Saturday, June 3, 2017

British Virgin Islands to Newport RI by way of Bermuda

Someone once said “It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong.”  When it was suggested that we crew for Lee and Sharon on Allegro returning their boat from the BVI to Newport RI we thought it could be an adventure.  Well, we had an adventure.

We finished up getting Hi Flite ready for summer storage and in the early morning caught a ride to the Trinidad airport.  When we tried to check in for our flight to Tortola we were informed we did not have the proper documentation to enter the BVI and we may not be allowed to board the plane.  They finally decided to let us on the flight but the documents from the boat captain had to be faxed to the airline in Antigua before we would be allowed to continue.  They got the documents while we waited to change planes and we were on our way again.  Once off the plane in Tortola we were told by Customs they still were not happy with our documentation but we were allowed to enter the country.  There are strict rules about having a return ticket or some other proof that you are not entering their country with no plans to leave.  Once cleared in Lee met us and we were ready to take the short walk to Trellis Bay where the boat was waiting when the skies opened up with pouring rain.  Once that was finished we rode out to the boat to stash our stuff and came back in for lunch and some wifi.  Trellis Bay is the site of the full moon party and there was going to be a full moon so there were a lot of boats in the harbor and music running late into the evening.  The next day Tony flew in and joined us onboard.  He was going to be the fifth member of the crew.  In the morning we moved off to several other anchorages until it was time to meet with the other boats that were making the trip.  This is a rally run by The Salty Dawgs with about twenty boats involved.  Some were going to the Chesapeake, some to New York and New England and others like us were going to stop in Bermuda on the way.  There were several parties and weather briefing sessions over the weekend and then on Monday most of the boats left.

We left Nanny Cay Marina about 9:30 Monday, the 15th, and worked our way around the island and then were on our way.  We set our course and were off with about 860 miles to go.  We were having a great sail and all was good.  A couple of hours into the trip we had a wave break next to the boat into the cockpit and everything was wet.  The thing about salt water is that it never dries.  It leaves a salt residue and always feels damp and then you drag that salt into the boat and it gets on everything.  At this point we were only uncomfortable but it got worse.  Later in the day while Cori was on watch the auto pilot acted up and shut down.  Lee tried troubleshooting it and found that after the wave broke onboard it migrated down into the locker and got into the auto pilot computer.  After several tries to solve this it was evident we did not have an auto pilot for the rest of the trip.  We began hand steering with six days to go.  We modified the watch schedule so there were two on watch switching off steering every hour.  Steering in the open ocean is a challenge with no fixed points of reference and at night it even harder.  The second night we got a light taped to the compass so we could use that instead of the instrument readout but we were still stuck with staring at the compass and trying not to oversteer.  We had one squall hit and it was timed for just as dinner was being served.  The salsa went flying but the burritos were saved.  Each day the winds would vary so that we were making several sail changes and motorsailed when it was too light.  Our days were set up with four hours on and four hours off when we tried to get some sleep and everyone was getting tired.  The last night and day approaching Bermuda the wind died and the water was flat calm.  Saturday morning we entered St George Bay and reported to Bermuda Customs and Immigration.  After checking in we dropped the anchor settled in.  We made a short trip to shore to check things out and get some ice cream.  Nothing tastes as good as ice cream after a long trip.  Many of the boats going to the Chesapeake were diverted to Bermuda because of bad weather off the east coast so we had a lot of company while we were there.

There were several reasons to stop at Bermuda.  Sharon was going to fly back to the states to help with the grandkids, Chad, their son was going to take her place and the America Cup races were scheduled to start.  Chad was also bringing in a replacement computer for the auto pilot and we did not want to continue to hand steer.  We spent a week sightseeing, checking out the other end of the island where the races were to take place but the race village was not open to the public yet.  We got to watch the first set of races for the eliminations but the second day we found that they were better to watch on television then from shore.  We spent an afternoon in The White Horse Pub drinking dark and stormy’s and watching the races.  One day there was a party for the Salty Dawgs on a private island that had been in the host’s family for four generations.  The house had been built in 1868.  There were several tall ships that arrived and more are scheduled to be there during the races.  They were not open for tours yet but we got a good look at several of them while tied up to the wall.  Cori and I took a day by ourselves and took the bus to the other end of the island to check out the race situation, the old British Cemetery and to walk a beach looking for seaglass.  The cemetery is unique to us because the headstones tell how the person died.  I was surprised by the number of graves of children and how many died in several yellow fever epidemics.  While Cori walked the beach I found a spot to watch the races.  The beach Cori was checking out was next to a former dump and the shore is littered with broken glass that is being ground down by the waves.  It was the first time she reported to being overwhelmed by how much there was.  This was when I found that there is not much to see during the race until the boats get close to where you are.  On Sunday Chad flew in with the part.  In the evening Lee installed it and spent several hours configuring it.

Monday morning, the 29th, Sharon left for the airport and we pulled the anchor to maneuver around the harbor calibrating the auto pilot.  Once we were confident it was working we re-anchored and Lee went in to check us out of the country.  We were on our way again.  As we were leaving the harbor we met with a cruise ship coming in and misread where they were going and basically tried to get run down.  Another adventure was underway.  This time we were going to have a watch schedule of someone in the cockpit during the day and each of us taking a two hour shift during the night.  We were not going to be as tired as the previous leg.

Once we were clear of the island and reefs the seas started to build and it was getting a bit rough but the auto pilot was doing a great job.  It continued to build overnight and in the morning it was rough with seas coming at us from a variety of directions.  We were pretty much riding in a washing machine again.  Something tripped in my system that morning and I suddenly felt sick.  I have not been seasick in years but something clicked and I was hanging overboard getting rid of breakfast.  This knocked me down for two days.  I pretty much slept for the next two days except for my nightly watches.  While I was out the others were keeping things running and the seas were getting progressively calmer.  We were approaching the Gulf Stream and that had everyone worried.  The forecasts were all over the place.  If we hit the stream at the right time and place we could expect relatively mild seas and light winds or if the impulse the weather people were watching turned into a low we could see winds into the 50’s.  Every forecast was different.  We hit the stream and the seas built topping off with some swells at about 15 feet.  Several squalls hit but the winds did not rise above the mid-twenties.  We exited the stream before nightfall and we had a nice ride with light winds and a quarter moon lighting the way.  We eventually had to start the motor and continued on.  We arrived at the entrance to Narragansett Bay Friday morning.  As we arrived at Newport harbor we were approached by a Coast Guard cutter and they requested to come aboard for a safety inspection.  We maneuvered around the harbor with the Coast Guard following us until the inspection was done and then pulled up to the dock at the Goat Island Marina and tied up.  We let the Coasties off, their boat came in to pick them up and Lee made arrangements to meet with Customs to officially reenter the country.  We had traveled about 640 miles this leg giving us a total of almost 1500 miles traveling from the BVI’s to Rhode Island.

Cori and I have rented a car and are going to making a run up to New Hampshire to pick up a used sail we bought and are going are spending several days with her brother who has recently moved to New York City.  After that we will be making a run to North Carolina to visit our storage unit to drop off the sail and pick up some boxes of stuff that we are taking with us to South Dakota.  We will then be spending the summer in Spearfish SD until October or November when we return to Trinidad and re-launch Hi Flite.

We signed on saying that this might be an adventure and it turned out to be one but not a negative experience.  It did make us want to go back to Bermuda to experience more of the island.