28 February 2008

Waiting for those northeasterlies

February 28, 2008

Not too bad of a place to wait for weather.

We’re still hanging out in North Sound of Virgin Gorda waiting for some northeasterly winds to push us south to Saba then Antigua.

We came back from snorkeling and found this boat a mere twenty feet of our stern. The skipper came by later to explain his anchoring decisions. Apparently he dropped his anchor ahead of our bow and then fell back so he was behind us. Huh? That's a new anchoring technique if I've ever seen one. He told us to wake him up at any hour of the night and, rest assured, he had full insurance. Gee thanks. That will be really helpful when we miss our next weather window because our windvane is broken. Humph. He gave us a bottle of red wine to smooth things over...which did help. But we still don't quite understand the anchoring choice.

We set out on Tuesday morning with hopes of fair winds to sail to Saba, but they kept going southeast. Of course! Every sailor knows that the wind is always blowing from the direction you want to sail. After a couple hours, we decided it was a no-go and sailed north to Anegada instead. We spent a couple hours snorkeling the Horse Shoe Reef, a large reef (third largest in the northern hemisphere, we think) that basically separates the northern Virgin Islands from the Atlantic Ocean. The snorkeling was spectacular, some of the best we’ve seen. BUT NO LOBSTER!! We think that it is because the Horse Shoe Reef is the main commercial lobstering area for the Virgin Islands and is probably overfished, or the lobster just know where to hide.

We had a couple beers at the beach bar and were confronted by quite a few charter guests, aghast that our monohull was able to anchor is shallower water than their 40+ foot catamarans. We just smiled and hoped someone would buy us a congratulatory beer or two, but I guess they weren’t that impressed. Oh well.

The road in Anegada. Very reminiscent of the Bahamas.

Salt flats at Anegada..there were flamingos across the pond but we couldn't really see them.

It looks pretty solid...

oops..apparently not. Oh my god, the smell! What is in this croc-eating mud pit? (Hans lost both his shoes.)

Whisper at anchor in Anegada.

The next morning we awoke to find our propane supply completely depleted. We had to sail back to North Sound to get cooking gas and also find the next weather window.

A square-rigger tall ship we passed on the way into North Sound.

Hans returned from Nanny Cay on Monday night after spending a few days helping out the crew of Wakamizu: Hiroshi, Nobu and Nirai. They hit a rock north of Tortola which punched a hole in their port keel. Since Hans has spent countless hours doing epoxy work on Whisper, he offered to help them out.

Wakamizu was hauled out on Friday at Nanny Cay Marina and the damages assessed. We decided that the best thing to do was to hire a professional to deal with the structural damages to the keel, and then deal with some smaller jobs ourselves. A note to anyone contemplating yardwork in the Caribbean: it is painfully slooooooow. Two and a half hour lunch breaks are apparently OK… makes you a little bit crazy!
In any case, Hans had a great time helping out and made three great new friends in the process. Now we just have to figure out how to get to Japan to visit!
Hiroshi, Nobu and Nirai should hopefully be on their way to Aruba within a day or two, then they are off to the Panama Canal, where they cross in March, then onto the South Pacific and eventually back to Japan in December. Good luck guys, arigato, and be careful!

Hans and the crew of Wakamizu: Nobu, Hans, Hiroshi, Nirai.

The repair job on one of the bows.

Wakamizu being hauled out.

Water drains from the hollow keel.

More water in the hull.

Nirai using a snorkeling mask while cutting onions. Very resourceful, and pretty comical.

The keel repair.

Sailing from Anegada to North Sound, Virgin Gorda, BVI

A short movie from the 14 mile sail south from Anegada to North Sound. Two reefs in the main, four rolls in the jib, the wind about 25 knots 60 degrees off the bow. We averaged 5.8 knots. That's right Mik!
Yours Truly,
Little Miss 5 Knots

22 February 2008

Doing what sailors do best: waiting for weather

February 22, 2008

Whisper is currently anchored off Prickly Pear Island in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda. This is a watersports playground…people are waterskiing, kitesurfing, sailing hobiecats and there are lots of boats at anchor. Hans is currently at Nanny Cay on Tortola with friends we met from Japan the other day on the catamaran Wakamizu. Both boats were sailing over to the Baths on the southern tip of Virgin Gorda when Wakamizu hit a rock and smashed a big hole in one of the keels. Yikes! Hiroshi, owner and captain, asked Hans to go with him to act as translator. Since we’re just waiting for weather, Hans agreed and Kristen is holding down hearth and home, and feeding the starving furry animal.

Our next "sailboat".

Hey, step away from the breadfruit!

Huge aloe plants (or are they yucca?) at the botanical gardens in Road Town.

Hans looking for coconuts.
As Kit Kat's ambulance made its way southwest to Soper's Hole to bring her to the vet, we stopped at a deserted, undeveloped beach on the north shore of Tortola.

Scenes from the Baths on the southern tip of Virgin Gorda. Yes, that's Whisper!

15 February 2008

Whisper underway

As we were sailing to Marina Cay yesterday, Yacht Shots BVI took some pictures of Whisper underway. While pricey to buy the prints, you can check them out at


If that doesn't work, try
and then scroll down the list until you see Whisper's name.

If you can't get it that way, try
then scroll down to Norman and Peter Island and click on "Yachts 20 jan to present"
and that will take you to the above link.

Marina Cay, BVI

February 15, 2008

Valentine’s Day came and went with a fast sail, a pirate-themed concert on the top of an island, aglio i olio (garlic & olive oil spaghetti) for dinner and a good night smooch. We hope everyone had a love-filled Valentine’s Day too!

We’re currently anchored at an idyllic island on the north side of Tortola. The island is privately owned with a hotel, restaurant and gift store. They have a field of mooring balls and also many services that cruisers like us appreciate; namely, laundry and free internet. The anchorage is set behind a large reef so our view from Whisper is Tortola, Virgin Gorda and the Caribbean Sea, and no rocking and rolling in the swell! Pretty good deal!

Sailing down to Norman's Island.

Skipping back a few days, we left Soper’s Hole on Monday and took Kit Kat to the vet (which she has already written about in the previous entry) and then we sailed down to Norman’s Island, home of the Willy Thornton floating bar & restaurant. We had a blast, dancing, dancing and dancing. Back in the day, you could win a t-shirt for jumping off the boat naked but last year a guy got hurt so they called that off. It’s still a rowdy atmosphere though with shots taken off surf boards and other people’s bodies.

The anchorage at Norman's Island.

Dancing the night away at Willy T's.

We met quite a few really friendly people at Norman’s as well. Some people on different charter boats all stopped by Whisper to say hi and find out what we are doing. Beth & Gary from Colorado wanted to hear all about our travels and since they were at the end of their two-week vacation they gave us leftover provisions. Thanks! A second-generation Swede and a guy from Manchester, NH were on vacation with their wives and some friends and had us over for drinks and tall tales. The next morning they dropped off a 6-pack of Coors Light they claimed no one on the boat would drink. Thanks again! At the bar we met Jim from Keene, NH who owns a large motor yacht, Runaway. He’s been living in the Virgins for about 20 years now running around on boats. Hans stopped by his boat the next morning and he gave us 20 gallons of water. Thanks yet again! Finally, we met Chris & Julie from their charter boat Blu Moon. If you’re looking to charter a captained/chefed vessel in the BVIs, look no further than www.vicl.org. Chris and Julie are energetic, fun, and have been doing this for over 15 years so they know all the great places to visit. Chris tipped us off on a store to stock up on English sausages and tea and helped Hans make a lobster snare, another way to snag those underwater bugs. Thanks!

After all that social activity, we sailed to Key Cay on the south coast of Peter Island and had our own anchorage for the first time in months. It was wonderful…except we were in a bit of a wind tunnel and the gusts had Whisper heeled over at anchor. Good thing we overdid it on the ground tackle!

The anchorage at Key Cay...we had it to ourselves, but had to cope with the 2-foot chop that built up in the length of a football field.

Some artists have left their mark at Key Cay.

Whisper at anchor at Key Cay.

The islands have a rugged landscape, lots of succulents, sea grapes and palm trees. If you see grass, be guaranteed that it has been planted.

The next morning we sailed over to snorkel the wreck of the RMS Rhone which sunk off Salt Island back in the late 1800s. We picked up a mooring buoy and jumped over board, we were right on top of the wreck. We were both instantly creeped out by diving on a sunken ship so we only stayed in the water for about 20 minutes. The sail to Marina Cay was fast and a little wet but it was worth it to see the Michael Beans show, recommended to us by both Chris and Gary & Beth. Michael is a sailor who is a one-man band at the bar at the top of Marina Cay, singing pirate songs, encouraging pirate toasts and capping the evening off with a conch horn blowing contest. After a good effort, Kristen placed second. This morning we stopped by Michael’s boat and he gave Kristen a quick lesson on her accordion so she’s ready to keep the anchorage up at night!

Michael Beans doing what he does best.

The view of the anchorage at Marina Cay.

14 February 2008

Meow…not feeling too good

February 14, 2008

note my shaved stomach.

I woke up the other morning feeling more dejected than usual. Of course this led to poking and proding and they found a lump on my stomach. So now all of a sudden they decide to give me some attention and love. I just wish I didn’t have to go to such lengths to garner their sympathy. After panicked emails to Mandy, their veterinarian friend, they decided it was imperative to take me to the vet. THE VET?! Do you know what that entails? Well…first…sailing to another island. Then, being crammed in a canvas bag, then riding in a loud, open-air taxi on a bumpy road, then running into three cats, one of whom I later realized was a cardboard cutout…how embarrassing that I hissed at it. But you can never be too sure with other cats. It only goes downhill from here. The vet, Laura, came in and immediately snatched me out of my dark hiding space behind the trash can and started squeezing and poking and prodding me, including sticking a thermometer where the sun doesn’t shine. How unpleasant. Then they decided to implant a microchip in my back so I can be scanned like a box of crackers at the grocery store. I feel a little bit like Matt Damon in the Bourne Identity, minus the ninja skills. After all the poking and prodding, it was back in a taxi cab and then a dinghy ride to the boat. As you can imagine, I collapsed. I couldn’t even raise my head for food. That should give you an indication of the depths of my despair. Now, they’re threatening to bring me back to the vet on Tuesday to get my teeth cleaned and to check on the results of my antibiotic care. Antibiotics? I thought I was just getting canned fish for sympathy. You mean to tell me my mackerel is laced?!

The only silver lining to this gray cloud is that the fat jokes have to stop. They bet that I weighed at least 16 pounds when in actual fact the scale at the vet office recorded my healthy mass as a mere 11.7. So what if the vet says I should only weigh 8. What does she know? She’s not even a cat.

10 February 2008

Breezing through the British Virgin Islands

February 10, 2008

When the vendors and hawkers on the streets of Charlotte Amalie start to recognize you and no longer attempt to lure you into their stores with promises of cheap diamonds and Rolex watches, you know you’ve been there for too long. So it was with great cheer that we weighed anchor and sailed out of Charlotte Amalie harbor, St. Thomas, USVI on Friday morning.

The highlight of the week there was a visit from friends Jerry & Laurie who were passing through St. Thomas on a cruise ship. We managed to get a message to them on the ship and we went sailing on Whisper last Saturday. It was a rather wet sail but fun nonetheless. Their ship left at 5PM so we said our hasty goodbyes around 4:30 in time for them to run down the dock to get onboard.

On Friday morning we sailed from St. Thomas to Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke, the northernmost of the British Virgin Islands. The scenery is spectacular; tall peaked islands plunging straight into the ocean with wooden houses perched on their banks. Most of the sailing is done in the lee of an island so the waves are minimal but the wind is usually blowing between 15-20 knots. Enough to have at least one reef in the main and the jib rolled up a little. Full speed ahead!

Sailing from Little Jost Van Dyke to Soper's Hole, Tortola

Another boat underway.

We were able to clear customs and immigration at Jost Van Dyke with no problem and we started a new tradition of a meal out upon arrival in a new country. Lunch was hamburgers and a jerk chicken sandwich complemented with a few “painkillers” at the Soggy Dollar Bar, probably one of the best beach bars we’ve even been to: white sand, reggae, hammocks, cold drinks with free souvenir cups, beach chairs, the ring toss game, and lots of boats anchoring off the beach to provide the entertainment. Surely someone will drag soon!

Not wanting to give up on the kite-surfing dream, we sailed over to Sandy Spit on Saturday morning which has a great beach for launching a kite. The Flexifoil 2008 team was shooting a promotional video off the beach so while we didn’t attempt to launch our kite, we were treated to some inspiration by some amazing kiters. In the afternoon we snorkeled off the beach and saw large coral heads, many different types of fish and a pair of spotted eagle rays. However after seeing a shark a couple weeks ago we both keep our eyes peeled all the time! Snorkeling now has an edge of panic all the time. Kristen jumped out of the water every time she saw the (harmless) 100 pound tarpon. She got in the dinghy even faster upon seeing the 40 pound barracuda patrolling the reef!

Sandy Spit just east of Jost Van Dyke

We sailed down to the Soper’s Hole anchorage on the west end of Tortola to spend the night with plans on making Norman’s Island our next stop. Unfortunately, Hans woke up this morning with a cold so we’re spending a day here relaxing and watching the charter boats negotiate the anchorage and the moorings, entertainment in itself!

The packed anchorage at Soper's Hole.

07 February 2008

where to next, navigator?

February 7, 2008

Hey SnowDay! check out who we saw in St. Thomas yesterday!!

We're getting ready to weigh anchor from St. Thomas after getting a substantial amount of work done on the boat. Hopefully we're done with boat maintenance for at least a month. Also, the camera shop "Royal Caribbean" was very friendly and exchanged our camera even though their policy states otherwise. Thanks!

This morning Kit Kat helped us plan our sailing plans for the next month.

What exhausting work...she catches her zzzzs after expending all that brain power.

The view from Yacht Haven Grande marina on a particularly busy cruise ship day in St. Thomas Harbor. We are anchored right next door - we can hear the PA announcements on the cruise ships.

05 February 2008

did we forget to tell you about Buck Island?

Dear Mr. Tutein,

I am writing concerning the conduct of M/Y Shalimar and to complain about the absence of action by the National Park Service during the weekend of January 25-27, 2008 at Buck Island National Park. Over the course of the weekend the captain and crew of the boat paid no regard to the other boats using the anchorage and as such violated two stated regulations of the National Park Service for Buck Island and put the safety of other boats in jeopardy.

We arrived in our 27' sailboat at Buck Island around noon on Friday, the 25th and anchored about 100 feet away from a catamaran. A few hours later, Shalimar arrived and proceeded to, in a sense, parallel park in between our 27' sailboat and the catamaran. They set their bow anchor and then backed up to shore in between our boats where they set a stern anchor to the beach. The anchoring guidelines set out by the National Park Service for Buck Island allow this type of "stern to the beach" anchoring only for small boats under 20 feet. At 118 feet, M/Y Shalimar definitely does not fit into the "small boat" category.

The wind was blowing from the NE so their boat was receiving the wind on it's beam, making us and the catamaran quite nervous. All other boats in the anchorage were anchored with a bow anchor and pointing into the wind. My husband went over to Shalimar to enquire as to how long they planned on remaining anchored like that and also pointed out how close their boat was to ours. Without any sort of acknowledgment to the situation they had put us in, they stated that they would be there until Monday and the owner demanded they anchor in this fashion or the crew would lose their jobs. The wind shifted and it became apparent that unless we took action, the stern of M/Y Shalimar would swing into our sailboat. We pulled up our anchor and moved as far away from Shalimar as we could. In over a year of sailing from Maryland to the Virgin Islands, this is the first time we have ever had to move anchor because another boat came too close and also refused to move when a dangerous situation developed. The captain and his crew acted very negligently, dangerously and irresponsibly putting both our boat and their boat in danger.

In addition, Shalimar ran their generators all night long disturbing both the atmosphere for the other boaters and breaking park policy. The anchoring guidelines clearly state that generator use should be kept to a minimum since Buck Island is a National Park and nesting ground for endangered brown pelicans and sea turtles.

On Saturday night we were enjoying dinner on a friend's boat when the crew of Shalimar repositioned their stern anchor and consequently placed the stern of their boat a mere 25 yards from our friend's boat. Not only did this ruin the ambience by filling our friend's cockpit with diesel fumes and floodlighting, it was just plain unsafe for a boat the size of Shalimar to be anchored so close to another boat. We tried hailing them on the VHF repeatedly and when we did not receive an answer, we had to resort to using the air horn to get their attention. Needless to say, that worked. I went over to Shalimar and pointed out the proximity of the two boats and requested that they take action to change their position. The crew treated me rather rudely and stated that they moved the boat so the owner could receive a better satellite reception for his TV. Nonetheless, they did finally move the boat.

Apparently, the crew of Shalimar receives complaints every weekend at Buck Island from other boaters. We were told the National Park Service already has a file of complaints on the conduct of Shalimar and that the owner simply places a call to the Governor's office and the National Park Service turns a blind eye to this type of conduct.

In light of this, I would ask that the National Park Service place stronger anchoring restrictions for Buck Island, similar to those on St. John. The south side of St. John has mooring buoys that are only available to boats of 60 feet or less and the north side has specific mooring buoys for large motor yachts. The owner, captain and crew of M/Y Shalimar ruined the weekend for a number of boats that went to Buck Island to enjoy the nature and scenery of this National Park. After that weekend, I am reluctant to return to Buck Island and I am discouraging other boaters to visit the island on a weekend.

I look forward to your response and to hear what the National Park Service plans on doing to prevent this type of situation from happening again.


Kristen Miller
s/v Whisper

01 February 2008


Attention: this blog will soon look a little different. In lieu of getting real jobs, we're putting our hopes in ad sense, a google automatic advertising tool which will place ads on our blog. We receive money based on how many clicks each ad gets. So, this blog may look a little cluttered, and we may be tipping our hats to the great American corporations, but, we need a new camera.

Click, click.

Projects and Problems...

February 1, 2008.

Benner Bay, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands.

You’ll have to take our word for it…we have new windows installed on Whisper. What? You want photographic evidence? So do we. The new camera we bought two weeks ago to replace the one that fell overboard suddenly stopped working for no apparent reason. Of course the store we bought it from accepts no returns, exchanges, refunds, etc. etc. We discovered this after looking at the receipt where their “no return policy” is printed in bold, capital letters just above where Kristen signed her name. (Yes, she did work at law firms for over three years. Really, don’t they at least teach you to read the fine print?)

At any rate, we’ll try to get a new digital camera by fair means or foul so we can continue posting pictures on the blog. But for now, just believe us that in the past few days we have installed new Lexan windows, repaired a potential leak in the propane system, replaced a leaking seal on the engine’s water pump, exchanged our dinghy for Ding Ding IV, and finally, finally have sealed the cockpit sole making it watertight. (Cross your fingers on the last one.) So all in all the past few days have been very productive. After all that hard work, we’re ready for a vacation! Time to get back to the cruising life!

Our friends Jerry & Laurie from Newburyport, MA will be in St. Thomas tomorrow on their cruise ship vacation, so we’ll meet up with them. On Sunday we’ll sail to a Boston bar at Coral Bay on St. John, watch the Pats take yet another Superbowl title, and then it’s on to explore the British Virgin Islands.