It's amazing how quickly time passes on a sailboat. After boarding Gaiamar on Friday night, we finally left the marina on Sunday afternoon with Gene kicking and screaming to stay attached to the internet so he could Skype. Once we got to our anchorage in Benure's Bay on Norman Island he was glad we left the marina. The snorkeling was great and it was much cooler with the breeze since the marina is so protected. I snorkeled over the anchor to check its set, and it looked like it hadn't dragged at all when I set it. I anchored without Gene's assistance since he had discovered that he was able to get AT&T's signal from St. Thomas so he had his cell phone glued to his ear the entire time.
I had been awake for an hour or so Monday morning when suddenly there was a torrential downpour with thunder and lightning all around and a wind shift of 180 degrees which sent 2-4 foot waves into the bay. Now Gaiamar was on a lee shore with at least 30 knots of wind. (That's what I saw on the wind indicator, but others have since told me that storm had 60 knot gusts and even spawned a waterspout!) I watched the boat anchored next to us drift slowly toward shore as their anchor was dragging and Gene came out of his cabin rubbing his eyes wondering why the boat was bouncing around so much. Our anchor seemed to be holding, but I thought that it was a good time to charge the batteries so I had the engine on just in case. The blow was over in about 45 minutes, then the wind came back around to where it had started. Actually, that storm must have taken most of the wind with it since we ended up motoring to Jost Van Dyke for lack of wind.
Little Harbor was full of Sunsail Flotilla boats, but the dock at Harris' Place was open, so Cynthia welcomed Gaiamar to her dock. A rain cloud arrived at sunset, treating us to a rainbow colored by the rays of the setting sun. We had arranged to meet some friends from the Caribbean 1500 there for dinner, and kept watching for them to turn into the harbor, but they never arrived. Then about half an hour before our dinner reservation there was a knock on the hull, and Dwight was there with his crew and the crew of Bojangles IV. The boats were in White Bay and they had taken a taxi to Little Harbor to make our dinner engagement. Monday night is lobster night, so two of our party had the lobster, while I had the grouper prepared island style. Cynthia saved me a bowl of my favorite lobster bisque while the rest of our party had the bean soup. Did I mention that Cynthia makes the best Bushwacker in the BVI?
The next day we were also a power boat as there was still less than 10 knots of wind. Gene needed a pair of sunglasses so we headed into Soper's Hole. After lunch we went to Cane Garden Bay where we picked up a mooring for the night. The bay was almost deserted with only half a dozen boats there. We were treated to another beautiful Caribbean sunset that evening, then I did yoga on the aft deck while waiting for dinner to cook on the stove.
The next day dawned still with little wind, so we motored to Monkey Point for lunch and snorkeling. This is my favorite snorkel spot in the BVI and this day was not disappointing. I was surprised to see how good the visibility was in spite of all the recent rain, and the resident Tarpon and silversides were present in full force. At one point I turned my head a bit and saw a turtle not ten feet away from me. I slowly followed it as it swam gracefully through the water, a perfect example of neutral buoyancy, until it disappeared under a rock ledge. It was a short motor through Camanoe Passage from there to the anchorage at Marina Cay where all the moorings were taken, but I had planned to anchor there anyway since we were staying for two days to attend the Lattitudes and Attitudes International Cruiser's Party on Thursday night.
Thursday afternoon while snorkeling on Diamond Reef I ran into more Caribbean 1500 friends from Splendido, Crazy Horse and Mayananda. We had strayed a bit too close to the cut between Great Camanoe and Scrub Island and suddenly realized that in spite of constant kicking, we weren't making any progress against the current. Time to get serious about swimming, finally got free of the current and so avoided being swept out to sea. I had just enough time to shower and put on fresh clothes for Michael Beans' Happy Arrrgh! show at the Robb White Bar on Marina Cay where I ran into yet more cruising friends.
I had noticed the bilge filling with water more than usual so we returned to the marina on Friday to research that problem and to prepare the boat for sailing down-island. Head mechanic Joe tracked the water intrusion to a leaking shaft seal. Apparently the dripless gland was starting to fail after six years. By this time it was becoming apparent that Gene and I were not going to get along on the boat for another five weeks, so I headed over to the Royal BVI Yacht Club and found a boat to crew on the next day in the Around Tortola race. Seven hours baking in the sun and several new friends later, I returned to the boat for a heart-to-heart discussion with Gene and we both decided that he would leave the boat.
So now I am preparing to singlehand the next phase of my journey. I'm looking forward to being much happier with just my own company these next few weeks. After two weeks of southeast wind, it's predicted to back to the northeast tomorrow, so I'm heading to Dominica! 250 miles is halfway between the lengths of the Huron and Erie solos I did this summer on Shanti so I think I'm up to the challenge.