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February 16, 2003
Curt's Family Gets Bonus Points…

…for showing up with so little luggage! Granted they weren't staying all that long, but I would venture to guess that between the three of them, they maybe had three small overnight type bags altogether. We loaded 'em aboard, souped Kate & Ellen up on some sea sickness prevention drugs, started the engine, and made our way east towards our first destination, Caneel Bay, Saint John.

It's important to note here, in case you weren't aware, the US and British Virgin Islands have earned their reputation for being one of the best sailing destinations in the world because of their sunny warm weather (about 85 degrees all the time), their moderate and consistent trade winds (ten to fifteen knots), and the calm conditions of the protected sea within the cluster of islands. One can expect that if they were to spend a week's vacation here, they'd probably see maybe one rain shower a day, and at worst- perhaps one day of overcast skies. For this week, the forecast was for unrelenting winds of 20-25 knots (with higher gusts), equally high sea states, and lots of squally weather. All of this due to an "unusual" weather pattern in the north Atlantic.

The grim forecast seemed to be dead-on as we motored our way up the coast of Saint Thomas. The skies were dreary, the swells were big, and we were taking the 20 knot winds right on the nose. But Curt and I were happy to think that while most of our sails on our travels are, from island to island, in the ballpark of six hours or more- this would be a tidy little hop of no more than two, or at worst- three. We hadn't been out to sea more than an hour when Kate and Ellen started to have that look of, "Are we there yet?" in their eyes. Yet neither made a peep, as they sat squarely in her seats, focusing quietly on the horizon. When Curt offered that perhaps we drop our anchor early at Great Saint James for the night rather than continue on, there was eager agreement that that sounded like a fine idea.

Great Saint James is a small little island on the south east corner of Saint Thomas, lying directly on the way to Saint John. I don't believe it's inhabited, but we noticed from a posted sign that it's for sale- in case you're interested. We picked a comfortable spot to anchor, and made sure we were in nice and snug. Jeff was over the side first to look at our hook, and emerged with a beautiful plump starfish. One of the prettiest we've seen.

After a little afternoon rain to wash the salt off Force Five's decks, we went exploring. Just as I had learned something new about Kate on this trip, I was also about to learn something new about Ellen. She hadn't ever snorkeled before. After hearing Curt go on about how much his mom just loves the water, and how you can't hardly keep her out of the river when they go camping each year, I was really surprised. This was our second guest aboard who'd be experiencing the views of the underwater world off our boat for the first time- and I wasn't any less perplexed about it in this second event. It's an almost daily activity for us, so it serves as yet another reminder of how different our lives are now from when we lived on land.

In any case, the scene was so cute. I can see Jeff in his swim goggles and snorkel, standing next to his mom in knee deep water. They were too far away to hear what he was saying, but I could see him pointing to things on the mask for her and then around in the water. From where I was, I couldn't tell if she was buying the whole "spit in your mask" line. As Kate and I watched from the beach, I saw Ellen hold the mask up to her face as she bent over at the waist to peer into the shallow water. She must have been intrigued by what she saw, because from there, the strap went over her head and she actually went paddling off a bit into deeper water- Jeff staying nearby. I tell you, something about it just made an adorable site.

We returned to Force Five with our appetite well built up, and Curt made tacos for dinner. His family was just starting to get a glimpse of what their son's life has been like for the past year. The galley shrinks to half its tiny size the second you need to use more than one pot, and the fan is whirring like a madman trying to keep things cool below while the cook sweats away. The lettuce was wilted at the market, so we used green bell peppers chopped up instead. Counter space is at a premium, so we tend to wash as we go, to cut down on dirty dishes taking up valuable space. The food was delicioso and the four of us sat at our little cockpit table and devoured every last bite while Curt passed taco shells up from below. As my dad used to say, "Nothing shall be wasted," and I tell you, it sure wasn't!

The first full day of their visit was nearing its end, and so far the scorecard still looked good. No barfing sailors. No injured feet. No drowned moms. Full bellies and tired bodies were ready for a good night's sleep.

Sleeping With Curt's Family

So you didn't forget Kate gets seasick, right? Knowing full well that going below seems to exasperate the problem, she didn't want to come below, come hell or highwater. To paraphrase her words, she said with her southern drawl and a determined look in her eye (one finger pointing at the dark and forboding cabin below), "Uh-uh honey. There ain't no WAY you'll see me down there!" She was adamant. She was going to sleep in the cockpit.

"But it rains a lot at night Kate."

"No problem. I got my coat. I got my pants. I'm sleeping right here. No worries."

"Are you sure? We thought you and Jeff would sleep in the v-berth. No? Well than, let's clear a spot on the settee in case you change your mind in the middle of the night. No- are you sure? Well- just in case? Okay- well, here's a blanket. Good luck."

And directly below Kate, but inside, in the little cubby cave otherwise known as the "port aft berth", Ellen was cozily tucked away. Curt said she'd be "FINE", which clearly she seemed to be- but I had these lingering worries. You sort of have to contort yourself to crawl in there, and it's right near (I mean like practically IN) the stove, and it also happens to be just above the diesel intake for the engine, so there's a faint aroma of fuel. She never made a peep of complaint- though in the middle of the night we all shot up out of our sleep as she did start to scream! She seemed to be having a nightmare, and couldn't wake herself up despite her own shrieks! Jeff was nearby though, and roused her from her dream.

So when all was well and good, and Ellen was back in bed, chiding herself for having screamed out loud in her nightmare- we all fluffed up our pillows, and gave sleeping another shot. (Silently, I deducted points from mine and Curt's scorecard, while Ellen got many for being so good natured about her sleeping assignment)

But that's when it started to rain. It drizzled a bit, and then it quit. But then it started again. And then it stopped. Off and on for most of the night, but I never heard Kate come down. And then at some point it just started to absolutely dump. Finally, I heard Jeff clearing off a settee to make space for her. I can't imagine how wet she must have gotten in her valiant fight to stay outside, but I think she may have been sleeping on a towel when I peeked out in the morning if that's any indication.

The score card was changing. One drenched sister in law. One nightmare ridden mother. Force Five desperately needed a rebound.

February 17, 2003
Must Have Been Some Dang Good French Fries

Crummy weather or not, we were going to continue on with our plans and have a good time if it killed us, darn it! The next morning we transcended upon Trunk Bay, on the north side of Saint John, for some snorkeling, as they have a great underwater trail with informational signs that lead you around a little cay. Trunk Bay is reputed to be one of the world's most beautiful beaches, and it just may well be- if you can look past the hoards of tourists that are storming the beaches.

Curt and I tidied the boat, while Jeff, Kate and Ellen snorkeled near the shore. When Curt and I met up with them for lunch, it wasn't long before a tropical deluge of rain started. I think I was the first to seek shelter, and then perhaps Jeff, and so on. One by one we left our picnic table to stand under the shelter of a food stand until Ellen sat at the table alone. The rain was pouring, but I guess the french fries must have been tantalizing, because she just kept on eating them, one by one in the downpour of rain. Did she realize that it was raining? Wasn't her ketchup getting watery? I would have guessed no on both counts, because she was undeterred. I would assign or deduct points for this, but I wouldn't know which would be appropriate.

Before long, the rain let up and we finished our motor trip to Francis Bay where we picked up a mooring for the night.

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