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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

How much stuff do you need on a boat?
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.
Little Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, BVI Tuesday, March 18, 2003
    We made a very brief stop in Nanny Cay, to hit the internet cafe and send pictures, get water, diesel and gas, say hello to a few people and then away we sailed. For variety we went to Benures Bay, Norman Island instead of Little Harbour, Peter Island. While diving the anchor, Lance found the snorkeling quite nice, and almost got distracted. In the morning, we had a nice snorkel, then took off for Virgin Gorda. Our plan was to stop in at Leverick Bay and do laundry, pick up a few supplies and spend the night at Drakes Anchorage. It is recommended that you make an early start for Anegada, which is a coral island surrounded by reefs. You need the overhead light to be able to see the coral heads. So we arrived in Virgin Gorda after a rapid sail, picked up a mooring in Leverick Bay and headed in with our laundry. Signs on all the machines: NO WATER. Seems a pipe broke, and lots of the condos and facilities were without water, which was supposed to have been fixed several days before. Island Time.
     Well, it was a good plan, but plans don't always work out. So we moved the boat over to Drake's Anchorage and picked out enough clothes and underwear for each of us to make it through some more days. These we hand washed and hung up to dry. We left some clothes in buckets in the dinghy overnight to let the bouncing dinghy action agitate them. Then we employed the technique invented by Sarah and Quincy of hanging some clothes in the lifeline gates, because they can't blow away like clothes-pinned laundry might.
    The sail to Anegada was great. We left at 8:30 and got there at 11:00. Unlike most of the Virgins, Anegada is not a volcanic cone but rather an upthrust where the tectonic plates meet. The highest point is 28 ft above sea level and the coral around the island covers a much larger area than the island itself. This is where the deep sea fisherman come for sport fish as the deep Atlantic side hits the shallow Caribbean side and the up welling provides a lot of food (sort of like Monterey) . It's very difficult to see the island, since it is flat. Finally, you see some tree tops. Navigation in is interesting as you must follow a specific bearing to a house with a white roof to thread your way in among the reefs. Needless to say, all the houses have white roofs but we could see the buoys and got in safely. The channel passes over coral heads which peak at 8 feet and between coral heads that are just below the surface. Believe me, judging the depth of coral heads from above your tender hull would be a nerve wracking experience in the absence of the marked channel. Boats drawing more than 7' can't get in at all. We anchored and went ashore to explore, finding Pam's Bakery with delicious bread. We thought about renting bicycles, but as we walked along the dirt, sorry, SAND road, we thought, this would be difficult on a bicycle, riding into the wind on sand. We walked up to the Anegada reef hotel and looked around. They are the main spot, since they are where you pay for moorings. So most boats go right there. They have taxi service to the beaches on the other side, bike and kayak and jeep rentals, and a gift shop. And of course the hotel, restaurant and bar. We used the phone to try to call Emma, but she didn't answer so we hung about for a while, and then walked back to the dinghy and motored back to the boat. We planned to go back and shuttle over to the other side where the snorkeling is, but decided to lay about and read for a while instead. So we didn't manage to go snorkeling until Monday.
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The shuttle takes you to a restaurant on the other side of the island. The restaurant provides shaded spots on the beach, and encourages you to order your meal before you go to the beach. Lots of fresh fish here: the lobsters are kept fresh in cages in the water off the beach so you can go admire them. Caribbean lobster is huge compared to Maine lobster, and they have no claws.
     The snorkeling was good, but there was a lot of surge trying to push you onto the coral. The lunch was delicious, and the beach was quite nice.
    While we were hanging out at our boat, a flock of bright pink flamingoes with dramatic dark wings flew overhead to go work the salt pond that forms the center of the island.
    This morning, Tuesday, we left Anegada after getting the pump on the aft head to work again. It had been losing its prime occasionally for a long time now, and finally just stopped pulling sea water in. It's working now, and that's all we have to say about that. We had a fast (4 hour) sail over to Cane Garden Bay on Tortola. This is a popular bay with lots of restaurants -- we haven't gone there this trip because we hear that all the cruise ships send bus loads of tourists over. The harbour was packed with boats and while looking for an anchoring spot we proceeded to have one problem after another, and ended up just turning around and exiting, and heading over to Jost Van Dyke. We are happily anchored here, had a lovely swim and shower and a peaceful moonlit dinner. This is where we were supposed to be. There is a full moon tonight.
    Reflections on living on a boat. You can sail around and anchor in interesting places and swim and snorkel and explore. But eventually, you need stuff. Usually, the stuff is food, water, diesel fuel, gas for the dinghy, and laundry facilities. Sometimes you need other stuff, like banks for money, internet cafes, post office, marine supplies for boat stuff, and telephones. Rich people have internet and telephone on their boats, but it costs lots. We do have email on the boat and that is great. What cruisers do to allow themselves more independence is reduce the need for water and fuel. You can install a water maker on your boat, but this uses power. So you install solar and wind power. You can also use solar and wind power to run your refrigeration. This means you can go days without running your engine. We have engine driven refrigeration, which means we need to run the engine for about 35 minutes twice a day. This gives us cold beer (and soda, water, cheese, vegetables and meat). But the engine running also charges the batteries, allowing us to run the radios (ham, vhf and regular), get email, use lights, etc. Many serious cruisers even have a washing machine. There is a model which washes and dries and uses very small space. And then there is TV, VCR, DVD, microwave, bread maker, blender, hair dryer, power tools -- lots of power consuming appliances. Oh, and air conditioning.
    Of course, the problem is that water makers, solar and wind power are all more things to maintain, more things that break down and need repair. Some people go the other route: simplify, do without even refrigeration, because then they need less power, and then they have fewer things to repair.
    Serious cruisers often have stuff tied on all over the boat. They have diesel, gas and water tanks tied to the lifelines. Spare parts and tools, extra sails and anchors overflow onto the deck with the life raft and antennas for all the radar, gps, vhf, ssb, sat phone etc.
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