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Saturday, May 31, 2008


Here we are, tied up to the customs dock in Bermuda. The pub has now closed so we've been forced back to the boat to sleep it off.

Alzs verry well. Hic. N.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Land Ho!

30 May 08 21:00UTC 32'05N 054'38W

We can see an island. All the indications are that it is Bermuda, so we are looking forward to arriving within the next four hours. The crew, and I too, have been in a sort of impatient, time-killing, staring at the horizon sort of mood for the last few hours as the GPS suggests that Bermuda really is there somewhere and a sweepstake opens on when we will see it.

Dave wins. At a quarter to five a few dull shapes heave into view. We still have about two hours to go, a light breeze has risen so we are motorsailing but under leaden, damp skies with a cold wind in the air. We certainly aren't in the Caribbean now.

If we are lucky, we can get into harbour, through customs and ashore this evening, time at least for a Bermuda beer before preparations begin tomorrow for the next leg onwards to Boston.

Right now there's a spaghetti dinner on the stove so that we have eaten before the harbour approach, the stereo is on and we are looking forward to arrival.

All's well. N.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Happy Birthday to You

29 May 2008 19:15UTC 29'31N 064'30W

One of our crew, Doug, has his birthday today! We've made a (cheese)cake to celebrate and will be opening a halfway decent bottle of wine with dinner. Doug brought top quality Dominican cigars for each of us so we will also be lounging in the cockpit at sundown.

For his birthday, the weather is being calm but not obliging. We are still motoring, having run the engine all night and now all of today, we have a light five knots of wind for dead ahead of us so there's no prospect of sailing anytime soon. We are now one hundred and seventy miles from Bermuda, and if we keep going as we have been then we will get there just after dark tomorrow, which is a shame because we'll probably have to wait for daylight to go into the anchorage because of the big coral reefs that surround that area. So perhaps we'll sail a bit to slow down this evening, although that tempts fate to extend our voyage even further, so we need to be careful.

However we do it, we anticipate arriving in St Georges Harbour, Bermuda early on Saturday morning, clearing customs then finding provisions and water, saying goodbye to Doug and finding our new crewmember, Yan. If the weather looks good, we'll leave on Sunday, giving time for a good crew meal on Saturday night.

I think there's a crew here looking forward to a hot shower, iced drink and large steak.

Cocktail last night was another rum punch, with grapefruit juice and coconut rum. We also sampled the malt whisky supplies before a very quiet night watch. In this trip we've seen two ships and one other yacht so far, we are certainly well away from the world's shipping lanes.

All's well. N.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Meanwhile in Michigan

Gesa writes again about their days up north...

Today we have had a complete turn around in the weather. Still beautiful
and sunny but a severe drop in temperature (ground frost warning for
tonight). Yesterday I was hot running around in my sun dress (temp about
28C); today my fingers are numb, my nose cold, and I'm ready to go to bed with
socks and a hot water bottle again!!

I am worried about our early season start up here on the boat. We will have to dig out the duvets and extra
blankets. And you and crew may have to get out the sleeping bags soon.

Issie had a great day at Grace's school, although we had a hard time getting
Grace out of the house this morning. She mucked in with all the kids,
playing and working, and even wrote three story books. OK, being a little
lazy with sometimes only one word per page, but still. To me, what they do
in Kindergarten is far more advanced than I remember as a kid. I remember
lots of play, my ABCs, snack and nap!!

Max and Henry played superbly together and, with Jen being the classroom volunteer, I became housekeeper
for the morning; sorting laundry, dishwasher etc. and preparing lunch for
their return. Jen had a meeting at the nursery across the road so we all
went there for some play, which they loved. Jen and I were both shattered
after this so we postponed our library trip to tomorrow and settled for a
more quiet afternoon with video and play.

Dinner would have been very good had it not been for Issie's constant inability to sit properly & fidgeting;
she was asked several times to stop, then warned and notified of the
consequences (dinner over and bed) and yet she still could not do it!!!
Well, I followed through and hopefully to make it sting even more the rest
went on a walk (Max cycled on the tricycle) to the school park, while we
were left to sort discipline.

I got a book, 'How to Raise Respectful Children', and the child
psychology is applicable and useful. We started today: slow listening, when
you do not listen, talk back, etc. has negative consequences, like time
outs, loss of privileges and bad feeling. Fast listening, is quick and
easy, fun, and gives you privileges. Fast listening has two steps, 'say'
and 'do'. e.g. When Mummy asks you to turn off the TV and get ready for
bed, you should respond with "OK, Mummy", then the next step is 'do',
basically do it, and do it fast. You are allowed to ask a respectful
question. e.g. rather than whine or grump, you can say, " May I please just
have a few more minutes to watch the end of the show?". Chances are I will
say yes, but if the answer is no, then they have to accept this too. Issie
seems to have done well with this first lesson, now we need to practice it, we shall see.

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28 May 08 20:20UTC 27'17N 064'28W

It's hot, there's no wind and we're motoring. It's hard to summon up the energy to move and the thrum of the engine works it's way into every nerve and fibre inducing a semi-comatose state among the crew.

We can be thankful that the first four days had such good winds, especially as this light patch has been forecast for yesterday and failed to materialize. The wind did drop mid afternoon after a strong squall went through and left very confused seas. An hour after, the wind came in from the north east and we had a lovely fast sail all night until about six o'clock this morning, then we sailed slowly over breakfast and turned the engine on afterwards.

We did take the opportunity to stop and swim for ten minutes before lunch, diving down in water some eighteen thousand feet deep. That was fun. Couldn't see the bottom though.

No cocktail yesterday - we were just getting moving in lumpy seas and there wasn't much demand for sundowners. Tonight we are breaking into the malt whisky cabinet for a wee dram of Scotland's best.

All's well. N. Three hundred miles to go.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008


27 May 08 19:10UTC 24'57N 064'37W

We had a quiet night and I was on watch 4-6am. It got light at five so I set out the fishing lines again and read some more of my book before handing over at six to Dave. Doug had woken up and went on deck too. I was below for five minutes and had just fallen asleep when Dave comes to tell me 'fish on!' and I come up to see Doug landing a little five pound mahi-mahi, so its fish for dinner tonight. Fortunate really as I realise the menu for tonight is a chicken dish for which I'd forgotten to buy the chicken.

Dave makes a round of excellent french toast for breakfast, served with some of the maple syrup Ken brought down from Canada. We get on with the day, with a fair wind and reasonable speed and the noon position gives us a respectable 135 miles for the day. Almost halfway now.

This afternoon has seen the weather go all over the place on us. Generally, the wind has been shifting into the south and going lighter but a set of squalls have brought rain and changes to the wind as they pass. Ahead of the squall, the wind accelerates from astern and we can end up riding it nicely for twenty minutes or so before the rain arrives. As the squall progresses over us, the wind shifts and eases back towards whatever was prevailing before it arrived but on the trailing edge, the cold air falling with the rain runs counter to the established breeze. In light winds, like today, the eight knot southerly has been overwhelmed by fifteen or so knots of south moving air from the squall and we suddenly has a sharp northerly wind to head into. The seas, having built a comfortable southerly swell, get pushed up and back by the new wind and we have a lumpy uncomfortable chop on top of the swell.

But squalls are temporary and we should see things settle out between them. Right now we are motoring because of the light or contrary wind, and it has just rained harder than I have seen it rain for a long time. The motion is lumpy and the sky is dark. It seems like we have crossed a dividing line that says out of the Caribbean, into the Atlantic.

We caught a second mahi-mahi, we saw it coming for the lure, jumping high on the wave tops and flashing blue and yellow before grabbing the lure firmly and ending up in our fridge. It's another small one, probably just four pounds this time and that makes up enough protein for dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow so we'll stop fishing for now.

Time to get this mail out to the blog and think about dinner. All's well. N.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Do Planters Sill Vu Play

26 May 08 21:40UTC 22'57N 064'26W

It's cocktail time (last night, Santos Dewi Libre, Rum, sprite, lime, ice)

Dave tells us of arriving in Martinique, ready for a drink and sitting at the bar asking the barman 'two like that please' pointing at the drinks of the previous customer. Gallic shrug and shake of the head. He waits, listens to the next customer order something and copies that. Two Planters Punches duly arrive (Deux planteurs, s'il voux plait) and the evening proceeds much more agreeably.

So tonight's cocktail is a planter's punch - rum, orange juice, banana puree, sprite, nutmeg. Tragically, this consumes the last of the ice so we're onto warmer beverages from now on.

As you may be able to infer, we are not too stressed by the current weather and seas. We've covered another 115 miles in the last twenty four hours and are still traveling nicely, and comfortably, towards Bermuda. No fish though, that would be good.

Little more to report, the ocean rolls by, the very occasional gull takes a look at our fishing lures and apart from that it's Ty Dewi and us.

all's well. N.

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Meanwhile, up in Milford...

Gesa writes to us every day with what's happening up there in Michigan, so I thought I'd share that with our readers... This is Saturday 24th.

All had a good day today. Plenty of playing and running around, with only a
few discipline issues. Kids get on great. Glad the timing of our arrival
coincides with the Memorial Day Weekend (coincidentally, also My Bank
Holiday in the UK). This means that Charles is around, and has been off
since Friday, which has let him relax more.

I did the grocery shop with Jen and was just overwhelmed by the choice of
things. I have never seen so many cake mixes or icings (not even in Canada,
but maybe things have changed?!).

The kids planted seeds and Max, of course, played with his boats in the paddling pool and in the bath
tonight. We walked to Grace's school at the end of the road for a little
play in their playground. By noon it was actually hot outside and I
missed not being able to jump into the water to cool down. Issie was back
on a bike, but in her usual know it all tone, screams and cries, blamed me,
of course, for not being able to ride it properly. The pedals do not go
backwards. Once I managed to explain this to her (she was not a willing
listener) she did get it, but still grumped at one thing or another, which
earner her a time out and no bike for the rest of the day. Despite her
begging later that afternoon, I did not give in.

We are all so exhausted and did not manage an early bedtime, but far more
reasonable than the last few nights. I promised a quarter to the first person who fell asleep. Max fiddled for a
long time, but Issie was the queen of 'sleeping lions' although probably not asleep first and
won my vote. I in fact fell asleep with them for a bit. I am shattered.
The 'Ring of Fire' beer probably didn't help!! Beer with hot red pepper.
It is actually very good! Once I am done this, and reading email, will drag myself back upstairs too. Jen and Charles
have also turned in. Issie will then be moved into the double airmatress in
Grace's room with Grace, and Max will stay with me.

Max lost his second tooth. I think it happened while we were brushing
his teeth. Unfortunately, we think it fell down the sink. So, another note
to the tooth fairy!!!

Getting too long. Off to a flea market of some sort tomorrow with picnic
(Jen is working). BBQ and parade on Monday. Plenty to do.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Moving north

25 May 08 19:45UTC 20'52N 064'48W

Over twenty four hours in and we're making good progress northwards. Our first day's run was a very respectable hundred and forty miles and we had a comfortable night. Since then the wind has shifted behind us which means we're rolling - memories of the Atlantic crossing - but it hasn't dropped as forecast, so we are still going at six knots. Hopefully the forecast will prove wrong and we'll keep up the pace.

We're not doing much but chatting, reading, resting, cooking and eating. Oh, and fishing, or perhaps better called pulling a line through the water as the fish are showing a distinct disdain for our amateur efforts. Meanwhile I've finished one book and am most of the way through the next, a nice bit of downtime for me, hopefully Gesa can rest some up in Michigan too.

Little more to report right now, except that last night's cocktail was a St Thomas Farewell, Rum, banana puree, lime juice and ice. Followed by a very nice bottle of Canadian red wine that Ken brought from Ontario. Followed by a sound snooze for those not on watch.

All's well. N.

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Dave B, who used to own Ty Dewi, is crewing with us on this trip and arrived a couple of days early. He graciously offered to look after the kids for a couple of hours whilst Gesa and I did the shopping. Despite being an experienced grandfather, I think he was pleased when we returned to the boat.

He tells me that at one point he is on deck, relaxing when some bickering begins below. He leans through the hatch and says 'hey, you two, cut it out will you'. Quiet resumes.

A couple of minutes later Issie appears carrying paper and scissors. 'Dave, Dave, what do you want me to cut out?'

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Saturday, May 24, 2008


24 May 08 20:45UTC 18'38N 065'03W

Well, we've left the Caribbean for the season. Gesa, Issie and Max caught a flight to Miami and then Detroit yesterday afternoon, arriving after midnight but safe and sound. The rest of our crew (Doug and Ken, Dave having arrived Weds) turned up at the airport later. St Thomas airport is pretty much perfect for this, we anchored the boat, took the dinghy into the dock at a hotel a hundred yards away then walked for two minutes to the airport terminal. Tough journey.

We ate at that same hotel last night, a good Mexican meal on the waterfront. A fairly quiet nights sleep, then a crew briefing, clear customs, secure the dinghy and stuff for sea and off we went, leaving almost exactly at noon.

So far so good, the wind and weather are near perfect with flat seas and a reasonable breeze so we are settling in very nicely. The boat is emptier, quieter and tidier than it has been for many months, without the whirlwind of two kids around all the time. It's a very different feeling.

Roll on Bermuda, probably a six day trip. Check back tomorrow, I'll be doing our daily updates as usual.

All's well. Nick.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Leaving the Caribbean

So the time has come for us to leave these waters and head north for the summer. Gesa and the kids are in final packing preparations for their flight this afternoon. The airport is two minutes walk from the beach where we can land the dinghy, which sure beats the old Cambridge - Gatwick two hour drive.

One of our crew, Dave, is here already and well settled in on board his old home - Dave and his wife Betty oned and lived a board Ty Dewi for three years so it's great to have him on board. Ken and Doug arrive later today then the forecast is good so we'll set off after lunch on Saturday.

Last night Max, who is usually crazy about all things connected with planes and airports said 'Daddy, I'm not that excited'. 'Really Max, why's that?'. 'I like sailing, can I come on the big sail with you?' Awww, that's nice to hear, so I told him not this time but later, another trip. Somehow I think Issie will not be saying the same thing. I suspect that a taste of living on land will help them to learn how fortunate they've been the last six months and they will miss jumping in the water at every opportunity.

Anyway, I must go help pack, but here's some recent photos.

- Ty Dewi at anchor in the pristine waters of St John National Park.
- Gesa checking out the fish hanging around our mooring buoy. Turns out to be a four foot barracuda. 'I'm not going any closer, it'g got TEETH!'
- Issie relaxing ashore with a book - our little girl is growing up fast
- Full moon this week

Sunday, May 18, 2008


As you've seen, we set up the boat's spinnaker pole to support the hammock, but it also comes in useful for a swimming swing! We suspend the pole out the side of the boat and fix a rope swing and let the fun begin. Issie is really getting the hang of it.

Lovely Bubbly

Here on Jost Van Dyke there's a place called the Bubbly Pool. The swell of the Atlantic Ocean makes its way in through a gap in the rocks to fill a little pool. The constant filling and emptying makes a swirl of bubbles to knock the socks off any jacuzzi you can imagine. We had fun!

Friday, May 16, 2008


We walk to a fantastic tide pool for a swim (pictures to come) and get lost on the way, going through scrub and undergrowth. Issie complains a lot but Gesa uses the full mother's repertoire of encouragement and threats to get her there. We succeed and have a great time.

As we come to leave, the sandflies are out in force and biting hard. 'Argh', says Gesa, 'hurry up, I'm getting bitten like crazy'

'So,' says Issie in her best grown up voice, 'am I, but you don't see me whinging and whining do you?'

Right back at yer, mummy.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gesa writes.....

Gesa wrote an email to a few of our friends, we thought we'd share it with all our readers....

We have been in the British Virgin Islands for almost two weeks, and our time here, sadly, is coming to an end. We plan to head to the Caves on Norman Island for some of the best snorkeling in the area, before heading to Jost Van Dyke for the weekend and then clearing out. Monday we shall do the rather short journey to St John in the US Virgin Islands, where we will stay for two days before finding St Thomas Harbour and Charlotte Amalie, where we will collect crew, provision, and where the kids and I will fly to Detroit on Friday the 23rd.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay here, and look forward to introducing much of it to Corinne and family and hopefully Sean, Char and co. There is also still so much to explore, so we are looking forward to the return at the end of the year.

We have taken so many amazing photos here, it is hard not to, so I thought I would give you a little tour of one of our favourite islands: Marina Cay. Do look it up on the internet because its history is fascinating, and I am sure you will find even more photos. But in brief, a newlywed couple, Robb and Rodie White, left their life of luxury in Georgia in 1937 and came to the then impoverished BVIs (things have changed). They purchased Diddledoe Island, which they renamed Marina Cay (pronounced 'key'), and slowly, and painfully, "battled bureaucracy, weather, and innumerable open boat round-trips to Road Town (Tortola) to schlepp everything from water, cement, food and tools to the cay." Their result was a coral and stone home at the top of the 8 acre site. It is still there today, and is now a reading room and book exchange. The island has a crescent shaped reef on its south side called Turtle Reef. It makes for an impressive aerial photograph. Robb and Rodie left years ago, and it has changed hands many times. Since the 90's it is run by Pusser's Co., the local rum people who run a series of bars, restaurants and shops around the islands. They are also famous for their 'Painkiller', a mean rum punch. By the way, Robb was a writer. His most successful book was, "Our Virgin Island", their story. It was made into a movie in 1958, "Virgin Island" with Sydney Poitier and John Cassavetes. I am determined to find it. I expect the movie will be easier than the book!

On first arrival, both Nick and I could not understand what the fuss was about. Yes, the island and reef looked beautiful, but behind us was a huge construction site, and ahead of us, the control tower and runway on Beef Island. All changed when we 'parked' our dinghy and stepped ashore. The island's shore is just littered with coral; beautiful bougainvilleas (however you spell it) line all the paths; once you climb the small hill you get an amazing view out on to Sir Francis Drake Channel; Pusser's & co. have tastefully taken over with cute building works for their shop and restaurant/bar; as night falls, fantastic blue fairy lights climb the trees and line the paths; the staff were super friendly; the convenience of a cheap laundry superb; the sea life,/tide pool full of interesting creatures. The island can accommodate 16 guests (I think) and none bat an eye when we share their space.

We stayed two nights. The first with new friends from Windbelle. After a year's cruising, they were on their last night in the Caribbean, and we were honoured to be able to enjoy a final drink with them at the restaurant (Tallulah and Issie got on wonderfully. T was the birthday girl at Savannah Bay where we had a pirate party.)

We then went off to Great Dog Island with Iceni for some more superb snorkeling, before both boats returned to Marina Cay for another night. By then the crew of Windbelle had handed their boat over to a paid skipper, who would return her across the Atlantic to the UK, while they hopped a plane to Orlando for a week's holiday at Walt Disney Resort. The crew of Iceni and Ty Dewi, stepped ashore, and we all enjoyed a walking tour of the island (didn't take long), followed by a drink (another famous 'Painkiller'),while the kids played on the beach (a mix of sand and coral). I was annoyed to leave before nightfall, when I could enjoy the fairy lights. So, I arranged 'me time', by offering to do the laundry ashore. I thought I might catch up on my book, but too many friendly people to chat to! By the time the dry cycle came around, I headed back down to the restaurant/bar, and ordered one of their special coffees, opened my book, but found myself rather distracted by the conversations at the bar from the people waiting for their tables. Entertaining to say the least. A mix between the local staff, to the tourists (from Americans to a nice Dutch couple - the difference is incredible), to a pilot working out of Beef Island that runs an island hopping service. He now lives in the islands, but still sticks out like a sore thumb!! I thoroughly enjoyed my time, and had only hoped that the kids would be asleep by the time I returned...if only!!!

In any case, we all enjoyed our stay, but then wandered off to the smaller islands on the opposite side of Sir Francis Drake Channel. There we found some incredible, calm, quiet anchorages (no services or amenities), with nothing but blue water, reefs, and quiet seashore. When night fell we had a beautiful blanket of stars above us, the lights across the channel from Tortola, and giant tarpon swimming beneath our keel. Magical!
Now, that has taken far too long to write and I must finish now., to eat breakfast, post this email, pull up anchor and sail to Norman Island. What a busy schedule!!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Must be getting closer to America

Bought a bag of ice today. Look what is said on the back. You'll be glad to know it says 'calories - zero'

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

BVI pictures

A few more photos from recent days
- Gesa in a fabulous little pool at The Baths, the amazing rock formation on Virgin Gorda

- Relaxing in the 'splash hammock' - rigged on a spinnaker pole so you can hang over the water, all I need to do is fit a 'quick release pin'....ha ha ha
- Playing on the beach in Great Harbour, Peter Island. Not many boats in the anchorage and a lovely spot, we were the only people on the little beach.
- Sunset over Tortola

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ashore at Marina Cay

We spent a couple of nights at a nice little island called Marina Cay (pronounced Key - only the charterers say 'Cay'!!) It's supposedly famous as a couple settled here in the 30's to get away from it all and now it's all come to them, so that just shows, really. Read a little more at

Anyway, here's Max (with new, overshort haircut, oops) having fun with friend Fraser from Iceni, and Issie finally waking up and smelling the roses (well, not roses but hey).

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We are on the beach with another family. One of their daughters informs us that she is allergic to peanuts. No problem, we don't have any food with us anyway.

The next day, I ask Issie what she would like to drink, milk or water?

"Milk, Daddy, I'm allergic to water"

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Baths

'Oh yeah', says the seasoned sailor at the bar in St Maarten, 'If you're going to the BVI's you've gotta go to the Baths on Virgin Gorda.' 'I dunnow', says the other Cap'n Ahab sitting next to him, 'The Baths are always full of bareboaters (charter boats)' 'Yeah, that's true, but there's a reason for that'

It's because The Baths are awesome. Not, as you might expect, another set of volcanic hot spring baths to sooth away the aches and pains, but a tumble jumble of enormous granite boulders, looking like the playthings in some pebble game of the ancient gods. Each 'pebble' is forty to a hundred feet across, and they are balanced and butted against each other in a crazy formation of rocks. Time, tide, wind and sand conspire to etch them away and carve amazing patterns into the rocks. The sea runs between them, creating little sand beaches and waist deep pools populated by little fish, whilst the sunlight filters through the gaps lighting the water with a vivid turquoise and reflecting off the rock around and overhead.
It's like nothing we've ever seen before, and we both think it's been one of the highlights of the trip so far.

We explored the area with our friends on Iceni, who we feared had already left to skip back across the Atlantic on their trip home after three years sailing, but they are here another week so we get to see them again, which is a real treat. The kids get along great, so they were dancing in the pools and over the rocks, leading us down different paths and through narrow gaps in the rock. We had the good fortune to be there in the late afternoon when most of the charter boats had already departed for their evening anchorages and the place was very quiet.

The afternoon also brought low sunlight, playing through the rocks and giving the place an almost spiritual air. We regretted that we didn't have time to snorkel, as that looked great but we can find good snorkeling in many places, the real joy here was above the water. As we headed back, Max wanted to swim a little more so the rest of them went on ahead and Max and I had a great father/son moment, floating on our backs in a sunlit pool with a rock ceiling and sandy floor, just chilling out and being alive.

If you ever come to the BVI's, The Baths have to be on your 'must see' list. Come early in the morning or late in the afternoon and experience it at its quietest and most wonderful.

Sailing in the BVIs

A post for the sailors amoung our readership.

Sailing here is fantastic because the many islands shelter the area from the ocean swells so we are in fairly flat water with a good breeze. Added to which the distances are short so its rarely more than two hours at sea betwen beautiful places. Yesterday we hoisted full sail and had a marvelous close reach (wind coming from about 60 degrees off the bow) for five miles. Standing in the cockpit, letting the autopilot steer whilst I eased and tightened the mainsheet in response to the gusts off the shore - it was like being back in a racing boat playing the breeze for every ounce of speed. It was just such fun to be sailing our great big house like that, burning off the forty foot charter boats and even leaving behind the ones who, bizarely, were motoring the same route (why charter a sailing boat in one of the best sailing areas in the world and then motor?!)

The photo says it all. Sparkling sailing on a big powerful yacht in perfect weather.

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We've seen more birds here than anywhere before, perhaps the geography lends itself more to seabirds but we don't know.

The other day we sat at anchor and found ourselves in the midst of a feeding frenzy. There was a school of tiny fish all around us, clearly being chased by bigger fish which would regularly break the surface as they munched down some poor small fry. Having driven their prey to the surface, the local gulls were having a field day diving into the school and picking off their own dinner. It was great to watch the action in and above the water as we could, at times, see all the players darting this way and that in pursuit and escape.

From time to time a gull would take a break and rest on our boat, other times they wheel and dart around the rigging squawking and scrabbling between each other.

Another day, we haul up the anchor and set off, towing our dinghy behind us, when we notice that we have a hitch hiker. He balances precariously as the dinghy bounces over the small waves and he bravely resists it's attempts to dislodge him. Many times we think he's about to lose it when he manages a wiggle and recovery to stand straight again. Eventually he tires of this and flies off, or maybe we'd just got him to where he wanted to go.
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Virgin Islands - North Sound

At the top of the island of Virgin Gorda is an area known as North Sound. A large expanse of water bounded on all sides by islands and coral reefs with only a couple of narrow entrances. This is perfect sailing and anchoring, flat sheltered water in gorgeous surroundings and has, unsurprisingly, become a mecca for charter sailors and the rich and famous alike. There are some very exclusive places here, and even those that let in scruffy types like us exact their revenge in terms of dollars. My standard test - how much for a cold beer - demonstrates that. Most islands it has been $2US on average, up here it's $3.50.

Tourism clearly brings in an enormous amount of money, I'm told that the average income here is forty thousand US dollars. The BVI's form a sailors paradise, with short distances in sheltered water between beautiful islands and islets. We have only seen a fraction of it and already love it here despite the costs. For those on a short holiday, it's irrelevant to be spending pretty much what they would at home on eating out, basic provisions and so on since this is a special vacation and people happily 'push the boat out' so to speak.

One of the more annoying effects of this is the 'mooring ball' issue. We keep our boat in one place but dropping the anchor. Find a nice sandy spot, let down a big lump of steel with thirty metres of chain and you're all set. Every boat has one, you can check the connections for corrosion every day when you lift it up and if you do it right, it's easy and effective. Those on vacation, however, may never have anchored a boat before. They are well practiced at pulling into a marina slip and tying up but you can tell that anchoring is worrying because when they must do so, they often sit on the bow for thirty minutes afterwards worrying about whether they've done it right.
So when some nice kind company or national park authority lays moorings (basically lengths of chain anchored to the bottom with a float on top for you to tie to), people are delighted to just motor up, tie a line to it and be done. More than once I've heard people say how good it is to feel 'more secure'. Fair enough, although I always worry that you don't know whether that chain is about to rust through, or if the rope part is chafed within a thread of it's life until your boat goes sailing off by itself, as has happened to a couple of boats we've heard of this season. Give my my chain and anchor any day.

This wouldn't be a problem except that the cheapest of these moorings runs to $25 a night and, worst of all, they are laid in the best anchoring spots, forcing those of us who won't pay to the edges of the anchorage a bit to close to the shore, or the reef, or open water. 'Ah yes', say the folks who want our money, 'but people want moorings, the fact that they are full shows that'. Actually no, it shows that you've made anchoring awkward enough that any charter skipper who's nervous about it already will pick up the mooring and pay instead.

Oh well, end rant, it's not a big deal and I guess it saves us having to get up in the night to fend off badly anchored charter boats dragging down onto us.

I've been distracted, the real point of this post was to say how nice this place is and what we've done. It really has been a little like being on that wonderful Caribbean vacation (wait, I hear you say, you are on a wonderful Caribbean vacation, but you know what I mean) The beach has a volleyball net where we knocked a ball around for the first time in a long time, and with the kids too. Gesa lounges on the beach chair, cocktail in hand and I play in the waves with the kids. Unlike the typical vacation, we still have to 'wash the car' as it's time to scrub the dinghy. We all have fun actually, turning it upside down and scraping off the barnacles and other marine life that has tried to make itself at home on our transport.

Back on board, we enjoy the comings and goings of all the other yachts, make the most of wifi that reaches out to us from the resorts and barbecue up the tuna we caught on the way here.

On shore we get chatting to a family with similar aged kids and it turns out that they have a house here that they spend about six weeks of the year at, when they aren't at home in Aspen, Colorado. 'Come over', they say, 'we've got a pool' and we need no more invitation. The kids get on well and play happily together in and out of the pool, and when we are invited to stay for dinner we enjoy a lovely evening together watching the sun set over the bay and chatting about all manner of things home and away. We are constantly delighted to meet such generous and hospitable people everywhere we go, both afloat and ashore and it's good to be reminded just how nice people are to each other, regardless of background, status, wealth and all the other factors that cloud our judgement so much at times. Anyway, thanks, Tom and Barb, if you're reading this, and we hope our input to your plans for your UK vacation is helpful!

We explore the shoreline and reefs around the sound, and all snorkel on the shallow barrier reef. Whilst not as spectacular as some of the places we've been, the fact that the coral and fish are just a few feet below you makes it fascinating and easy to spot the small and different things that live there - some bright purple coral I've never seen before and many little 'fairy fish', vivid blue and yellow dancing in and out of holes in the coral. Max is almost swimming without a float now, and even wants to dive down like Issie, so the shallow calm water was wonderful for him.

We're moving on to rendezvous with our friends from Iceni and visit 'The Baths' further south, so more later.
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