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
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
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
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.