After the departure of Mom and Sis, we did some re-provisioning and laundry, and then on Mar 22 left Charlotte Amalie and traversed up to the BVIs to do some diving. We checked in at Soper’s Hole, and then moved over to Norman where we dove Angelfish Reef, in the extreme southwestern corner of the island. The winds were just enough north of east that the site was protected, so we spent the next two nights anchored in adjacent Privateer Bay, thereby avoiding the noise and mooring fees of the Bight. We were able to refill our scuba tanks at Sail Caribbean Dive Shop, Pirates Bight Branch. On the 23rd we dove Ring Dove, just outside the entry to the Bight. On the 24th, Spyglass Wall, on the north side of Norman. On the 25th we got bogged down with chores and getting tanks refilled, and on the 26th we dove the southeastern corner of Pelican, the small island just east of the Indians.
We enjoyed all of the dives, with Spyglass being our favorite, but they were all not without complications. On the first dive, Angelfish Reef, I had decided to take my housed camera down and renew one of my passions: underwater photography. I spent a great deal of time on Mar 21, relearning the controls, greasing o-rings, remembering how to rig the two external flashes, etc. Just before the dive I put the housing in a bucket of water to check for any leaks. Then, in preparation for the dive, I hung the housing (with camera inside) on a painter that suspended the outfit about 10’ below the surface. When I entered the water I checked the housing, and all appeared to be well. So I detached the housing and dropped to the edge of the reef to a depth of about 45’. Kneeling in the sand and adjusting the positions of the flashes, I noticed water drops on the inside of the lens port! Yikes! I immediately surfaced, but by the time I got myself and the housing aboard, there was almost a cup of water in the housing. Long story made short: my beloved Nikon d200 was ruined. I sent the housing back to the States to have all of the seals and o-rings replaced, and with any luck it will be finished in time to be sent to Bismarck, ND, so that niece Cathy and her husband Jon can bring it with them when they come to see us in Antigua in the middle of April. And I immediately ordered a used d200 from B&H in New York. (The housings are brand-and-model specific, and the d200 is no longer made.) As this is written my “replacement” d200 awaits our pickup at a mailing service in Cruz Bay, St. John.
In other news of “complications”, we first attempted to dive Spyglass from Tusen Takk II. But it was very windy and the painter on the dive mooring was very short. While Barb was attempting to get the end of the painter up high enough for her to send our lines through the eye at the end of the painter, the wind blew us off. Barb bravely tried to muscle the boat back into position by refusing to release the boathook from the painter, all the while shouting for me to come and help her. We have been in that situation before, and I am of the opinion, reinforced by bitter experience, that even such a brave and strong person as myself cannot prevail; the only hope is to stay at the controls and try to move the boat back into position, a task made especially difficult when, as is our case, the bow thruster is inoperative. Barb, on the other hand, maintains that had I come soon enough I could have threaded our line through the eye before we were blown off. (Digression: we have mentioned the bow thruster problem before; we are still awaiting the parts for a repair.) Our boathook is longer than many; it contains three sections rather than two, and extends to 12’ instead of 8’. This, because the bow of a Krogen is higher than many other trawlers, and certainly higher than most sailboats. Can you guess what happened? The last section of the boathook separated from its companions! But it floated, so we were able to retrieve it by using a fishing net. But the section, after being re-attached, refuses to telescope back into its intended nested position. So after the dive, which we did from our dinghy after temporarily anchoring the boat in Benures Bay, we made a special trip over to Nanny Cay, only to find that they only stock the 8’ versions. (Days later, Barb took a ferry over to St. Thomas where she purchased a shiny new 12 foot, three-part boathook, while I saw to the problem of mailing off the underwater camera housing.)
When winds shifted a bit more southerly, we ceased anchoring in Privateer Bay and spent our nights in the Bight. There, we enjoyed a few sessions at Pirates Bight restaurant/bar, including a reunion with long-time cruising friends Chris and Barbara (Moonsail), who we met oh-so-long-ago when we first entered the Caribbean in ’07. The Bight was unusually busy while we there, since it was the week before Easter and the Puerto Rican “armada” was in evidence.
But why is this entry entitled “Complications”? When the goddess of irony asked if we wanted any, we thought she said “compensations”, and we asked for extra!
The doors on the pilothouse are sturdy, metal, and “barn” style, with separate top and bottom. In addition to the latch and lock mechanisms, there are “dog” handles on both the top and bottom doors than can be used to close the doors extra tight during inclement weather or heavy seas. When we are washing the outside of the pilothouse and its windows, we employ the dogs to ensure that no water leaks inside. Recently, an outer dog broke off in Barb’s hand when she was preparing to spray a door. Krogen Yachts happened to have just one set on their shelf, and they sent it to us. We were anchored in the narrow shoulder at the approach to Cruz Bay when Barb took the ferry over to St. Thomas to look for a new boathook. When I had gotten the camera housing mailed off, I returned to the boat and decided to install the new door dogs, which come as a unit: an inside dog, a shaft and an outside dog. I removed the setscrews, but the inside dog would not come free from the shaft. I decided that before struggling with that complication, I should double check that the gap between the dogs was the correct length for our doors. So I opened up the door and stepped outside. No sooner had I done so, than the inside dog spontaneously separated from the shaft and fell to the deck and bounced into the water. I donned snorkel gear and fruitlessly searched for the dog in the sandy bottom. When Barb returned, I switched to scuba gear, and found the dog immediately. The sound you may hear is that of a goddess giggling.
On Mar 27 we checked out of the BVIs at Road Town, Tortola. Possession of the exit papers rendered us eligible to purchase duty free diesel at Delta Petroleum. We had done so last year as well, but this time there was a, um, complication. The large sailboat that snuck in just before us took forever. We couldn’t understand why. Circling endlessly just outside the fuel dock, we could see with our binoculars that there was no activity. What was the holdup? When at last it was our turn we learned the problem. New rules: a customs official must be summoned to ok and oversee the fueling operation, presumably to keep locals from the USVI from checking in briefly and then buying cheap fuel on their exit. But there was an additional complication, of course. The customs official that had serviced the sailboat had departed, and was not inclined to return so soon. So we waited. And waited. Finally, a different customs official was summoned, and we could proceed while the official napped dockside. But there was a complication. Strong winds from the east had necessitated that we dock on the port side. Not optimal, because the tank intakes are on the starboard side. We followed the rule of thumb that says to fill the tank furthest from the dock first. We had transferred most of our remaining fuel from the outside tanks to the center, so there was not much fuel in the starboard tank when we began fueling. So by the time the starboard tank was full, the boat was listing strongly to starboard. When I switched to filling the port side, the hose running from the starboard intake to the port tank apparently ran too steeply “uphill”, because the fuel would not flow into the tank. So the best that I could do was to top up the center tank, giving a total less than what I wanted to purchase. Four hundred and forty-six gallons at $3.95 per gallon. Not particularly inexpensive by USA standards, perhaps, but a good deal here in the Caribbean.