Friday, March 29, 2013

The Wreck of the Rhone

The Rhone was a mail ship in the mid 1800s.  It was anchored near Peter Island when a late hurricane came blowing through.  The captain has noticed the barometer drop and drop, which meant a storm was coming, but it was the end of October so they weren’t expecting a hurricane.  They ship rode out the storm at anchor, getting tossed around.  As the storm calmed, the Captain decided now was the time to make a run for the open ocean and fight out the rest of the storm there.  They had been tossed around so much they couldn’t even pull up the anchor, they had to cut it lose and leave it on the ocean floor.  As they headed out through the channel between the islands during the “calm”, they found they were in the eye of the storm, and were hit with the other side of the hurricane.  They were blown up on the rocks of Salt island, and the ship was split in half.  Cold water seeped into the ships boiler and caused an explosion.  The ship sank within minutes.  Only 6 of the 150 on board survived. 
Most of the ship is in deep water, but the stern section lies in about 20 feet of clear water and can be seen snorkeling.  David, Calvin, Savannah, and I went to check it out.  We approached the dinghy tie up line nearby, but we missed it on the first 2 tries.  At which point David decided to take over driving and grabbing the dinghy line because we “were embarrassing him”.  It’s hard to reach over the bow of the tender, 3 feet down to grab the line, especially when the driver (David) consistently runs over it, rather than stopping when we reach the line. 
Once we were geared up, in we went.  What we could see of the ship is in ruins, but the stern propeller is still intact and easily visible.  It was cool to see.  There were divers below us, and Savannah and Calvin had more fun playing with their bubbles then checking out the ship and the life that is growing on and around it.
DSCN4005 When we returned to the boat, David decided since he was already set up in his wet suit he might as well work on cleaning the bottom of the boat.  So we grabbed one of the air tanks, and reg. line and under the boat he went to get it cleaned off.  Isabel an Calvin wanted to help out too, so they worked a little on the bottom of the tender with their snorkel gear. 
After awhile, Calvin and I headed over to check out some of the snorkeling in the anchorage near the boat.  We saw an eel and 2 little lobsters.  Lots of colorful sponges and fish.  It was a great snorkel spot.  I tried to take Benjamin over to snorkel for a bit, but he only made to where the snorkeling starts and was ready to go back to the boat.  So we had to swim him back.  He missed out on seeing the eel and lobsters. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Blood Family Visits

IMG_1993David’s brother Michael, his wife Janae, and daughter Sydney flew into the USVI’s, to spend a week on board with us and visit the USVI and BVI’s.  We had a great time catching up and playing together.  We missed their son Sam, but he was on a fun school trip to DC and NYC. 

They caught an early flight in, so we still had a whole day ahead of us.  So we packed up and headed to a beautiful beach on the North side of St. Thomas, USVI.  Megan’s bay has a beautiful long beach with gorgeous soft white sand.  It was a great afternoon in the sand and sun and beautiful blue water.  The Beach was 10 miles from where we had anchored, and the winds had shifted south making it the perfect time to check out this great beach.  After we arrived back at the boat, we moved to the peaceful Maho Bay anchorage on the north side of St. John.  The water was calm and the view was gorgeous.   DSCN3672DSCN3685

The next day brought us a few surprises.  During the night Benjamin had fallen out of bed and broke his collar bone, (for that story—see that specific post)  so David and I abandoned the gang early in the morning to head into St. Thomas for xrays and Dr’s visits with Benjamin.  We left the little dinghy for the rest of the gang to use to visit some of the close by beaches.  We returned late in the afternoon to find out that the gang had visited Cinnamon Beach, snorkeled around and had a pleasant day.  They had a few trials trying to anchor the dinghy and Calvin ended up driving it around by himself chauffeuring the beach goers  between the beach and boat.  He’s a great kid!  We enjoyed a great dinner on the back deck of the boat and watched the beautiful sunset over the islands.IMG_2037IMG_2075

IMG_2089The morning of day 3 took us to the British Virgin Islands.  With our dog on board we had to make arrangements with the head vet to meet us at customs to clear in to the country since the BVI’s is Rabies free, they are particular about letting in foreign dogs from countries that have Rabies.  When we arrived at the port there was no where to anchor in less then 80 feet, so I kept the boat holding while David and Mike took the passports, paperwork, and Jessie into the customs docks for clearance.  About 20 minutes later they returned with stamped passports and clearance for Jessie.  We headed on our way to the nearby island of Jost Van Dyke.  We anchored on the east end for a day stop at Sandy Cay.  It was a little rolly, but we weren’t planning to spend the day the on the boat anyhow.  Sandy Cay is a small picture perfect island.  It has a beautiful beach and palm trees lining the small wooded area you can hike thru to the other side.  The sand here, while white and beautiful, is made from coral being smashed to bits against the rocks.  The waves were wrapping around the small island and would then roll up to the beach creating a little surf.  The kids had fun riding the boogie boards on the waves, but it made me a little nervous because it was rocky below the water.  The water was deep all the way up to the beach, so no one was hurt, but the waves could really push you around.  On the south end of the Cay the sand was really steep, where the water must come up that high at times.  The kids decided to try sliding down the steep end into the water.  Late in the afternoon we packed up our beach day and headed back to the boat.  It was time to find a calmer spot for the night. IMG_2120IMG_2167

IMG_2102We decided to tuck in closer to Jost Van Dyke,  There was still a little swell making it into the bay, but it was much better than the exposed area of Sandy Cay.  We anchored out near a huge beautiful sailboat and a mega yacht behind us.  The Mega Yacht, Lady Christine, even had a helicopter on board.  Crazy! 




The restaurant’s mensroom sink.  David thought it should be captioned “There!  I fixed it!”

That evening we made reservation to visit one of the local restaurants on the Island.  Jost Van Dyke has few residents, especially on the east end near us.  We took the tender into the next bay over and had a fun dinner at a restaurant that was barely more than the back deck of a local’s house.  In fact when we arrived, and we were the first of their dinner guests to arrive, the owners were out back taking their laundry off the line.  The owners were very friendly and helpful.  The lady came out and helped us tie up and then showed us the fresh lobsters in the cage, in the water at the dock.  Janae and I ordered lobster for dinner.  For a medium portion they took a very large lobster, cooked it and cut it in half.  It was delicious.  The lime butter sauce that came with it was so good.  Michael tried a conch dish, and David ordered the BBQ Chicken.   The restaurants policy is “you make your own drinks”.  There is a “bartender”, but his job is to just show you where the things are, then you make it yourself.  Michael made me a Shirley Temple, of 7up and grenadine juice.  Janae tried a Caribbean local Mauvi soda, which tastes a little like root beer with a bite that gets you after you swallow.  It is made from the bark of a tree.  We sat at a picnic table on one of their docks and had a great time.  Great food, great company, makes it a great night.




In the morning we decided to take advantage of the beautiful beach in front of the anchorage.  Sandy Spit, a completely separate island from nearby Sandy Cay, is another picture perfect spot.  It is very small, hence the name “spit”, instead of cay.  It is beautiful white sand and just a handful of palm trees.  You can walk the whole island in about 5 minutes.  We enjoyed the morning playing in the sand and water.  Michael and Janae did a little snorkeling, but with the waves there was a lot of sand moving in the water which made the visibility poor.  A couple more mega yachts came into the anchorage and we watched them get out their toys.  One even set up a big waterslide from their top deck.  David came and picked us up from the beach, but only the little ones hitched a ride back with him.  The rest of us swam back to the boat from the beach.DSCN3707  IMG_2306_thumb[1]

Once all of us were on board, we hoisted the anchor and set out for a new spot to explore.  We planned to anchor off Guana Island north of Tortola and spend sometime at a nearby snorkeling spot, but the anchorage had a little roll.  We decided to try a different anchorage around the corner, but it also was a little rolly and put us a little closer to some rocks then I felt comfortable, so we headed even further east and ended up anchoring behind a busy mooring field off Marina Cay.  The Lady Christine anchored nearby again too.  Another night of staring at the huge mega yacht and their fancy helicopter up top.  David took the Blood’s and those who wanted to go for a tender ride around the area.  They also went across the way to Trellis bay on Tortola to check out the village there.IMG_2248DSCN3718

The next morning we headed off early to Virgin Gorda and the infamous Baths.  We found a spot to anchor a little north of the Baths where the water was a little shallower.  I have been surprised at how deep so many of the anchorages are here.  It is a new experience for us to anchor in 40-50 foot depths regularly.  Previous to the Virgin Islands, the deepest we had anchored was around 45 feet, and only like twice before.  Usually we pick spots that are 15 feet or less.  The deeper the spot, the more line we have to put out which means the more area you could possibly swing.  Which always makes me nervous anchoring near other boats.  But on to the fun stuff…

DSCN3748The Baths were amazing!  It’s a super popular place to visit here in the BVI’s, and now we know why. We arrived early in the morning, and the boats were filling in, one right after the other, like a parking lot of water park on a super hot day.  Our  friends back in Puerto Rico drew out a map of the Bath area and what to check out.  Mainly the trail.  Looking at the area from the boat is beautiful.  Large boulders climbing up out of the water, stacked and leaning, while water moves around and thru them.  It’s very alluring.  There are 2 Beaches in the Bath’s vicinity, and between the 2 beaches is a trail to hike, scramble, or swim thru to get to the other beach.  We started at the North beach and tied our tender to the dinghy tie up and had to swim in.  I knew it was a swim in, so we left Madison on board RCabin with Benjamin (and his broken Collar bone) and Alexander, who is too little too swim.  We put on our snorkel gear to swim in to the beach.  Even Matthew got out a set of snorkel gear, he had never worn any before, but it was to cute to resist when he pulled out a mask and fins and said he need his “Dolphin on”, so cute, so we put them on him.  He swam in on my back and didn’t even put his  masked face in the water.  DSCN3724

DSCN3742DSCN3755We climbed up the small beach and found a place to drop our snorkel gear and headed off for our hike, except we followed David—who picked the wrong trail.  We ended up at the restaurant and exit to the parking lot, where they charge an entrance fee to get back in.  We turned around and headed back down that trail, back to the beach, where we took the right trail to Devil’s Bay.  It was loads of fun wandering thru these boulders.  The Baths are like a water park, but all natural, made by volcano’s and earthquakes, rather than humans. It is amazing to explore how this part of the earth was created and the beauty we have.  We climbed up to a look out point.  At other points we crawled under boulders to get to the other side, we watched the tide wash in lots of water at once and the splash it created as it funneled thru tight spaces.  We swam thru the boulder created pools.  About an hour later we reached Devils Bay.  A beautiful sandy beach, with boulders strewn about. The surf was up and the kids had a great time playing as the water would rush up the beach and thru the boulders.   The boulders were created by a Volcano, millions of years ago.  It really is amazing and so much fun.  It is definitely a MUST DO, if you visit the BVI’s.  DSCN3783


DSCN3824It was lunch time, so David, Matthew and I hiked back thru the boulders to the beach where we left the tender.  We swam out to it and then drove around to Devil’s Bay to pick up the rest of our kids to head back to the boat for lunch.  Michael and Janae took Sydney out for lunch at the restaurant where they sampled some local cuisine.  I stayed behind on the boat to feed the baby, and put him and Alexander down for a nap.  Benjamin and I had a few rounds of UNO too.  The other kids, David, and Madison grabbed a quick lunch and then headed back to the beach to meet up with the Blood’s for more fun at the Baths.  DSCN3832




Late in the afternoon everyone returned to the boat and took a few jumps off the boat from the flybridge.  Our own version of cliff jumping.  Michael even tried out a flip.  It was then time to pull up the anchor and head to a calm anchorage for the night—Peter Island here we come!

We found a nice spot in the big calm bay of Great Harbor on Peter Island.  We dropped anchor, then settled down for the night.  We had dinner on the back deck as the sun set over the islands.  It had been a beautiful day. 





The next day we put out our trampoline for the kids to play on.  David took the kids tubing on the hot dog.  Sydney loved it! Matthew on the other hand, hated it.  We are proud of him for giving it a try! 


IMG_2595In the afternoon once the little kids were down for a nap, we loaded the older kids, Michael, and Janae in the tender, and headed out for some great snorkeling.  First stop was the Indians and the Pelicans.  Benjamin and Savannah hung out in the tender.  We brought Benjamin, just to get him out for a bit, with his collar bone broken he hadn’t left the boat in a few days, and Savannah wasn’t interested in snorkeling.  There were lots of fish and beautiful color to see in the area.  Along with lots of sea fans and soft corals.  As we loaded back into the tender, Michael pulled out his phone and laptop to get some quick work done.  We hadn’t found a great internet connection at the anchorage, and at the Indians we were just a few hundred yards from St. John—USVI, his phone quickly connected to a US AT&T tower so he could hop online and make some domestic calls.  After a few minutes of work, it was off to the next snorkel site on nearby Norman Island at the Caves.  There are a few caves to swim in and snorkel.  One goes quite deep into the island, we turned around when we got too scared from the dark, although David said he made it all the way in to the back.  There were beautiful orange and purple sponges all around and plenty of fish to watch. 



We then headed back to the boat where the kids played off the back on the trampoline.  That evening, we had a date night for dinner at the Cooper Island Beach Club, where I had a delicious tuna, Janae had snapper, and both Michael and David had the Roti—a local dish.  All of our food was delicious.  We tried a few desserts, and they were just okay.  But no worries, we had frozen Peanut Butter pie and Coconut Ice Cream on the boat for later.  IMG_2586

The next morning—our last day with our guests on board.  We offered up a few ideas for the morning, and the kids voted for more tubing time.  Even Michael joined them for a ride on the hot dog.  After a few rounds on the hotdog, they happily played on the trampoline until it was time to get ready to head to town.  They had an early flight in the morning, so they were going to take the ferry that afternoon from Roadtown, BVI to Charlotte Amalie, USVI.  This way they could clear in to customs and spend an evening touring Charlotte Amalie.  They would stay in a hotel that night and then catch their early flight to head back home.  IMG_2744


We had a great time having the Blood’s on board!  It was fun to visit with family, explore somewhere new, and watch the kids play together!  We hope they will come back again, and maybe Sam will make it next time too.IMG_2631

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Our first broken bone

Poor Benjamin broke his collar bone.  He fell out of bed in the middle of the night.  Usually he sleeps in a top bunk bed with a lee cloth that holds him in and keeps him from falling, but we had family visiting so he and Matthew were sharing the bottom bunk where Matthew sleeps.  It’s only a 2 foot fall, but that was enough to land wrong and break the bone.

In the morning we made a call to the clinic on St. Thomas, but after talking with some other boaters who spend way more time in the USVI then us, we called the clinic back to ask if they could do xrays.  They said no, but that after the DR sees him, they would refer us to the lab in Charlotte Amalie for xrays.  Once we talked with the Dr., she explained that after the xray we could walk over to the orthopedic office to get a sling.  A few hours and a tour of St. Thomas later, we arrived at the orthopedic office and realized that this is where we should have come first.  Next time some one breaks a bone we will look up orthopedics rather than a local clinic.  We spent extra money on going to the clinic first.  Lesson learned. 


We arrived back at the boat late afternoon to find our visitors, Michael, Janae, and Sydney, and the rest of our kids had returned from a few hours at the beach.  Everyone admired Benjamin’s new sling.  We even looked at his xray and broken bone on the computer.

None of our other kids have broken a bone, Benjamin is the first.  Matthew had stitches last year, twice.  Having a broken collar bone hasn’t slowed Benjamin down too much.  He still managed a day at a beautiful sandy beach.  The hardest part has been getting his shirts on and off.  So we decided to put a clean shirt on each night, rather than a PJ top and then he could wear the clean shirt till the next night.  After spending time cleaning him up from all the sand, we decided he could take a day or 2 off from the next excursions and enjoy special time on board playing games.  He missed out on a great adventure exploring rocks and caverns at the Baths, but luckily he had fun just staying on the boat. 


He’s healing well, until Matthew shoves him in his shoulder, or he trips and falls.  But after a quick cry of pain, he is up and running again. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Scuba Certification

David’s brother and family were planning to fly out in a week to join us for a week touring the BVI’s. We had some time to hang out and enjoy St. John in the mean time. So we decided to look into getting scuba certified. We had wanted to do it for a few years, but I have also spent the last few years pregnant, which meant I couldn’t get certified or even go diving.  We found a great shop in Cruz bay that would let us pick up the course work from them, but do it all on our own. We just had to show up for 3 days of diving. The price was just a little more than the research I had done last summer in Boise, but here the price included all the diving costs for certification AND took less time away from the family. If we took the course in Boise, we would have had to attend classroom time and travel to the dive sites with travel expenses.  So really getting it done here was probably less money overall AND a much cooler diving experience.IMG_1937_thumb[1]

Over the weekend, David and I did our “school work” then on Monday morning we headed over to Caneel Bay to anchor closer to town where we would be able to take the smaller dinghy in to the dive shop. The problem with Caneel Bay is the amount of water traffic. Ferries rush by all day, along with numerous small water craft and larger boats. Needless to say, the wakes roll ALL DAY LONG. I felt bad leaving the kids and Madison there all afternoon. By evening it calms a little which is good. In the morning we went to shore, to get away from the rolly boat. We were able to turn in the kids packets and get their junior ranger badges. We also went to the store to pick up eggs and fresh fruits and veggies.


Diving was great! The first day it was just me and David and our instructor, Austin. We took our tests from our book work, then headed off on the dive boat. We spent time in the water learning all the skills we needed to certify. When we first descended under the water the mask I had just leaked and leaked and I struggled with the breathing. Austin signaled to go back up, but I couldn’t figure out how. He just grabbed me and up we went. On the surface he said—you just kick to go up, and I thought—DUH! We switched out masks and back down we went. I was still freaked out by the whole event – breathing under water, looking up at the top of the water, watching fish swim by us,… the whole thing was so surreal. I had to focus on what Austin was communicating to us and wanted us to do, because--- there is no talking under water, of course that was hard for me. We did 2 different dive sites and ran thru all the skills. It was a good day.

The next day we only had a handful of skills to review and plenty of time to scuba. It was so much fun. I only had a short freak out moment on the first descent, and then no problems. We practiced more equalization since we were going deeper than the day before. We saw some fish we’d not seen before, a nurse shark sleeping, and a leopard flat worm. 

By day 3, we were feeling very comfortable in the water.  Our last dive site of the day was very cool.  We swam thru some cool little canyons of reef and saw things we hadn’t see before.  The colors were awesome.  Beautiful sponges and corals.  We saw a stingray buried in the sand, and I found another nurse shark sleeping under a rock.  We saw a lobster, an eel, and lots of other neat things.  Then it was time to pass of our final skills.  We are excited to continue on in this new hobby.  David enjoyed diving more than he does snorkeling.  Wahoo…. finally certified!


Friday, March 15, 2013

Exploring St. John’s


If you want a beautiful place in the Caribbean to visit without a passport—I highly recommend St. John.  It is very beautiful here.  And aside from all the boats—It is quite remote.  There are a lot of tourists, but way less than a lot of other vacation places.  There aren’t any giant resorts here, so there are less people.  Cruise ships come every day, and they thrive on tourism here. But the cruise shippers take the day trips, or even just stay on St. Thomas, leaving St. John to those of us who venture to it.  There are hundreds of charter boats for the day, the week, the month here.  It’s hard to find live aboards like us, because there are soooo many chartered boats at each anchorage.  Most of them are sail boats, but there are several large mega yachts too.  They are fun to watch and admire.  The sailboats, because they are on a weeks vacation, move around every few hours, trying to fit in all that the Islands have to offer.  We sit at an anchorage for at least a few days (unless weather drives us away), so we watch the other boats come and go all day.

Most of St. John is a US National Park.  This means a Junior Ranger Badge to earn for the kids.  So we headed into the park office located in Cruz Bay for packet info and to find out what else we should see and do in the park.  IMG_1551

IMG_1538The next day the winds shifted and surge started coming into our peaceful anchorage.  That meant it was time to move on.  And with the wind change, we could now head to an anchorage on the north side of St. John.  We pulled into Francis Bay, but found it was still getting a bit of north waves into it, so we went a little further east to Lienster Bay.  There we found it more calm and peaceful.  We decided to take a look at picking up a mooring ball rather than anchoring.  We had been told, and all the park info we read said the mooring balls were only for boats up to 60 feet in length, and we are at 65 feet.  As we pulled up to the mooring ball we found it marked for a big boat, 61ft – 100ft.  We were excited that there were mooring balls just for us to use.  During our stay there we saw lots of boats, under 60 feet pick up those big boat balls not knowing they are taking up a mooring for a larger boat.  There are only a few of those mooring balls around, so I was sad to see other boaters not paying attention when they could choose a different mooring.  I also hope the park will update their info so the word will get out and other large boats will know there are moorings available for big boats.  The park would like to go anchor free as it can damage the coral and sea life below.  However, they are not doing a great job of getting helpful info out.



IMG_1517Leinster bay was a good spot to go ashore and visit the Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins and Windmill.  The park as volunteers stationed there most days to answer questions and share in some of the traditions of the Island.  A lady was baking the type of bread that was made in the 1800s.  Down by the garden there was fresh coconut to sample.  IMG_1493

IMG_1521From Annaberg we followed the road to a short trail that took us out to the beach on Francis bay.  We could see the beaches on both Maho and Cinnamon Bays from here.  It was quite picturesque.

We stayed at Lienster Bay for a few days and had fun snorkeling the area.  Benjamin and I swam from the boat about 50 yards towards shore where a lot of day trip boats brought people to snorkel.  We saw lots of parrot fish, and lots of sea cucumbers.  On the way back to the boat David came by in the tender and picked us up.  He took us over to Waterlemon Cay nearby and I snorkeled there for a bit while he took cold Benjamin back to the boat.  I then made the long swim from there back to the boat to find that Calvin and Isabel were now ready to go snorkeling.  So back to Waterlemon we went in the tender.  Madison soon joined us and we explored the area more.  We saw some beautiful stands of elkhorn coral.  I saw a turtle pop its head up, but couldn’t find it in the water.  We saw lots of different fish and LOTS of spiny sea urchins.   After snorkeling we got out our fish ID book to look up what we had seen.DSCN3631_thumb[1]DSCN3639_thumb[1]IMG_1532

We also celebrated Benjamin’s Birthday while at Lienster Bay.  Benjamin is now 5 years old.  The kids enjoyed their day off of school to celebrate.IMG_1689

At night we enjoy checking out what fish are swimming around the boat.  With a bright flashlight we can often see tons of tarpon off the side of the boat looking to eat.IMG_1770IMG_1647

Gorgeous sunsets every night.