31 July 2011

Watching the Weather – 28/07/11-31/07/11

Something is gathering in the Atlantic.  A weather system is trying to build itself up into either a tropical storm or a hurricane.  Whichever one it turns out to be, she will be called Emily.

Mike gets on with jobs and Javid from Conch Charters gets going on his list.  By the end of the day we have a working freezer once more (it turned out to be just a leak) and the doors out to the cockpit are sliding along just fine again (it’s amazing what a block of wood, a sturdy hammer and a bit of grease will do!).

The stern cabins get tipped upside down as the engines get oil changes and as usual I am trapped in my cabin for a while while all the bedding is strewn along the companionway.

While Mike is kept busy, I am not.  I have nothing to do.  Absolutely nothing.  Conch is doing the turnaround so I have no cleaning (and to be honest I have kept up with it as I have gone along anyway).  We have no car as yet so I can’t get out and do anything.

This is not good for me.  Given too much time doing nothing makes me homesick and miserable.  Mike knows this and is sympathetic but he has to get on.  I lie in a grumpy strop while he gets on with trying to fit the new rev counter with the aid of the on-line installation drawings which of course don’t match up with the wiring on the boat!

Late in the day he delivers the news that due to the fact that next Monday to Wednesday is a public holiday and the cleaning staff won’t be in, we have to get off Jeannius on Sunday and move to another boat until we can move into Mandy and Kirstie’s house, a situation which I can understand but is guaranteed to put my bad mood into a filthy one!  Talk about nomads!

The next day is more of the same.  We keep a constant watch on what is now known as Invest 91L, the weather system that is rolling steadily and inexorably towards the Caribbean.  It sounds really mean to wish that it would hit anywhere but here, but everyone thinks that way and it makes no difference to where it actually goes so what the hell!  It’s too early to tell whether the system will develop and become ‘Emily’ of some description.

I look at our strange collection of dried and tinned foods and try to concoct something edible.  Selecting three products – a pack of Jambalaya rice (BVIs), a tin of sardines (Panama) and a tin of peas (Reunion Island I think) – I put together a strangely tasteful meal, multi national definitely, but not something I would serve up to charterers!  As usual there’s enough for another meal.  Never mind, Mike!

By the weekend, it definitely looks like the weather is heading our way.  The average of all the forecast models shows the system as going straight over Road Town.  Mike spends ages trying to hire us a 4-wheel drive car for two weeks but most of them are apparently booked out for the three day holiday/festival.  Why do so many people need these for festival?  I have no idea.

Mike manages to source one eventually and comes back with the good news that we don’t have to switch boats as the cleaners are working on Tuesday so we can stay on Jeannius until then.  In the event that the house isn’t empty by then, Malcolm has offered us the use of the apartment at CRC.

With a car comes freedom.  Mike knows he has to get me off the boat and doing something, even if it’s just a trip to do some laundry and explore the new (to us anyway) huge Riteway supermarket in Road Town.

We have a great night out on Sunday at The Elm.  Steve and George play along with two other now regular musicians, one on vocals and harmonica and another on the saxaphone. 

P1080624 Photo:  Steve and George, The Elmtones, do their thing

Our table is for 20 people; we are there with Malcolm and Candace, Gary and Teri and their friends and Land Crab with family and friends.  Land Crab (a white calypso contest winning teacher from the US) is persuaded to get up and sing about a donkey and there is much dancing and general hilarity. 

P1080622 P1080623 P1080626 Photos:  Candace, Malcolm, Mike and I

P1080629 Photo:  Gary and Teri

I become firm friends with two 17-year old beauties who decide they want me to adopt them after I give them some dubious sexual advice. 

P1080628 Photo:  Taylor and Caroline with Auntie Jeannie

Just as we are leaving, we spot Marta, the lovely young woman Matt and I met at Leverick Bay and we pose for a photo to send back to him.

P1080630s Photo:  Marta and I

27 July 2011

Chartering again – 21/07/11 – 27/07/11

We have to wait for the provisioning to arrive and despite many phone calls to Bobby’s the delivery is late.  Since they started putting this order together yesterday, there’s really no excuse for this.

They manage to get the order wrong by not using the correct spreadsheet, duplicate some stuff, leave other stuff off and substitute incoherently.  I am really pissed off with the service especially as I went into the store to talk to them about the order yesterday.  I will not use them again but will use Riteway next time and do it myself.

The engineer arrives and refills the freezer with gas.  Just in case, we add lots of blocks of ice in the bottom to keep it cold.

Mason and Matthew, 7 and 10 respectively, are so eager to get in the water that they get one of the kayaks out so they can paddle around the docks while they wait for the boat to be ready, then finally we head for the Indians but the mooring balls have all gone and go instead to the Caves at Norman Island before heading to The Bight for an overnight.  In an attempt to wear the boys out, Donna and Bryan take them over to the beach in the kayaks but they still seem full on energy when they return and swim around the boat.

The next morning, on our way to Soper’s Hole, one of the blocks holding the dinghy to the davits suddenly breaks and the the dinghy plunges into the sea, left dangling from the one davit.  Luckily it’s the front end that takes a dive, not the outboard motor end, and although the gas tank comes detached, Bryan is able to grab it with the boathook.  We lose one of the oars though.

Once we reach Soper’s Hole, Mike finds another block and fixes it on, clears the fuel hose of salt water and once again gives us a working dinghy.

From Soper’s Hole we head around Steel Point for White Bay, JVD, then Great Harbour.  I cook all the food in the freezer.  The continual dripping from the freezer as the ice blocks melt is a pretty good indication that re-filling the freezer with coolant has not solved the problem and the freezer is only working like a fridge.  I marinate shrimp for that evening’s dinner, chicken for tomorrow’s dinner,I and cook a huge vat of bolognaise sauce.  Generally it’s a hot sweaty day in the galley

The promised clouds appear and we have some intermittent rain on the way to Monkey Point for snorkelling, which reduces the visibility for everyone, then we go over to Trellis Bay.  We head for Marina Cay first but the weather turns nasty and Mike changes his mind.  That night the tropical depression blows through and the wind gets up to 38 knots, howling all around with really heavy bursts downpours of rain.

Sunday its over to The Dogs for more snorkelling.  Someone spots Jeannius and comes over to the boat to say hi and that he’s been reading my blog.  Fame!  After that it’s off to Leverick Bay in the hope that the Puerto Rican Navy has left after the festivities of Christmas in July.  Quiet as anything until about 6 pm then they all come screaming back and party until about 3 in the morning.  With the air conditioning on and the fan, I block the noise out.  Safely attached to the dock, Mike takes a pill which does the same thing.

Monday sees us at The Baths.  Although we arrive early, all the mooring balls are taken and we anchor.  Then its off to Spanish Town for our guests to do some shopping before going over to Marina Cay for the evening.

Tuesday is the last full day so Mike takes us to just off Salt Island so our guests can snorkel over the wreck of RMS Rhone.  The visibility is excellent when we arrive and everyone can see the different parts of the wreck.

We spend the evening on Cooper Island for dinner, courtesy of our guests.  The re-modelling of the bar and restaurant areas have been completed since we were last here two years ago and it looks absolutely fab.  The setting has always been a favourite of mine.  Not so good is the fact that you now have to walk along the beach to get to the restaurant (there used to be a path) which means that you end up taking your sandy feet back to the boat.

On the final day we back to Tortola although kids are out on the water before breakfast – they never stop!  It’s great to see that there’s not an electronic device in evidence with these two!  Unfortunately, hoping for a great last day’s sail, instead we return to Road Town under a heavy tropical downpour.  Bryan stands and rinses off in the rain, Mike takes the helm but the rest of us scuttle inside and put the air conditioning on.  After a quick exploration of the shops in Road Town, our guests depart after lunch and Mike and I take our first afternoon nap.  Well, that’s not strictly true.  I did manage some afternoon cabin time a few during the week!

20 July 2011

Back on Jeannius – 20/07/11

Jeannius is being cleaned and prepared for charter so we are unable to get on her until 4 pm. 

At around 2 pm and with the car fully loaded with all the stuff from Penny’s as well as the stuff we brought with us from the UK (thankfully not much) we arrive at Conch hopefully thinking we might just get on early.  No chance.  Instead we go off and get some shopping for our guests to have breakfast tomorrow, as well as Supavalue to buy our frozen supplies of shrimp and chicken.

When I put my hand into the freezer to get the large size shrimp out, I can feel the packets are soft, even the ones at the back.  The smaller ones on the next shelf down are fine so I call an assistant over and point out the problem.  She ignores me and walks away.  I find someone else and drag them over to inspect the shrimp.  She stuffs her hand into the pile, agrees that they are not frozen (no, really?) and tells me to take the smaller ones which are below.  She doesn’t seem to want to get the point.  I tell her that the defrosted ones need to be taken out of the freezer now and disposed of.  She mutters something unintelligible (but probably not polite) and walks off, leaving the stuff where it is, no doubt to re-freeze and poison a whole host of customers over the next few days. 

We turn up again at Conch at exactly 4 pm and thankfully are allowed on.  It takes forever to get everything over to the boat as we are parked about as far away from the car as you can get.  My first priority is to get the frozen stuff into the freezer, so you can imagine my horror to discover that the freezer is not working again.  It has started once more with the intermittent problem we had had since South Africa (although it had behaved itself since Brazil).  Seeing my mounting panic, Ross from Conch Charters goes to The Pub next door and Princess allows me to use her freezer to store the stuff until the freezer engineer arrives tomorrow.  Phew.

Looking at Jeannius is strange.  She has none of our stuff and looks empty and bereft.  I cannot believe this was our home for the last three years but heyho, there’s work to be done and no time to dwell on things like that.

I get most of the stuff stowed but have to leave some stuff in boxes – there is no time to unpack before our guests call for a lift from the ferry dock.  I am unhappy that I have no time to prepare but get my happy face arranged to greet them, three generations of the Zigler family.

Having been travelling for almost two days, they are exhausted and hungry.  As Mike still has the hire car, he takes them to Spaghetti Junction for dinner, discovering on his way back, that the staff there had just been given notice to quit as the restaurant is closing.  Luckily they return have a really good meal – I was a bit worried that disgruntled staff might make less than decent food but they are obviously professional enough to put on a good show).  Mike and I eat peanut butter sandwiches on board, and flop into bed as soon as our guests are ready to collapse.

19 July 2011

Preparing to Charter – 19/07/11

Mike discovers that spending the night with his legs pressed against the mosquito net is not a good idea – he has about 30 bites on one knee alone.  Given that he is not normally prone to being bitten, and if he does get a bite, it doesn’t normally itch, these itchy buggers come as quite a surprise.  The whole of the lower part of both legs have been got at – he looks like a skinny kid with measles!

I am fast running out of clean clothes so we arrange to go to Penny’s to pick a few things up.  Malcolm takes us to the car hire place and guess what, the hire car we had ‘booked’ has been given to someone else.  The lady says that she has another one due in if we want to hang around and wait, which we do, but when it comes in, it’s a tiny little thing which won’t make it up the steep hillside.  In the end we settle for their old van which at least has 4-wheel drive and lots of room to put the boxes in. 

We head up the coast road towards Penny’s then turn off up the hill towards her house.  It has rained a lot in the last couple of weeks and the road is in even worse condition than it was when we were last here.  The vegetation all around is lush and spreads inwards from both sides and the edges of the road are all chewed up and disappearing over the edge.  I grow even more nervous as we climb.  When I see the state of the dug up bit at the end of Penny’s drive, I get out and walk the last few yards then watch, heart thumping, as Mike attempts to get the car round the 120 degree bend and over the large step to the tarmac.  The wheels spin and the car slides backwards towards the edge.  I am now crying with terror even though Mike has his seatbelt off and the car door ajar so that he can leap out if the worst happens.  It nearly does but thankfully the car just gets stuck at an impossible angle and he is able to go no further.

He abandons the feeble wreck of a car and joins me to walk the rest of the way.  We look once more at the mountain of boxes and bags that Penny has babysat for us for the last few months.  We feel bad about not removing it all now but there is nowhere to store it all at Maclolm’s so we just take a few clothes to tide us over, promising to be back in a few days time to take some of it away at least.

Candace goes to St Thomas with Robin so I cook for the three of us  introducing Malcolm to Patak’s sauces.  I find a willing convert.

The next day Mike gets a replacement car although it’s still not the one we ordered.  In fact it turns out to be the one that he backed into the wall at the Bananakeet Cafe in May.  Surprise, surprise, the repairs that we paid over $400 for are still not done, the damage there for all to see!

However, at least this one gets up Penny’s drive although I walk up again.  We sort out some boxes and take away about a third, as much as we can stuff into the car.  Soon, Penny, soon, these boxes will be a distant memory – promise!

We discover that the treacherous BVI humidity has got to our bed linen giving it that unpleasant earthy smell, so a visit to the launderette is required.  No more Freemans for me – I find a brand new one near Sea Cows Bay, beautifully clean and well ordered.  They sell drinks and pastries, have a huge table for folding stuff and the most enormous fan I have ever seen.  Only the biggest, strongest mosquitoes can get through the door when that thing is on, and of course they find Mike and I for their dinner and desert!  Buggers!

In the evening we go out with Candace and Malcolm for a meal.  I am amazed to see a bottle of Amarula behind the bar and order a large one.  It was one of my favourite discoveries in South Africa, sort of like Baileys in taste and consistency, but not whiskey, just fermented fruit.  Better than Baileys any day.  Yummy – cheers, mine’s a large one (well there’s no Sauvignon Blanc).

17 July 2011

Just lazin’ – CRC, Tortola – 17/07/11

We have a charter starting on 20 July, just a few days away, but with Jeannius out on bareboat charter until the day before, there is nothing we can do to prepare so we spend a couple of days at CRC (Chateau Relaxeau Caribe – Malcolm’s tongue firmly stuck in cheek when he named it) doing absolutely nothing.

There has been a lot of rain over the last few weeks here and consequently millions of mosquitoes have emerged and they have emerged absolutely ravenous!  In the night, some got through the opening of the mosquito net and being trapped inside with us, chomped voraciously all night on our nice sweet blood.

P1080618 Photo:  Escaping from the mosquitoes with my cuppa

P1080611 Photo:  Mike with the wonderful view from CRC

P1080619 Photo:  What a view

We have lunch with Malcolm, Candace and Robyn downstairs on the apartment terrace and although we are under cover, a torrential downpour soaks everyone except Candace and I.  A couple of glasses of Pinot Grigio send me crashing to sleep in the afternoon, going under so soundly that I am unable to wake up to go to the Elms in the evening for the last night of the band.  When Candace and Malcolm return afterwards, they find Mike and I huddled together under the relative safety of the mosquito net (now with pegs holding the opening together) watching the final of The Apprentice through our slingbox attached to the TV at our apartment in Worcester.  Ah, the wonders of modern technology. 

15 July 2011

Back to the BVIs – 15/07/11

After 10 weeks in the UK, the day dawns for us to return to the BVIs.  We travel down to Gatwick in our funny little hire car the evening before and stay in a plastic room at the Ibis.

The flights the next day are uneventful, for which we are extremely grateful given the nightmare that was the journey back to the UK.  All flights are on time leaving and arrived on time or early.  The food on the BA flight is good – not just edible but actually good.  It’s Friday and they provide us with quite a spicy chicken curry.

Excitement is offered to us in the form of being allowed to sit in first class for half an hour while security checks are performed on the plane while we sit on the tarmac at Antigua.  As we settle ourselves down in chairs that lie right back like beds, a kindly flight attendant demonstrates all the luxury features before sending us back to cattle class after the checks are performed.  Actually, he is sadistic, not kindly!!

Our little Cape Air flight from Puerto Rica consists of the pilot and 10 passengers.  There doesn’t look like there is enough room for the luggage and in fact the hand luggage is placed in little compartments in the wings, causing me to wonder if the bloody things will drop off – Mike’s bag alone weighs a ton as it holds two computers and all the paraphernalia needed to go with them.

We arrive intact and get through customs and immigration in record time – thank god for small planes and short passenger lists.  Then it’s outside to haggle with the licensed bandit in a taxi to take us to CRC (Candace and Malcolm’s house over the hill at Little Apple Bay).  His charge is more reasonable than usual which helps us ignore the inconvenience of having to stop for 15 minutes at a grocery store on the way for his other passenger to do some shopping!

We arrive at CRC at around 8.30 pm, for us 1.30 am.  It’s great to see Candace and Malcolm – it’s been nearly 2 years and there’s been a lot of water under the bridge (literally).  After sharing a bottle of wine we collapse into bed under the protection of a mosquito net and fall asleep with just the light of the moon through the huge open doors and the rhythmic noise of the waves crashing onto the beach just yards away.  How different they sound to when they are crashing all around you in the middle of an ocean!