We’re getting some early Northeasterly Trade Winds now and so we’ve got plenty of wind forecasted for rest of the trip. We had Northeast winds in the high 20’s and 8 – 10 foot following seas the whole day. Two reefs in both the main and jib. We were over-reefed, but doing so to keep boat speed down to the low to mid 7’s. There were large cross swells which caused a very bouncy ride when boat speed was in the 8+ knot range and Jen and Quinn were not pleased with that!

Day 8: 171nm

Tried to keep boat speed down, but even with 2 reefs in the main and three in the jib we spent most of the morning going 8 knots or more in 30 to 35 knots of wind. Big following seas. Hard to estimate in the dark, but seemed to be in the 10 to 14 foot range. We were frequently surfing down the front face at 10 to 16 knots. Exciting and a bit nerve wracking as this is the fastest I’ve ever sailed Mirasol (or any sailboat for that matter). Once again we had heavy cross swells from a distant system that were causing us some interesting moments. At one point we got slammed in the beam by a cross wave while surfing down a big following sea. Mirasol swung around hard sending items normally very secure on their shelves flying. I’m glad that only happened once.

As a treat after the long night, Jen made the crew some yummy Brittany Trawler Hash for breakfast. In the middle of the prep work we were tagged by a beam wave that knocked the coffee press flying. Fortunately, most of the coffee and grounds were confined to the galley counter and the worst casualties were a couple of brand new dish towels.

Day 9: In progress

Good winds on the beam. 18 to 25 knots of wind with 10-12 foot following rolling swells. Right now we’re going at 8.2 knots in 25 knots of wind with 2 reefs in the main and jib (approximately 40% of our sails up) We’re on track for a dawn landfall in the BVI. (Or Not). If it looks like we’re going to get there early, we’ll slow the boat way down overnight to ensure a daylight landfall. We’re all looking forward to dawn tomorrow!

Norfolk - Tortola BVI 2009, Day 1, October 31

We cast off the lines at Waterside Marina in Norfolk, Virginia at 2PM on Saturday, October 31st. We were planning on leaving on November 1st, but with the weather window closing in we decided to leave as soon as John arrived on the boat. Since Quinn had already had a great time Trick or Treating a few days prior, we didn't feel bad leaving on Halloween.

The sail up the Elizabeth River and out of the Chesapeake was uneventful except for a beautiful full rainbow and a few up-close buoy inspections by our helmsman, John. Jen offered to break out the green paint to touch them up as we passed by.

Once through the Bay Bridge - Tunnel and into the Atlantic, the race was on. We needed to get across the Gulf Stream before an approaching cold front overtook us and changed the winds to an unfavorable and possibly hazardous direction. The far side of the Gulf Stream was about 150 miles from Norfolk, about 24 hours away. The front was expected to overtake us just as we finished crossing the south wall of the Stream.

Although we motor-sailed to make the best possible time, the front accelerated and overtook us before we reached the Gulf Stream. This was bad news as it caused the wind to clock around and blow directly opposite the flow of the current, creating very steep and confused seas. In addition, we found that the predicted ground swells from both the Northeast and Southeast further confused the seas.

The witches brew of opposed wind and current mixed with moderate swells from both the NE and SE generated the wildest sea state I've ever experienced. The sea state reminded me of a full washtub that someone had worked into a frenzy with a toilet plunger. The waves were very steep and seemed to come from all directions, with the wave crests more like pyramids than anything else. By 1PM on Sunday the wind had been blowing from the NE at 25 - 30 knots for some time and I estimated the waves to be 8 to 12 feet and nearly vertical at times. This made for a pretty uncomfortable ride for the 6 or so hours we took to cross the 40-mile wide Stream.

I'm happy to report our autopilot managed the confused seas better than I expected. The most disconcerting moments were as rode down the face of a large wave and got smacked in the aft quarter by a breaking wave from another direction. This would fishtail us around so that we were sliding sideways down the face of the wave we had been riding. Within a few seconds, Francois (our autopilot) got her under control and back on course. This took my breath away the first time it happened, but we soon got used to the motion as it happened two or three times every hour while we were in the Stream.

Once out of the current, the seas calmed down quite a bit and to our relief the pyramidal waves disappeared. The front that had overtaken us ahead of the stream stalled on the south side of the stream and in another five hours we had passed back through it. The wind abated to the mid-teens and the seas mellowed to 5-7 foot easy waves for a comparatively comfortable start to Day 2.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Norfolk - Tortola BVI Passage Post 1... FINALLY!

Hi all. We were looking forward to being able to post updates on a daily basis during our passage from Norfolk, VA to Tortola,BVI but it didn’t quite work out that way. The first two days were a bit of a train wreck crossing the Gulf Stream and it was too bouncy to work on a blog. Then, in the middle of the night on the second day, I dug out the laptop, fired it up and started putting together my first offshore blog message. To my dismay, just as I started work on it, my computer gave me Microsoft’s equivalent of the Finger… the blue Stop Error screen also known as the Blue Screen of Death. I was displeased. No matter, a quick reboot should set things right.

Not so much. On reboot, all I got was a blank screen and a flashing Caps Lock key. Sigh. So, I put it away for a calmer day to diagnose. (We were still in pretty rough weather and I wasn’t keen on gutting my laptop in those conditions. It took me a couple of sessions in milder weather to figure it out. It turns out one of my memory cards is bad. I took it out and I have a functional, if dreadfully slow, laptop again!

So instead of several daily offshore blogs, you’ll see only a few since we’re most of the way there now. The next entry will have a summary of our first 8 days at sea. Once in the Caribbean we’ll continue to post notes as interesting (to us, hopefully interesting to you too) things happen.

Be sure to check out the “Our Position” link on the web site for an updated map of our progress.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Update on Gregg, Jen and Quinn from Mom

Courtesy of Mrs. / Shelby Merkel


Gregg called at 2 pm EST, said they are doing well, on course, making great time, currently at 29 degrees 26 min N, 66 degrees 5 min W, about 185 miles S/SE of Bermuda. He said the seas were 8-10 ft. last night but glassy today. Surely was good to hear from him :>)

Frank Krause

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Update via Frank

Gregg and Jen's computer is down, and they asked me to post this update.

They are through the Gulf Stream and about half way to port. Current position as of this post is 32 deg 53 min North by 68 deg 24 min West.

All are well. Gaich is hoping to be promoted from Bilge rat to cabin boy soon. Jen says don't count on it.

Frank Krause
M 847-858-6046