Kir McLinn

  • Day185

    The Baths!

    March 23, 2016 in British Virgin Islands ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Day 4 was the day I had been waiting for, a visit to The Baths! You’re not allowed to bring your dinghy to shore, instead there are bouys to attach your tender and then you’re expected to swim ashore. All guidebooks mention the swim is not for the weak. Ok, but I’m young and fit and most guidebooks tell me a 3mile hike in the VIs is considered difficult, which I politely disagree with. I took the warnings with a grain of salt. Don’t do what I did the swim can be difficult. There are surges that roll through and crash after the steep dropoff on the beach. What our guidebook failed to mention is the red flags on the beach signaled there are stronger than usual wave conditions. Great. We had snorkels and flotation devices, we all made it in but not without an exhausting fight.

    Finally! Our efforts finally paid off in the form of this magnificent and wild scenery. We found the path for tourists and quickly found our way up and away from the path.

    We spent the night in Spanish Town and found the ocean front restaurants to be a bit pricey and with a less than local feel. We ended up talking to a driver in an open-aired bus who dropped us off at one of his favorite restaurants. It was a perfect mom n pop restaurant with outdoor seating and ridiculously good bbq. Yay! Does life get better? Sailing, adventuring, bouldering, friends, bbq, and fresh passion juice.

    We spent the night in a marina because the swells were just too rowdy in the anchorage for top-heavy Gaia to spend the night. And the following day we had a great sail to Norman Island. We tried racing a catamaran but once they realized how to use the entire main sail we were toast. Norman Island in the afternoon was fairly crowded. The wind had picked up and the few anchoring spots were filled with other boats. We looped around the vast mooring field for the second time as rain began to pour. It was then a voice from heaven (or the mist) called out to Gaia. ‘There’s a mooring behind you!’ Sure enough, an off-colored mooring was indeed bobbing helplessly in the wind. Mike tried his best to keep the bow steady in line with the mooring ball pendant and I cumbersomely hitched a dock line with Tom and cleated it off securing Gaia for the night. I came back slightly chilled and soaking wet. Danise informed me there were gusts up to 30 knots while I was on the bow. I nodded my head feeling a little badass that we had just secured Gaia so effortlessly. It really does make all the difference having another pair of hands on deck.
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  • Day184

    Trellis Bay Tortola

    March 22, 2016 in British Virgin Islands ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    With St. John and Jost Van Dyke & the Channel Islands (Cooper, Peter, Salt, Normans) covered, our next destination to discover was Virgin Gorda (the fat virgin) with Tom & Danise. We had a great sail from Peter Island to the Bitter End, Tom took a go at the helm and sailed Gaia close hauled like he’d been doing it for months. In the afternoon we anchored in the calm waters of Eustatius and just right of the famous shallow snorkeling. Since Saba Rock was only a cables throw away we dinghy-ed over for the cocktails and tarpon feeding. Saba Rock has such a relaxed vibe, it’s where all the cool dinghies go to hang out and their owners sit idly on the dock drinking their high-priced cocktails watching kite surfers perform jaw-dropping tricks.

    We learned there was a full moon party in Trellis Bay and made sail for Tortola to have our own experience in the full moon revelry. We arrived at Trellis Bay… and it was packed, more aptly defined as a sh!t show or a fog of boat masts – it was tightly anchored. Let’s put it this way; being between a rock and hard place was beginning to look roomy. We slowly and carefully meandered the premise, in hopes to find something the other 10 boats in front of us didn’t and sure enough! Winner! On the outer edge close to shore! We surreptitiously motored over, I felt like the submarine commander in WW II b&w movie trying to creep along enemy lines. There were hungry sailboats in every direction eager to jump on a mooring ball or sink their anchor in any ole patch of open water. We maneuvered to the cramped but unoccupied pocket and crept to a halt to anchor. This is what we had been training for. These past six months of hand signals, strong currents, timing, placement…. after 2 tries we anchored in just the right area. We were golden! We watched as other sad boaters skimmed past our transom with forlorn looks of despair at not finding anything.

    We decided to grab a drink before dinner at this small island in the middle of the harbor. All the reviews made mention of young English hipsters who ran the bar. Of course we had to investigate these ‘youngens’. We arrived seconds after the bartender opened for business and had our first round of margs. We meandered to the outside and found a spacious yard with giant jenga, swings made from crates to lounge on, cornhole, fussball, every hipster/frat outdoor game you could think of, it was adult recess.

    The moon began to rise as the sun sunk beyond the horizon, when we saw flames on the beach we took that as our calling. Live festive music was playing at full blast upon arrival and our friends Megs & Tom just happened to be sitting not 10 feet away from the dinghy dock and almost done with their first round of drinks. Fire-Sculpture-trio2 We roamed the beach and perused the art village and all the amazing steel creations and designs. There was a family friendly area and fires ablaze every hundred yards or so. There were several dance parties & jumby walkers spread out but the main attraction were these sculptures stuffed with paper and lit on fire. It was the Burning Man of the Virgin Islands! Far more tame but far more accessible for us. We enjoyed our 2 EC red stripes and danced until Megs & Tom and Nils & Lisa had to catch the last free ferry back across the channel. It was fun festive and lively. Definitely check it out if you’re in the area.
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  • Day179

    Salt Island BVI

    March 17, 2016 in British Virgin Islands ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Once a salt farm, this island held a small village that was slowly abandoned in the 1940's... After diving on the Rhone we hiked around the island, leisurely roaming after small herds of goats. We ended a most spectacular day hiking to the top of the island and watching the sun go down over the VIs. Woot!Read more

  • Day179

    Scuba on the RMS Rhone

    March 17, 2016 in British Virgin Islands ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    We eventually left Christmas Cove for Cooper and Salt Island of the Channel Islands, to dive on the famed RMS Rhone. We descended at the stern to 35 feet and descended our way forward to the bow (the bowsprit lay at 90 feet). Within minutes of our descent we encountered a giant green moray eel….. swimming! He swam right between us! I didn’t realize they ever left their little caves… This beast was at least 10 feet long and slithered through the water gracefully, finally diving into a compartment in the back of what was once part of an engine. I thought it exquisite but cute; while its head & body was hidden about 3 feet of its tail was still exposed as it had outgrown its old hiding spots. Mike later said he had the urge to pull on the tail; needless to say I’m glad he suppressed his 10 year old self. We swam back and forth over and under the old engine room and decaying hull. The RMS Rhone broke in two and now rests on its side so you can see old portholes from above and swim into what once was the deck. We saw some enormous lobsters and beautiful angel fish. The amount of coral and fish life was amazingly bountiful and beautiful.dive site.
    But not so much that it took my mind off the fact that I was now 90 feet underwater and every inch of me was compressed by more than a few atmospheres. It’s a little alarming how long it takes your air bubbles to reach the surface at 90 feet. Feeling a little cold and recognizing I was approaching low air, we both slowly ascended on a mooring line – zero complications. No fire coral to report of.

    Background on the RMS Rhone:

    RhoneThe RMS Rhone was a 310 ft mail steamer. Powered by sail (2 masts) and steam engine. On October 29 of 1867, Robert F. Wooley captained the ship and was preparing her for the return voyage to England. The end of October generally marks the end of hurricane season, so when a Northerly wind began to blow and barometer began to fall, he dismissed it as a northerly front. At the time it was a beautiful day but the captain directed the ship to Road Town, Tortolla to weather the “storm”. At 11 AM, the barometer fell to 27.9 and the sky darkened quickly. Immense winds blew from the NNW destroying the main sails & rigging. A lull passed over so the captain made a the quick order to anchor. But the shackle of the cable caught in the hawsepipe…. (And translation for all the non-maritime folk… ‘messed up their ability to anchor – real bad’.). They were forced to drop the 3,000 lb. anchor and all 300 ft of anchor chain (trans: ‘seriously not good’). Captain Wooley took the appropriate option of weathering the storm out at sea. It was with full engines running, the RMS Rhone turned out to cross the Sir Francis Drake Channel and pass the Channel Islands. By that time the RMS Rhone had almost navigated its way through the Channel Islands, the SSW winds had started up in full strength and forced the RMS Rhone into the rocks, just off of Salt Island. The boat heeled over and broke in two, sinking instantly. There were crew and passengers onboard; of the survivors, I believe, 18 or so crew & 2 passengers survived the sinking.
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  • Day176

    To Jost!

    March 14, 2016 in British Virgin Islands ⋅ 🌧 24 °C

    Our last few days we explored Jost Van Dyke enjoying pain killers from the Soggy Dollar Bar, (supposedly where the recipe was created) and danced on the beach with a bunch of spring breakers having a good time.
    The Soggy Dollar gets its name from boaters arriving, throwing down their anchor, then swimming to shore for a drink; there’s even a line with clothespins to dry out the sopping-wet tens and twenties. After enough partying we spent the night off Maho Beach and dinghied into Cruz Bay where by Corey and Jamie’s combined worldly knowledge won trivia night! Technically we didn’t win win, the bar tenders won but they had won every trivia night for the past month and we had the severe disadvantage since teams were allowed to buy the moderator drinks in exchange for points…. Bartenders won again but team Masshole Sailors came in second place.Read more

  • Day163

    The Bitter End Virgin Gorda

    March 1, 2016 in British Virgin Islands ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    It’s that time again. Full tanks, full propane, full water tanks, and laundry is all set. We chipped away at our seemingly endless list of boat chores and found victory in our accomplishments. St. Maarten struck us as a home away from home and we’d love to return to the island paradise but for now, we’ve made arrangements to pick up friends and sail around the VIs.

    The Virgin Islands are a cluster of islands with all forms of interesting dives, coves, caves, and anchorages for cruisers. The islands provide wind shadows and great barriers to the wild ocean seas making the Sir Francis Drake Channel a very enjoyable place to sail. It’s no wonder hundreds or sailors flock here each winter.
    Our overnight sail was beautiful, we flew the spinnaker for half of the trip and enjoyed a star-studded night. We passed several vessels and I watched a lightning storm pass at a safe distance. En route, I read that the US bought the Dutch portion of the Virgin Islands for $25 million in 1917… nicely done Uncle Sam…. At the time the Virgin Islands were in economic decline from the abolition of slavery. The main export was sugar which had been heavily dependent on slave labor. But far before that ugly period in time; Christopher Columbus discovered the Virgin Islands in 1493 and named the island chain the Virgin Islands after Saint Ursula and the 11,000 virgins. (Virgin Gorda -fat- received it’s name because the island resembled a reclining woman with a protruding belly from the seaside vantage point).

    Having never heard of this Saint Ursula or the 11,000 virgins, I did a little research, I mean, 11,000 virgins… that’s a lot of dames. Why 11,000? What happened to them? From what I’ve gathered from a few sources, Saint Ursula lived between 300-600 AD… (she lived 1500 years ago, & they narrowed it down to 300 years, way to go historians). Ursula was betrothed to marry a complete stranger higher in rank. To meet her soon-to-be husband, she boarded a ship with her hand maidens ranging anywhere between 11 to 11,000 in number. Oh, how stories are skewed sometimes. The long and arduous voyage was miraculously completed in a single day. Taking this to be a sign, Ursula declared she would make a panEuropean pilgrimage with all 11 or 11,000 handmaidens before the wedding (sounds like someones stalling to me). Their journey landed them in Cologne Germany, which, unfortunately was invaded by the Hun troops. The handmaidens refused to be with or marry the invading troops so they were tragically beheaded. Ursula was brought to death by the bow and arrow of the Hun soldiers. One of histories tragic tales, and in part, made immortal by Columbus giving respect to St. Ursula by way of the beautiful island chain we now call the Virgin Islands.

    Around 9 AM we passed Sir Richard Bransons famous Necker Island, we made our way through the narrow passage by Saba Rock and found a cozy little place to anchor in the lee of Prickly Pear Island – only a skip away from Saba, Bitter End Yacht Club, and Customs.

    When I was a kid my family and our good family friends, the Lainos, chartered a Beneteau throughout the Sir Francis Drake. It was at the beautiful Bitter End, I learned how to swim by myself. So, revisiting this place was one of nostalgia. Mike and I stayed here for a few days to recoup and play around with my brand new scuba setup! Mike had purchased his own scuba gear last year so it was about time I join him in exploring watery deep. In St. Martin we stumbled upon great gear on sale; new BCD, new regulator/octopus, new shorty wetsuits for both of us, and lightly used tank for $ 1,000. I’m sure if we had reliable internet and searched high and low there’s a better deal out there…. but for the ease of walking in and walking out in an hour or so… we were excited. We pulled off two beginner dives, testing our buddy breathing, clearing goggles 30 feet under water, hand signals, and buoyancy. Even on the overcast day, we had a blast and celebrated with cocktails at Saba Rock. We refilled our tanks, grabbed a cocktail and still had time to spare before we bore witness to the famous 5 pm tarpon feeding. It was my first time experiencing tarpon fish, 4 feet in length, duking it out for dinner bites cast out into the water. Tarpon are notorious for not being “tasty”, so for the most part, they appear to be slow and docile monsters. But toss a piece of shredded fish out to the water and they tear after the treat with furious speed and agility.

    As always I *really* enjoyed our new anchorage, the Bitter End this time, but we had a beautiful down wind sail to make to meet our friends flying in to St. Thomas the next day.
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