06 May 2011

Tortola, BVI to the UK – 06/05/11

Mike sets the alarm for 6 am, not because we have to leave really early but because we have to pack the remainder of our stuff in the now pristinely dry and clean bow compartment.  We allow half an hour for this.  No chance.  I get in the compartment and he starts to hand stuff down – pumps, hurricane lines, genoa, gas barbecue and strange bags of stuff that we have left out of the boxes that went up to Penny’s house.  It is full when we have finished, I am dripping with sweat (lovely) and completely knackered again.  It takes an hour.  However, we are ready to leave Jeannius at 9 am and Mike drops me off at the ferry terminal while he delivers the car back to the hire company.  So far so good.

We buy our ticket, pay our departure tax (cheaper when leaving by ferry rather than by plane) and sit and wait in the ‘departure lounge’.  The 9.45 ferry leaves and we could have got on that but our tickets are for the 10 am ferry.  This leaves on time but from then on, our journey home turns into a travel nightmare of great proportion.

Half way to Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas there is an announcement that there is a problem with the engine and the ferry will instead go to St John where we will clear customs and go immediately on another ferry to Charlotte Amalie.  Minutes later we hear a really ominous knocking noise from below and the ferry slows to a crawl, so much so that at the time we should have been arriving at Charlotte Amalie we are only just getting to St John.  We all have to disembark and line up for customs and immigration.  Our luggage is at this point still being brought off the boat and when we get to the immigration officer (an officious bitch with pre-menstrual tension and a very bad case of attitude) she won’t let us go through without our luggage so we go back out, pushing through the 100 or so passengers behind us, find our bags (both naturally at the bottom of the piles) and drag it back in again to run it past the customs officer who doesn’t seem interested.

So we wait for the next ferry (which we were told would be waiting for us).  It doesn’t arrive and we start to twitch as it is now 11.30 am and our flight leaves St Thomas at 1.10 pm.  We wait.  Still nothing happens and no one knows when the ferry is coming.  The one we arrived in has now buggered off from the quay and three smaller vessels are occupying the space by the ferry dock so even if a new ferry arrived we would not be able to get on it.  Frustration starts to mount.

Eventually a group of us get together and pay a local guy to take us to St Thomas in his fast motor boat.  We all pay him $10 (giving him $110 to take us to somewhere he was going anyway!) but instead of taking us to Charlotte Amalie, just a mile from the airport, he drops us at Red Hook which is a much longer taxi ride. 

P1080539 Photo:  Mike on the fast motor boat – but not fast enough unfortunately!

He calls a cab for us and it is waiting as we pull up at the dock.  Unfortunately the taxi driver is in no hurry and although I explain that we have a plane to catch in less than an hour he stops for every pedestrian crossing, lets every car out of every side roads he can find and manages to turn every traffic light on the island red.  We consequently arrive at the airport 5 minutes after the gate has shut for our flight to San Juan.

We explain that the ferry broke down but the ground crew is adamant that we cannot get on our flight even though there is still 25 minutes until its scheduled departure.  Mike wanders down to the other desks but no other airline has flights available which would get us to San Juan in time to get our British Airways connection to London so our airline puts us on standby for the next flight which will give us exactly one hour to get our luggage, check in with BA and get through security - if we can even get on it!

Mike and I are further stressed out when a phone call to BA reveals that they can’t get us on the flight the next day (in case we don’t get the standby to San Juan), and we would have to wait until Monday and pay nearly $300 each to change our tickets.  Worse still, they say if we don’t get to San Juan before the flight takes off, we will lose our tickets completely, including the return trip.  This means that getting on the standby is imperative even if we know we have little to no chance of making the BA flight.  How stupid.  Add to that the prospect of also staying in a hotel for three days and the cost of that broken down ferry just goes up and up.

Amazingly, we manage to get on the flight as standby a couple of hours later and after a hiccup with Mike's luggage (US security goes through his bag with a fine toothcomb), that makes it too.

So, we arrive at San Juan, 5 minutes late, so 55 minutes to go.  Our luggage eventually appears then we try to find the BA desk.  Now what we don’t know is that BA is handled by another airline and no one we ask knows who it is.  Mind you, finding someone who speaks English is a trial and none of them seem to have heard of BA.  We spend 20 minutes wandering around a confusing airport with bags weighing nearly 60 lbs.  Poor Mike's bag doesn’t even have wheels so he has to carry it as there’s not a trolley to be found, not even one manacled to an overcharging, opportunist porter like they are elsewhere in the Caribbean.  There are no signs which tell you which concourse you need and we don’t see any departure information screens that every other airport I have ever been to seems to have.  Eventually I find someone who says that they think American Airlines is handling BA and we retrace our steps almost to where we had started but the desk is empty.  I nearly die.  So near and yet so far.  The lady on the next desk says that there might still be some staff around and calls for a BA rep to come which she does a few minutes later.  By this time I am almost crying.  She starts to process our tickets then makes a phone call and is told that the gate is shut and they can’t let us through.  At this point I burst into tears, blubbing through our sorry little tale of travel.  She picks up the phone and gabbles away in Spanish for a while then there is a flurry of activity although we don’t realize what is going on until they take our luggage away - they have decided to re-open the gate for us.  I lean over the desk and kiss her and a guy arrives to rush us though security, taking us to the front of every queue.  Of course, sod's law dictates that I am the one picked for a random security check and have to be patted down and have my palms swabbed for explosive residue and they do the same with Mike's carry on bag.  But we get to the gate and discover that they haven’t even started boarding!!!  However, there are only 27 passengers for a 380 seat plane so this doesn’t take very long.  We stop in Antigua for an hour and that's where the plane fills up.

The amazing thing is that no one charged us for excess baggage.  We had nearly twice what we should have had on the first flight, and about 10 lbs over on the BA one.  I suppose they didn't have time!

We get a hire car home but have to stop on the way so that Mike can have a half hour sleep but make it back in one piece although getting the bloody bags up two flights of stairs is the last straw that nearly kills us.

I open the bags and look at the amount of stuff that we have had to bring home with us, all of it personal and none of it being things we don’t ‘need’.  Wherever are we going to put it all?  Victoria isn’t yet home and I start to pull some stuff out – souvenirs etc – and try to find homes for them, rearranging some of Victoria’s stuff as I go.  The before I know it, I hear a key in the lock and my baby girl flings the door open and I’m there for a hug.

World circumnavigation – done!

Homecoming – done!

Blog – done (until we return to the BVIs in July)

Bye and thank you for reading.  xxx

05 May 2011

Tortola, BVI – 05/05/11

Today Mike pickles the watermaker.  This involves disconnecting the seal water inlet from the sea cock, disconnecting the seawater outlet from its seacock and putting the ends of both hoses into a large bucket of water.  The first step is to put citric acid into the water (to remove any lime scale) and flush it through for half an hour, then you repeat the process of some other alkaline chemical which removes oil, grease and algae.  Finally you repeat it with sodium metabisulphate which you leave in there until we next want to use it.

In between all this he goes around with Mandi showing her how all the bits of the boat work.  Mandi is really competent but every boat is different and quirky in their own way so this is really important.

While all this is going on I spend the whole time packing what is left of our personal stuff and the bits that I understand, you know, food and galley equipment and we make the terrifying and to my mind, precarious trip up to Penny’s.  The pile behind a sofa in her bedroom is growing.

Back at the boat once more, the stuff continues to come out of cupboards.  All that is left now is boat stuff and to show Mike just how much there still is I drag everything out into the cockpit and let him see what there is left to pack into the remaining boxes.  There’s some stuff which I swear has never seen the light of day and quite a bit goes into the large bin in the corner of Conch Charter’s car park.

P1080530 P1080531 Photos:  Packing a small proportion of the boat stuff

It’s almost 7 pm when we’ve finished loading the car.  On the way back to Penny’s we stop off at Nanny Cay to find the Thomas’s and arrange dinner.  We find Rosemary who has no idea where Bill and Matt are although she presumes they are still working on Crazy Horse and we arrange to pick them up on our way back.

This last trip up to Penny’s is the most terrifying so far.  By now it is dark, which is sort of a blessing in some ways as you can’t see the sheer drop.  However, as we turn the 90 degree bend onto Penny’s drive, the car tyres slip on the loose rocks that have fallen onto the concrete and we slide backwards just for a few seconds as the car fails to grip, even though we are only in first gear and in four wheel drive.  It feels like my heart stops and I hold my breath until the tyres find their grip once more.

We unload the car and make the boxes as inconspicuous as possible, not easy when there are 23 of them plus four huge fabric bags of – oh, and the washing machine.  Poor Penny and Peter are in Rome and are going to have a bit of a shock when they get back. I hope they will continue to speak to us.

We have the last heart-stopping drive down to the main road and head back to Nanny Cay.  Rosemary is waiting for us – Bill is in the shower and Matt is not present but wants to come out with us, so we leave Rosemary to round them up and get a taxi to our boat while we race back and shower.

The boat is empty except for the ridiculously heavy sail bags.  It’s so empty in fact that I have had to borrow sheets, pillows and a towel for our last night as all of ours have now been packed away.

The Thomas’s arrive while I am still in the shower, but with no hairdryer available (packed away), titivating myself takes less time than usual and a few minutes later we follow them around to The Pub, just next to Conch Charters.

We have a lovely last night with them.  We had been so tired earlier that the thought of going out for dinner was not a particularly appealing prospect but I am so glad we changed our minds and were able to say goodbye to these people who have become such good friends.

P1080536 Photo:  Dinner with Bill, Rosemary and Matt

After dinner we take them back to Nanny Cay and say our farewells – lots of big hugs and kisses but this time, no tears!  I am quite sure we will see them again!

Back on Jeannius, we flop into bed.  There’s just the stuff to be put into the bow compartment tomorrow before the laborious trip home.  I’m glad I did not know at this point just how laborious this was actually going to be otherwise I would never have got to sleep.

04 May 2011

Tortola, BVI – 04/05/11

God, I can’t believe it.  The day continues exhaustingly the same as yesterday.  Our cupboards are like a tardis – bigger on the inside than on the outside!  I swear our stuff has been having sex and multiplying as quickly as I can pack it. 

I manage to pack our two bags for bringing home.  I can’t lift them off the bed though and just hope that this is because the bed is nearly 5 foot off the floor and the angle is wrong.  How much excess baggage are we going to be paying for?  We will be OK for the BA flight from San Juan to Gatwick but the flight from St Thomas to San Juan is only an island hopper and we only get 15 kilos free.  Yikes.

Ruth comes over to say hello and we drink a toast to Walt and discuss the last months.  Sad to say the least.

In the late afternoon I have run out of things to do so drive over the Nanny Cay to see the Crazy Horse gang.  Again I expect to see them back on the water but the problems continue and they are still on the hard with a view to going back in on Friday.  Bill wants to take us out for dinner but I know Mike is too exhausted and stressed (and I’m not far behind him on both counts) to enjoy himself even on a free dinner so we postpone to tomorrow and hope that things will be better then.  Somehow I fear they won’t be.

We continue into the evening doing little jobs that we have been meaning to do for ages.  Mike keeps crossing things off his ‘to do’ list but as quickly as he does, we think of new ones.

Shitty day! 

03 May 2011

Tortola, BVI – 03/05/11

The day starts with more emptying of cupboards.  I swear that when all this stuff is off the boat (and into poor Penny’s house) the boat will float about 3 inches higher in the water.

Mike’s jobs today include re-routing all the rigging so that the electric winch cannot be used for pulling up the main sail – the charterers will have to do it manually, just like we did for 7 years.  Mike only had it changed before the World ARC so that neither of us had to be up at the mast in a heaving sea, and considering some of the weather and sea we did have, it was a bloody good move!  However, around the BVIs the sailing is so easy that pulling it up with a manual winch won’t be a problem and at least it will mean that the lazy jacks aren’t ripped apart every time the main is hauled!

I make him stop work at 4 pm so that we can have a rest before going out to meet Suzanna and the Thomas’s for a drink up at the Bananakeet Cafe at sunset.  When we arrive at Nanny Cay, we expect to find Crazy Horse back in the water, Bill having worked on the propellor shaft bearings for a couple of hours but not so.  Unfortunately (as always seems to happen with bloody boats) something broke while he was working on it and now BVI workmen are involved, the boat is on the hard and they don’t know if they will be back in the water tomorrow.  See, it’s not just us!  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that we will probably get another opportunity to see them rather than having to say goodbye tonight!

Rosemary’s phrase about herding cats comes to mind.  We find Bill and Rosemary, but lose Matt then find Matt and lose Suzanna.  Eventually though, we are all in the car and heading over the other side of the island.  We just make it in time to catch the last of the sunset.

P1080512 Photo:  The sunset behind JVD

P1080513 Photo:  Rosemary, Bill, me, Mike, Suzanna and Matt at the Bananakeet Cafe, Tortola

We have an excellent meal, really, really excellent as far as I am concerned.  My lamb is actually called ‘unforgettable’ in the menu and I think it will be!

P1080523 Photo:  Rosemary, Matt and Suzanna

P1080526 Photo:  Mike, me and Bill

We deliver everyone back to Nanny Cay then head back to Conch Charters and our messy boat.  Once again, I am hit by the sight of all that bloody ‘stuff’.  Glaring at it, I walk past and to our cabin where I don’t have to look at it.  It’ll all be there tomorrow as I don’t think the fairies will do anything about it over night!

02 May 2011

Tortola, BVI – 02/05/11

We wake up both feeling completely better thank goodness.  While Mike continues with his exhaustive list of jobs to get the boat ready for chartering, I start to sort out my stuff for packing.  Amazingly, all the clothes I am leaving fit into one box.  I make a separate pile of things I am taking home as I have quite a few warm things that I needed for Australia and South Africa which I definitely won’t need here again.

P1080509 Photo:  The stern cabin starts to fill with things I want to pack to take home

As the day goes on, the boat gets more and more untidy as things get pulled out of cupboards and sorted.  Looking at the mess, sorted seems the completely wrong word to use!

P1080510 Photo:  The boxes start to pile up – you can just see Mike’s leg peeking out at the side as he works on the computer

I just can’t believe how much stuff there is.  Our personal stuff – clothes, shoes, toiletries – is just a tiny proportion of it and in fact about half of this is going home – and staying there.  No, most of it is boat spares, parts, ropes, tools, fluids, cleaning materials, bedding and hundreds of bits that you keep – just in case!  We’ll still potentially need a lot of this so being ruthless is not an option at the moment.  It’s a nightmare and I just can’t see us being ready for Friday.  On top of that, there’s canned and dried food, bottles of drink and the additional high quality kitchen equipment that needs to be removed from the galley.

In the late afternoon, Mandy comes aboard to go over the boat and see what needs to be taken off or put on.  By the time she has gone, Mike and I are exhausted and fit for nothing but showers and bed. 

01 May 2011

Tortola, BVI - 01/05/11

Mike and I both wake up feeling a bit dodgy although Mike feels decidedly worse than me.  We only had two glasses of wine each so if wasn’t that and I don’t think it was the food so we must have both picked up a bit of a stomach bug.  I leave the boat 5 minutes before I have to pick the Thomas’s up from Village Cay Marina, to find that a car is double parked behind me and there are no keys left in the ignition (which they normally do if it’s one of the employees).

I race around with Kirsty trying to find the owner.  Eventually we do and he moves it for me just as a taxi comes in and blocks the entrance.  I wait while a ton of shopping is unloaded, practically hopping from foot to foot.  I get Mike to manoeuvre out of the tiny car park – this is the first time I have driven in the BVIs and I’m nervous enough as it is without having to worry about micro- manoeuvring!

The driving here is all to cock.  All the cars are imported from the US so they are left hand drive but they drive on the British side, the left, so instead of being on the inside of the road, you are on the outside.  As I drive into Road Town, now 15 minutes late, I keep repeating my mantra – keep by the curb, keep by the curb.  It seems to work and I pick them up and deliver them to Nanny Cay without hitting anything and by this time I am feeling a lot better.

Rosemary and Bill end up joining the committee boat for the start of the race but the boat looks pretty crowded and Matt and I decide not to join it. 

P1080499 Photo:  The committee boat prepares to leave for the Americas Cup start line

Instead we go back to Jeannius and Matt helps load some boxes into the car, take down the genoas, expertly folding the spare one up then putting the original one back up again.

P1080502 Photo:  Mike watches as Matt folds the genoa, folding not being of Mike’s ‘things’!

P1080506 Photo:  Hoisting the genoa – the hard way – no electric winch

P1080507 Photo:  Figuring out the furling line

For nearly two hours they work together, Mike making as much use of Matt’s help as he can, then we reward Matt by taking him on the drive to Penny and Pete’s to deliver the boxes and the washing machine.  He agrees that it’s a bit of a nightmare and the last bend nearly gives him heart failure and he’s really looking forward to going down that one.  After unloading, playing with the dogs and admiring the view, the evil moment arrives.  We have to negotiate that bend going down.  Matt practically turns green and shuts his eyes which is amazing as I’ve never seen him scared on anything.  I too turn away from the edge of the cliff, not able to look.  I think Mike keeps his eyes open as we manage it once more.  We vow that we will make as few trips as possible to minimise the opportunities that the Grim Reaper has to claim us.

We pick Rosemary and Bill up from Nanny Cay and take them back to their marina arranging to pick them up later for a night at The Elm over on Cane Garden Bay but during the afternoon Mike doesn’t improve and I get decidedly worse, so much so that we have to cancel at an hour’s notice because I can’t be away from the loo for more than 15 minutes at a time.  Nice.  We spend the evening in bed, drinking water, eating dry crackers and feeling sorry for ourselves.