|Me, smiling once the work on Tropic Moon was finished.|
To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.
Newsletter, September, 1979
When we returned to Tortola, we scheduled a haul-out at the Moorings. I had been dreading the haul out (bad memories from Grenada). This time, we were out of the water for 1-1/2 weeks. The least pleasant aspect of the haul out were the blood thirsty mosquitoes, which invaded Tropic Moon at night. Coating our bodies with Off and 6-12, and spraying the boat with Shelltox and Baygon, did little to dissuade them. The second worst hassle was not being able to use the toilet on the boat. The office restrooms were only available during the day. At night I used a bucket. I tried a plastic cup, but after getting my foot one night, I switched to a larger target.
The Moorings is a business through which people charter boats - either bare boat or with crew. The Moorings also has a hotel, restaurant, swimming pool, and really nice shower rooms, which we were able to use. Hot showers!!! When Ed's folks visited in May, they spent the last two nights of their visit at the Sheraton. We used the shower in their room. Noting that one exception, these were our first hot showers since leaving the States last November (ten months ago), and our first showers of any temperature, since leaving Grenada in April. No, we don't smell; we take baths in the sea. Technique: jump in the water and swim around; climb out and soap up, including shampoo for hair; jump back in and rinse off; climb back out and pour one pint of fresh water over head to rinse salt from hair. Did you think we lived in comfort and luxury down here? Huh!
Second only to hot showers, I also got a good deal of pleasure from visiting with people again. I met lots of "yachties" around the yard, including Marilyn, who recently flew down from California. She hooked up with John, to cruise for the next year on his boat. It sounded like she hadn't known John for too long, so I asked. She told me, "Well, I've been down here a week, which means I've know John for almost a month."
I guess you would say Marilyn is the adventurous type. Working in restaurants to earn money, she spent two years in Idaho for the skiing, and a year in Hawaii for the surfing. She had a plane ticket to England, and had been ready to leave for that island to "look around" when she met John. She decided living on a sailboat was a more interesting option. Marilyn doesn't know how to sail, and she can't cook. She said John's friends wondered why he had brought her along. Perhaps his friends have been out to sea for so long they can't remember? I suggested the word "companionship," which Marilyn thought was a good one.
I've rattled on about our haul out without mentioning Tropic Moon. We spent the week trying to forget we owned a boat, at least this one. While I did my visiting, went shopping, and used the swimming pool, Ed buried his head in The Agony and the Ecstasy, coming up for air and meals, and the occasional word with the yard people. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but we were disappointed to find the hull rusted through in a few more places. We had a welder working on Tropic Moon for two days. Ed would like to have large areas of the hull replaced, but he said this welder wasn't up to the task. The welding was followed by days of sanding, and coat after coat of paint.
At the shipyard in Grenada, they were only able to haul one boat out at a time. The boat sat on the lift platform. There was pressure to get the work done quickly, as there was a high day charge, and other boats waiting to haul. Here at the Moorings, they have a Tami-Lift. The Tami-Lift lowers two belts into the water; the boat is pulled over the belts, and lifted into the air. The whole lift is on wheels, so they just drive off with the boat, and prop it up with wooden supports.
|The Tami-Lift. Ed is riding in the cockpit.|
While in Hurricane Hole, we had made the acquaintance of a British chap, Mike, who was a captain on one of the 50-foot Gulfstars available for charter through the Moorings. When we met Mike, he was rowing past Tropic Moon in his dinghy. He stopped to say hello, and discuss steel hulls. I invited him on board, but he was on his way to another boat, and he just kept working the oars to keep abreast of our boat while we talked. The wind was rather strong - it was between hurricanes - and Mike would occasionally get blown past us, but would row back, and pick up in mid-sentence. He visited us again during our haul-out. When he mentioned he had worked as an engineer in England for ten years, he and Ed swapped engineer stories.
Charter guests often purchase food for their vacation through the Moorings, and usually leave the leftovers on board. If everyone bought a jar of peanut butter, but used the open jar, by the end of the charter season there would be a lot of unopened jars of peanut butter. Mike hated peanut butter, was cleaning out the boat, and offered us a few jars. By the time he had finished, we ended up with three large cartons of food, including eight jars of Skippy crunchy peanut butter, five jars of instant tea, five jars of dry roasted nuts, and ketchup, mustard, salad dressings, soy sauce, olives, canned fruits and vegetables. Quite a haul! Ed was lowering the largest carton down to me in the saloon when the bottom gave out and bottles and cans covered the floor. A cockroach dashed out, attempting an escape, but I caught him and beat him to death with one of my fifteen newly acquired rolls of toilet paper.
September 25, 1979
We're anchored in Road Harbor. It's great to be back in the water - though we almost got run over yesterday! A freighter towed a large native boat, about sixty feet long, into the harbor. The native boat was set loose to anchor. Their engine wasn't working. They didn't drop their anchor soon enough, and were coming straight at our side. Luckily, we were on deck. Ed hurried to start the engine and drove forward to get out of their way. They ended up anchored right behind us, but, before long, their anchor dragged, and they got tangled up with the boat behind them. Eventually, the freighter came back to get them. This time, the native boat was towed across the harbor, where they re-anchored. Ed recognized the boat as Golden Promise, one that used to come in to Grenada. I remember the boat because it had the neatest green parrot living aboard.
Once back in the water, we spent our time recovering from the cost of the haul-out, and went to work on the outside varnish. Tropic Moon looked really spiffy when we finished, especially with her name repainted on the transom. Instead of small red letters, Tropic Moon was spelled out in 6" dark blue letters with "Ann Arbor, MI" added underneath, so people could tell where we came from.
|Ed, working on our boat name.|
With the boat finally in shape, I took a day for laundry and grocery shopping, stowed everything, declared myself ready to leave, and that night came down with a bad head cold. I passed the cold on to Ed, and I developed stomach flu and fever that lasted for several days. We were out of commission for a week; I was ready to go home to my mother. But, when I'm sick enough to want to go home, I'm too sick to travel, so I just stayed in bed and suffered none too quietly. After going through two hurricanes, a haul-out, and illness, one did begin to wonder what the point was of living on a boat.
Then we got up one morning to fresh breezes and a cobalt blue sky, and decided the day to leave Tortola had finally arrived. We raised the mainsail and mizzen, put up the big genoa, and headed out of Road Harbor on a port tack. We zipped across the Sir Francis Drake Channel on a line that would have taken us right into one of the chalets at the Peter Island Yacht Club. At Peter Island, a change to starboard tack sent us back to Tortola, working our way up its southern coast to Beef Island. Another tack and we again headed across the channel, this time towards Cooper Island. We felt like we were flying, the knot meter occasionally passing eight knots (it lied, with about 15% inflation, but was very good for morale).
The winds held as we again switched to starboard tack, heading north past Beef Island. We traveled up the west coast of Virgin Gorda, the North Sound on Virgin Gorda being our destination. As we approached some small islands called The Dogs, we considered tacking around them, but decided to go through the middle. Leaving West Dog to port, we sailed between Great Dog and George Dog, and then skirted the Seal Dogs. We started the engine as a safety measure as we passed through the Dogs, and never had I seen islands up that close from a moving sailboat. Continuing to beat in the same direction, we sailed well away from Virgin Gorda before tacking and heading for the entrance to North Sound. It's an interesting entrance, with Mosquito Rock and the extensive Colquhoun Reef to starboard, and Prickly Pear Island and Cactus Reef to port. We again started the engine, and, with all sail up, and the knot meter hovering around eight knots, we dashed between the reefs. Ed stood in the bow, practicing eyeball navigation, with me at the wheel, following his cryptic hand signals.
Our five-hour sail ended as we crossed the big bay to our anchorage at the Bitter End Yacht Club. We picked up one of their mooring buoys, saving Ed from dropping the anchor, and settled down in the middle of paradise. One can become a little jaded by the beauty of the islands, after living in the Caribbean for almost a year, but I was entranced with Bitter End. The North Sound is about 2-1/2 miles long by one mile wide, belted with dark green mountainous islands. The Bitter End was really isolated - no roads went there - the only approach at that time being by boat. The Bitter End had the beauty of the islands, the isolation that "gets you away from it all," a nice resort, great restaurant, and access to all kinds of water sports.
We went into the Bitter End for dinner one night. Ed had lobster in a white wine sauce, and I had my lobster in garlic butter. We had pumpkin soup, salad bar, rice, West Indian veggies, and home baked bread with the meal. Dessert was a delicious key lime pie. We visited again the next night for drinks. Ed, with a lack of imagination, enjoyed a frozen pina colada, while I, at the recommendation of the waiter, had an Ice Cream Golden Cadillac. The drink included ice cream, Creme de Cacao, and Galliano. Even though it's off-season, the Bitter End is always busy. Every night the fifteen moorings were in use, with other boats anchored around the bay.
One of the nicer aspects of cruising is running into people you've met before. When you first make someone's acquaintance, you have a casual chat, learn a little about the people, and talk about cruising and boats. When you meet them again, it's like being reunited with long-lost friends. We first met Bruce and Jennifer in Grenada on their boat, La Buse. They're from South Africa. They occasionally work to support their travels and, while in Grenada, they were hired to fly to Miami to deliver a power boat down to Grenada. After being marooned for months on an out-of-the-way island in the Bahamas, waiting for engine parts, they reached St. Thomas the same week we arrived there from Grenada.
I bumped into Jennifer on the dock. They told us they planned on continuing to Grenada, delivering the power boat, and picking up La Buse. Their plan was to return directly to the Virgin Islands. That was in early May. Last week, while we sat at the Bitter End, we were very pleased to see La Buse sail into the bay, and pick up a mooring near us. Bruce and Jennifer were finishing an overnight crossing from St. Maarten, having finally made their way up from Grenada, where they'd ended up spending another five months. Bruce is hoping to get work at a shipyard in St. Thomas. Maybe we'll see them again next spring....