Back in the USVI (sung to the tune of Back in the USSR)

Sailed into the BVI on a catamaran. Didn’t get to bed last night. All the way the wind was at my back…..

We spent the night anchored in front of Spanish Town, leaving early the following the morning.

Note the house on the hill above our anchorage. It is a mile from the boatyard pictured in the last post.

Hurricane force winds took a 60 foor mast and moved it up a mountain a mile away.

This house is 300 feet up the hill and over a mile from the boatyard. Take a look at the close-up below.

Hurricane Irma spread pieces of boats far and wide.
Yes, that is a mast.

Stopped by Paraquita Bay (the infamous “pile of boats in the hurricane hole”) on Tortola. Beachcombed out front and man, there was a lot of stuff. Water toys, lifejackets, really stinky dead conch and fenders, lots of fenders…. While I played Beachcomber Bill, Ryan flew his drone over the bay. Did not look as polluted as I thought it would be. But how much radiator coolant and battery acid can you see? Diesel is more obvious of course (but did not see any of that).

Sailed back to Cruz Bay, St John in the midmorning and saw one other sailboat. Though expected, it was still amazing to be the only ones on the water. Felt like it could have been 50 years ago. And on an up note, the vegetation is coming back nicely. In fact, since all the leaves are sprouting from the ends and the small branches are missing, it looks like a garden of giant bonsai (is that an oxymoron?

Cruz Bay on St John and 1/3 the boats in the water. 1/3 of them were still on land (who knows about the other 1/3).

St John Post Irma

Coming into St John.

For all former students of VI Sailing School, (and anyone checking in to the U.S. through St John) you should recognize where we checked back in to the USA over the years.

Hurricane Irma in St John

St John Immigration and Customs, or whats left of it.

Check-in is now in Charlotte Amaile. A safari ride into town once a week is now part of the routine for a while.

Red Hook was amazingly untouched, even Duffy’s Love Shack (and it is/was a shack) is still up and running. Vessup Bay looks the same as the rest of the VIs. Boats on shore, a mast or two sticking out of the water. A lot of open space. Check out our drone footage on our V.I. Sailing School Facebook page.

Now back in Red Hook St Thomas we cooked up some dinner as the boat swung lazily on the mooring ball. I had a chunk of fish that we put on a large hook (so only the big fish could swallow it) and threw it over the side. Ryan was questioning this operation, “We can really catch something here at the mooring ball?”

“Sure, maybe a big grouper”, I said. Though I had only caught a shark and a ray. We say down to dinner about 5 minutes later and WHAM! The pole bends over lines starts running out. Ryan put up a good fight and what did we get?

Fishing in Vessup Bay

Tomorrow’s night dinner caught during tonight’s dinner.

The School is now back up and running. Classes have begun again, There are a few less beachside restaurants (for a few months at least) and a lot fewer boats and people (again, for a few months at least).

Cheers, Capt Scott

VI Sailing School

scott@visailingschool.com

Post Irma and Maria in the BVIs

IMG_20171031_063058789_HDRMonday, October 30th Ryan and I left St Kitts about 5am on our Leopard 44 “Speculation” and headed straight for Cooper Island in the BVIs. There we would meet our other boat Silver Lining, a Leopard 47 leaving from Saba about the same time. With very little news coming out of the area, we were a bit apprehensive as to what we would find.

Half way across we past a Canadian flagged sailboat with ½ a mast. We chatted with the guy on VHF and he told us that he was on his way to Antiqua to get a new mast and that he was only the second boat out of the yard at Nanny Key. This was 40 days AFTER Maria (which was mostly a precipitation problem) and almost two months since Irma. Only the second one out… that was the first indication of what was waiting for us.

We motor-sailed most of the day due to the 4-6 knot winds. This is best done with the windward engine which counter acts the weather helm (so the rudders stay straighter, which equals faster). The additional speed with an engine on brings the apparent wind forward and increases its speed, as long as you are sailing no deeper that 160 degrees apparent, in which case, the wind stays behind you and get softer as you outrun it.

During this time we fished, talked, did some minor repairs and napped.

Ryan multitasking.

Ryan multitasking.

With the lack of wind, we were looking at a 21 hour crossing. But as the sun was about to go down, a pod of dolphins put on a show off each of our bows.

Caribean marine mammals

Dolphin shows. Always a fun sight.

They road with us for 20 minutes.

They road with us for 20 minutes.

About 1am we came around the corner of Cooper Island, one of the most popular resorts in the BVIs and saw one boat; Silver Lining. In the morning, we got a visit from the staff at Cooper Island Resort. Though busy rebuilding, they came out to collect our mooring fees, just like any other time. So we went ashore and took a few photos. The big, heavy timbered restaurant looked as if nothing had happened. They are scheduled to reopen April 1st . Link to Cooper Island ResortIMG_20171031_112046068 IMG_20171031_112121726

BVI. Post hurricane

Down but not out, this beautiful resort (with a great rum bar) is on it’s was back.

How amazing it was to be the only two sailboats not just at Cooper, but as far as we could see…

Silver Lining with Tortola in the background. Looks like the 70s.

Silver Lining with Tortola in the background. Looks like the 70s.

cooper island BVIs

Paradise, all to ourselves.

While Silver Lining when back to Red Hook, we decided to take a tour to see what we would find when we began classes in less than a month.

First the good news. Markets, fuel, water, all open and in good supply. Sun, Sky, Water, all as beautiful as ever. Now the bad news: 

On the hard. Hurricane wind damage only.

Wind did this

 

Caribbean VI hurricane damage

Little did the owner know, this would be a sadly appropriate boat name.

Hurricane Irma in Virgin Gorda

There wasn’t much storm surge as the wind came up and over the island to get here. Everything is wind damage

Hurricanes and boats don't mix

These boat where in “Hurricane Storage”. This is what happens when the wind blows over 200mph.

The three restaurant/bars we visited that Halloween night were so happy to see us. In summary, saying, “Bring your customer and students, we need you!”. Which is where we met an insurance adjustor “Jason”. He was there from a San Diego company taking on a big job. We ended up at his hotel to watch the World Series. At the end of the game we realized it was after curfew. “No problem”, said Jason. And off we went in his car only to hit a couple of patrol cars blocking the road about 100 yards from the harbor. “I’ll handle this, just let me do the talking” said Ryan with an assured confidence he could talk us right through. Well, though nobody snapped photos (as would be inappropriate in that situation), here is an very close approximation of one the two officers who approached our car.

Virgin Gorda

Curfew patrol

Ryan rolls down the window and the officer says something like, “What is your business here, do you know that it is after curfew?!” After an awkward pause, Ryan said something like, “UHHH, Boat, aaah water, yeah in water where we sleep.  I mean… We’re going back to our boat.” Ryan (nor any of us) where ready for those two!

The next morning, we headed to the now infamous Paraquita Bay, were Moorings and Sunsail lost 100s of boats. Drone videos to follow of that, Boat US towing a boat while it sinks and more in my next post.

But to all  potential students and charters, it is wonderfully empty and tranquil and the VIs are not just open, they would LOVE to see you on the water. #VIstrong #BVIstrong .

Cheers,

Capt Scott

Back to the BVIs, Post Irma #2

Forgot to mention in my last post that our “Big Night Out” on Saba was preceded by washing off a few days of salt, dressing up nice,  then a dinghy ride that left us slightly wetter than if we would have swam ashore… all the while laughing. I had the right crew!

Back on St Kitts. I talked to the locals about all the sea life that was there in Frigate Bay in August, now gone. The general consensus was that it was all buried by sand dragged down the beach from another part of the island. More on that later…. But we did find a nice wreck, maybe 100 years old judging by the electrical equipment. And lots of fish.

caribbean wreck free diving

One of the many wrecks on St Kitts.

Shallow wreck. Great for free diving (aka snorkeling)

Shallow wreck. Great for free diving (aka snorkeling)

When we came across a couple of lion fish, I went right back for my Hawaiian sling. If you are wondering why, Click Here

irradicate Lion Fish.

Ryan slays two Lion Fish with one shot.

All in all we speared 8 lion fish, but there were still that many more. These all being too small to eat, but I can tell you from first hand experience, they are tasty. Just be careful cleaning them.

Lion fish kill in the carribean

Look but don’t touch. Highly poisonous spines.

During another morning of snorkeling, Chris came back on deck and sheepishly said, “It looks like there are a couple of canons down there.” So we all went down for a look. And yep. there they were.

Pirate ship canon or?

Brushing of the sand.

Deep Sea Treasure

Down for 100s of years with little sea growth. Buried since???

So finished another great day. My students passed all there ASA levels and were off the next morning along with my wife, all flying out of St Kitts leaving Ryan and I to return Speculation back to the VIs for the upcoming (post hurricane) school season.

Caribbean rum at sunset

They go down in this order: 1-An Anchor. 2- Drinks. 3-The Sun. Life is always better on a boat. And/or where it takes you. No Roads Required.

Coming up next. St Kitts to Cooper Island BVI. Being the only sailboat on the water. What we found over the next three days.

Back to the BVIs, Post Irma

My wife Marlene and I returned to St Kitts on October 13th. Our little boatyard there held up well. By the photos you can why Hurricane Irma, which passed well north of St Kitts, and Maria, with a glancing blow from the south caused little damage.

Safe Boats, Happy Goats

Safe Boats, Happy Goats

We spent the night before going back in the water in the boatyard, on land, on our Leopard 44 Catamaran “Speculation”. It would have been ok IF we had closed all the doors and hatches without screens, but no, we invited all the local mosquitoes to a feast instead. It didn’t cross my mind because mosquitoes are rare out over the water (the only way to travel in the tropics!).

An adventurous couple, Chris and Michelle joined us in St Kitts for a sailing class. Between the islands of Nevis, St Kitts, Sint Eustatius and Saba we found the usual great sailing weather of the Caribbean,

Sint Eustatius ("Statia")

Sint Eustatius (“Statia”)

but a lot that was very different from the Virgin Islands, such as:

  1. Rugged volcanic rain forested islands, looking a lot like Polynesia.
  2. Local population swim in the ocean. Unlike the VIs were most locals only get in the ocean on their cigarette boats… and most don’t swim (weird huh?) these natives are in the water at every beach.
  3. Super friendly. I think without the stampede of visitors, it is more “small town”. But even in the cruise ship town of Basseterre, people are notably friendly.
  4. Remote. Let’s talk Saba. With only a population of 1500 on about 5 square miles (Link Here). They not only have the shortest commercial runway in the world, they only have 5 visitor mooring balls for the whole island (but about 20 dive balls) and we were the ONLY boat. The island is Dutch and looks it.
    SABA SHOPPING

    Dutch Caribbean Supermarket.

    Industrious Dutch built an airport, a harbor and a road that they were told, "Couldn't be done".

    Industrious Dutch built an airport, a harbor and a road that they were told, “Couldn’t be done”.

    The towns high in the clouds make for mild temperatures. There is continental dinning (with a nice wine selection), tropical sounds (with no mosquitoes).

    My favorite restaurant

    My favorite restaurant

Now about the diving on Saba. There are spires, or pinnacles that come up from deep in the ocean to around 60 feet. You dive miles from land in to blue water… and so I was told. I had no dive equipment on this trip, but did snorkel. The sea life was fairly abundant, but NEVER have I swam IN a school of fish (like I was one of them) or right up to a turtle that looked at me for a second and then went back to eating. Much of the marine life there acting almost like I was not there.

Remora... Looking for a ride?

Remora… Looking for a ride?

Happy Free Divers

Happy Free Divers

 

Coming up next: Wreck diving, killing lionfish & finding cannons on St Kitts. Followed by our trip to, and what we found in the BVIs.

Answer to an online question about Sailing

Here is an answer to a Quora question (if you don’t know it, it is a site where people with experience in different subjects offer, buy and trade advice. (Some with unsurpassed credentials). 

Here is the question:

How do I get the experience needed to sail around the world such as Josh Slocum or Jeanne Socrates?

Click through or read Capt Scott’s answer below:

https://www.quora.com/How-do-I-get-the-experience-needed-to-sail-around-the-world-such-as-Josh-Slocum-or-Jeanne-Socrates/answer/Scott-Dempster-1?prompt_topic_bio=1

I did what the first three sailors suggested; Sail, sail, sail and learn from those you sail with. That is part of what you need, but be aware cruising and racing are two different animals. I witnessed a large (and avoidable) accident where a bunch of racer anchored in a new port at the end of a particular race. During the night they got caught up on each other’s anchor lines. Then in the morning, a few sailors made some very poor decisions that caused boats to be damaged. On the flip side, many cruisers do not know how to efficiently make their boats go.

I went from a racing background to a cruising background and at that time took some ASA courses. Boy did I have some bad habits. Why? Because I had learned from sailors who had taught themselves. That is not to say they do not have some great tips and insights, but as a group, a well-rounded approach is often lacking. My suggestion is to start by taking American Sailing Association (ASA) courses. They have levels starting from beginner up to crossing oceans and celestial navigation. It is more focused, giving quicker results as you handle all aspects of the boat relevant to each level. Without that it could take three racing seasons before you are allowed on the helm.

Funny, I just got a call from a prospective student which reminded me… Taking lessons is all I said above BUT, Do Not go home after receiving your certification and not go back out on the water for two months. Go out ASAP (a week or two). It will reinforce and more deeply ingrain the new world you have just recently absorbed.

Best of luck, fair winds and always…. Respect mother nature. Cheers, Capt Scott

Able Seaman

After the Hurricane, time to help

Irma came through the first week of September. Jose was close behind, delaying the departure of Silver Lining from my hurricane hole in St Croix. I finally did leave at 3am that Monday, taking 16 hours to get to St Kitts.

Silver Lining came out of the water the following Wednesday. That Friday, September 15th I took a commercial flight back to the mainland. The following Tuesday, Hurricane Maria (now also a category 5) hit St Kitts, then St Croix and with particular cruelty, the island of Puerto Rico. But our little boatyard in St Kitts held up well. When I will return there on October13th, I will post photos of why we weathered Hurricane Maria.

I, along with a small crew will return to the VIs on October 22rd or 23th with both Silver Lining and Speculation. My #1 mission will be helping with whatever I can in the VIs (Both US and British). Their needs are changing as the situation develops, but currently there seems to be a lack of understanding about the situation on the ground, along with bureaucratic red tape… which does not exist for me.

Though I will be one of the first (if not THE first) sailing schools back on line, I will be overly provisioned and fueled up, with water-maker running and in contact with (communications willing) ANYONE I can raise in the VIs, and take it from there.

Anyone that has a line of communication with the VIs, please contact me directly. All help is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely, 

Capt Scott

VI Sailing School

805 850 8135

scott@visailingschool.com

The day after Irma – St Croix USVI

   Day after irma   Irma passed us without incident. Top winds of 70mph, but I could have taken much more. I was tucked down in a channel of mangroves with no other boats in sight. Two anchors out, 6 points tied to the mangroves. All lines adjustable from the boat. When I could, I backed the cleat up with another cleat or winch & then cinched tight between them. The port side Mangroves had nearly 4” trunks, but the mangroves on the opposite bank had just two inch diameter trunks. So there I attached two or three smaller lines to a loop where the big line attached and ran back to the boat.

Mangrove Hurricane lines PTFrom the Port Side

Mangrove Hurricane linesFrom the Bow. Two lines from Mangroves to six attaching points on the boat. But on the starboard side I had two attaching points going to 5 mangrove tie-ups.

The following morning was cloudy but calm. I had a boat full of mangrove leaves and that was about it.

I had to get to town about two miles away to get both food and water. Being a runner, the three mile round trip distance would be no problem. But it was. Basically I had nothing in the tank. One good night of sleep was not going to make up for the adrenaline fueled prior two days. I got about a ½ a mile, before I dropped into a walk. I waved down an officer from the DPNR (Department of Parks and Natural Resources) driving by and told him my story. Officer Torrance was kind enough to call his supervisor and ask about my request for a ride. Not sure what his supervisor said, but Officer Torrance simply said, “Where do you want to go”?

St Croix had downed trees and power lines, but an open Wendy’s (breakfast) and then a market where I was able to provision as needed. Torrance then took me back to the fence I needed to jump to get into the area where Silver Lining was tied up. Thanks Officer Torrance!

I would have left the next morning (Friday), but now had to wait for hurricane Jose right behind Irma. For the next two days I caught up on sleep and a tour of St Croix from Humphrey.

20170907_083828Hurricane Ready Humphrey on Island Thyme.

We helped each other re-rig our boats as we watched a parade of C-130s, Ospreys then the ROAR of HUGE C5 Galaxies just overhead (we were at the end of the runway in our little mangrove channel) as St Croix was the airport (the only operating airport in the USVIs) bringing in supplies in support of St John and St Thomas.

F2oCyBHBig C-130 next to the monster C-5 Galaxy.

The next night I got on line and was able to see what I had run away from. A few photos:

2015-09-01_6269_Parquita-Bay-TortolaBefore: The Moorings/Sunsail Hurricane Storage. Tortola, August 2017

the moorings afterSame Bay….. AFTER Irma 

Then on Sunday, again at 3am, I left for my final trip, 110 miles to St Kitts where Silver Lining came out of the water and I got to head home, or so I thought until American Airlines canceled my reservations three days in a role due to havoc still being caused by Irma in the states (Miami is a major hub for AA).

To put this hurricane into perspective, according to the numbers; The Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) which is the total energy a hurricane expends over its life. Irma’s ACE was equal to the total of ALL Hurricanes in an average season.Caribbean Leewards and Irma

Currently, I am totally committed to getting back to the USVIs and BVIs with both Speculation and Silver Lining starting at the end of October. Classes are booked and I will make it happen. Simply put, our brothers and sisters down there need the business. And while I will not make much of a dent with a couple of boatloads of students a week, I will encourage others and show everyone that the VIs are strong and coming back.

#BVIStrong #USVIStrong

Cheers, Capt Scott

VI Sailing School