Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Virgin Islands 2014: Leinster Bay to Sanders Bay

From Virgin Islands 2014
The next morning, we snorkeled over to Watermelon Cay, where there was plenty to see underwater and well worth the trouble. Even the mooring buoy we were tied to had great numbers of fish!
From Virgin Islands 2014

Then, we motor'd over to Haulover Bay in search of another snorkel spot, but couldn't find any mooring buoys. My goal was to spend the night in Coral Harbor, so as to facilitate an easy sail back to Tortola to return the boat the next day. Arturo and Amy had spotted Eagle Shoal, a hard to find diving spot, so we raised the sails and headed over there, getting within 0.5 nautical miles by sail before I turned on the engine and asked for the sails to be dropped.

While dropping the sail, however, one of the mooring lines went into the water and wrapped around the starboard prop, and we could not get it unwrapped despite cutting the line both ways. That put a kibosh to any diving for the day, so we motor'd on one engine into Coral Harbor and tied up at the first mooring buoy we could find, even though it was private. I was getting good at mooring on only one engine, but this was not the way I wanted to end the trip!

Arturo put on scuba tanks and went down to cut the line, but couldn't make any headway with the knives we had on the boat. We took the dinghy ashore and there found someone who loaned us a rusty serrated knife. With those tools, Arturo finally got all the lines and any remnants off the prop. We called Conch Charters and they asked us to do a few basic tests and then okay'd us to continue, warning us not to motor on the starboard engine any more than necessary.

Getting off the private mooring buoy, we motor'd over to Coral Harbor proper but couldn't find a good anchor spot. I therefore opted to anchor off Sanders Bay instead. After dropping anchor, however, a dive check revealed that the area was too muddy to check the anchor properly, so I opted to stay on the boat instead while the others took the dinghy into Coral Bay Harbor for a look see. I took the opportunity to set up the BBQ, do some reading, and start rinsing gear in preparation for returning the boat. In exchange, I was rewarded with glorious views of a double rainbow as rain swept into the harbor.
From Virgin Islands 2014

We had burgers that evening but didn't get much of a sunset as it was pretty rainy.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Virgin Islands 2014: Sandy Spit to Leinster Bay

The morning revealed Sandy Spit to be empty, with only 3 boats choosing to anchor overnight there. This was a great anchorage, for not only was it sheltered, Little Jost Van Dyke and Green Cay were both uninhabited, so we had no mosquitoes, which were unwelcomed guests at Leverick Bay. We ate a quick breakfast and dinghy'd over to Sandy Spit, where we were the only group on the island, having it to ourselves until we left at 9:30am, whereupon a visiting boat dropped off a lone snorkler to add some company.
From Virgin Islands 2014
From Virgin Islands 2014
From Virgin Islands 2014

Occasionally, you would hear of people renting entire islands, such as Richard Branson's Necker Island for about $60,000 a night. These come with luxury accomodations, water toys, and all sorts of other things, including a large wait staff. But you can't pay for the experience of being on Sandy Spit or Sandy Cay by yourself, with nobody there (not even wait staff) while you walk around the island, snorkel, or build sand castles on a deserted beach. Even better, Sandy Spit had no mosquitoes (which was a problem on Sandy Cay in April), and was small enough to walk around even for a toddler. The only way to see such places is on a sailboat or tiny craft. Those who stay at land resorts don't get to visit such places easily, or overnight there and experience these gorgeous little places (such as the Baths) in solitude.
We had earlier debated doing more diving, or going over to St. John. I'd been very disappointed by the diving and the visibility of the water, so pushed for a visit to St. John, especially since my mom and Bowen wouldn't get very much out of diving spots. So we headed over to Great Harbor for a Mooring Buoy and Arturo, Amy, and I went over to the customs and immigration office to check out of the BVI to visit the U.S. Virgin Island of St John.
The checkout was relatively easy and painless, with an exit tax of $11. We then sailed most of the way to St. John's Cruz Bay, but discovered as we approached the harbor that the main sail would simply not come down! After a few failed attempts I gave up and motored into Cruz Bay with the main sail up and anchor'd off to the port where a few other boats were also anchored. There was only 4 feet of water below the Sail Pending, but since the Carribbean essentially has no tides, it was a reasonable temporary anchorage while we sorted out our problems.
I was all ready to get out the harness and go up into the mast to untangle the problem when Amy had the bright idea of pulling down on the reef line to pull the sail back down. Fortunately, this worked and I was saved the trouble of a hoist up the mast. Following that, we visited the customs and immigration office of Cruz Bay to check in (and out for December 2nd), and do some provisioning. Cruz Bay was tiny but there wasn't much to eat ashore from restaurants, so we chose to simply buy some ice cream and provisions and eat on the Sail Pending.
After that, we turned on the engines and headed back East along St. John. Eschewing Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay, I settled on Leinster Bay as a destination because of a short hiking trail available there, some ruins, and good snorkeling.
From Virgin Islands 2014

The hike took us to an old sugar mill that was relatively intact, complete with the windmill tower.
From Virgin Islands 2014

The hike took us the rest of the day, leaving us no time for snorkeling as we got back to the boat just as the sun set and it was time for dinner.
From Virgin Islands 2014


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Review: Garmin Inertia-based Speed and Cadence Sensor

My frustrations with the GSC 10 grew to the point where I'd pretty much given up on it, leaving it turned off on my single bike. I lived with it like this for a while, since I don't really need the cadence information, but having speed jumps all over the place and not having consistent speed readings was bothersome.

You can buy the speed/cadence inertia based sensors separately, but the package gives you $10 off. At $70, this is not cheap, but given the longevity of my other Garmin products, it seemed like a pretty safe bet.

The package comes with 2 sensors, one fat and short, and one long and skinny. The fat one goes around your front hub (or rear, if you like to use your bike on a trainer), while the skinny one goes on your crank. You pair it by selecting the speed and cadence sensor option (or just one or the other if you bough tone), and then ride off. It's as painless as it gets.

There is only one potential issue with the cadence sensor, which is that if you tend to scuff your crank, you might eventually wear out the rubber band. That's not a big deal for me, but it could lead to a loss of a sensor, which is expensive.

Both sensors take the CR2032 battery, the same as the heart rate monitors. That's very considerate of Garmin, and ensures that I can just stock one battery for most Garmin products.

Assuming that this sensor's going to be as reliable as other Garmin products, the replacement for the GSC 10 is much better and a worthy upgrade. Recommended.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Virgin Islands 2014: Marina Cay to Sandy Spit

We got up early once again and headed over to Lee Bay, a short 20 minute drive away to dive in the little area. The mooring buoy looked questionable, but it was indeed tied down to concrete at the bottom, so it was safe for us to stay there and dive. The visibility in the water was disappointing, though we managed to see a large lobster and some shrimp.
From Virgin Islands 2014

After the dive, we motored over to Monkey Point, which was highly recommended in the sailing guide for good snorkeling, but disparaged in the dive guide as not being worth the time. We got there and picked up a mooring buoy and started snorkeling and yes, it was good snorkeling, though the visibility was till not great. There was even an interesting shore entry, and we got plenty of fish and other views.
We had an early lunch and then cast off to start our first long sail of the trip, a 9 nautical mile journey to Jost Van Dyke. This was only an hour and a half, though it was interspersed with rain. We got views of the North side of Tortola, as well as sights of the various places our charter company had forbidden us to go because of the difficult sea conditions found there.
On arrival near Jost Van Dyke, we spotted Sandy Cay, but upon reading the cruising guide closer, discovered that Sandy Spit was a suitable overnight anchorage, and looked just as inviting. We dropped anchor once, but then another boat left so we grabbed their spot closer to Green Cay, and dropped anchor again. While we managed to drop the hook into sand, the anchor chain itself was wrapped around a piece of coral, and Arturo had to snorkel down to unwrap it.
From Virgin Islands 2014

Given that Sandy Spit was more crowded at the moment, we decided to take the tender over to Foxy's and hike over to the bubbly pools. The hike was ok, though surprisingly long given its description as a "short walk". The bubbly pools wouldn't have been more exciting in north swell conditions. As it was the bubbles came only semi-frequently but it was enough to fascinate and excite Bowen.
From Virgin Islands 2014
Bowen fell asleep on the way back to the Sail Pending, so we dropped him and my parents off and snorkeled over to Sandy Spit for one last look at it. Then it was a beautiful sunset and we enjoyed dinner and the lovely views.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Virgin Islands 2014: Leverick Bay to Marina Cay

It was time for a land excursion: despite visiting Virgin Gorda many times in the past, I'd never visited Gorda Peak, and Amy was itching for a hike, so at 8:00am we piled into the dinghy, and took a short taxi ride to Gorda Peak National Park where we told the driver to come back after an hour and a half when we saw that the trail was only 800m long.
From Virgin Islands 2014

The hike wasn't pretty, lots of rain forest amidst a steeply climbing trail, and even at the top the folliage covered up everything, except that the park service had built a viewing platform so you could climb up over the trees and look at the panaroma around you, and maybe even spot the boat.
From Virgin Islands 2014
From Virgin Islands 2014
From Virgin Islands 2014

Upon returning, we docked the boat against the fuel dock and acquired freshwater, got the dive tanks filled up, and then left to visit Prickly Pear Island for a snorkel and swim. We then ate lunch and headed over to the dogs for more diving. The first site we tried had too strong a current, so we visited a second site, called Billy Bronco, which lived up to its name.

By the time we were done it was 4:00pm and we made a beeline for Marina Cay, where we knew they would have mooring buoys to spare. It was nearly 5:00pm by the time we got there, and we got to watch the sunset from the boat this time in preparation for the long sail to Jost Van Dyke the next day.
From Virgin Islands 2014



Saturday, December 13, 2014

Price Drop: How to Interview A Financial Advisor

It's been a year since the launch of How to Interview A Financial Advisor. The book's about matched my expectations, but it's the only one of my books that's really written for a general audience, and could potentially reach more people.

Effective today, I've reduced the price of the Kindle edition to $4.99, and the paperback to $11.99. Note that for the next few days, Amazon's running a promotion where you get to take 25% off any printed books by entering BOOKDEAL25 when you checkout, and the paperback qualifies.

I've also enrolled the book into Kindle Select, which means that it's also available to borrow if you have a Kindle Unlimited acccount or are a Prime member. This should further reduce the barrier to anyone wanting to read the book.

Happy Holidays!

Virgin Islands 2014: Marina Cay to Leverick Bay

Much of the good diving in the area near Marina Cay was near the Dogs, a small cluster of islands between Tortola and Virgin Gorda. The most famous was the plane wreck at Great Dog in the Coral Gardens. According to the book, it was tough to find, but we had the fortune to get there just as another dive boat arrived, and Arturo snorkeled around to pre-scout the site, so he could lead us to the plane.
From Virgin Islands 2014

The wreck was a lot of fun, but we also saw sting rays on the return to the Sail Pending. We then went over to the Pinnacles, another dive site literally around the corner, which was known for good snorkeling. A quick snorkel told me that the place was over-rated and I opted out of the dive, but Amy and Arturo went ahead with it, and reported that the surge and terrain made it fun, but there wasn't much else to see.

We then headed over to the Bitter End Yacht Club, which I had missed the previous visit, and there to our dismay discovered that they didn't have laundry facilities! Upon learning that, we dropped off some garbage, Amy bought a pair of sailing gloves, and dropped our mooring to visit Leverick Bay, where in addition to having laundry and on-shore showers, they gave you 100 gallons of free water and a bag of ice for staying on their mooring.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Virgin Islands 2014: Cooper Island to Marina Cay

We woke up early and were the second boat to leave the marina and the second boat to arrive at the Baths.
From Virgin Islands 2014
The Baths' entry had changed once again from 2 years ago when I last went. Last time, I could still dinghy into the beach to drop non-swimmers there. This time, the beach had been cordoned off and everyone had to swim. Bowen was no problem, since he'd demonstrated a willingness to let me tow him around in his lifejacket. But my mom upon seeing this just gave up and decided to stay on the boat.
From Virgin Islands 2014
The Baths are called that because of the Batholiths, not because you can actually take a Bath there. The hike through them is easily one of the prettiest and most exciting short walks you can take anywhere. Don't take my word for it. My son's idea of hiking is sitting on my shoulders, but upon entry into the Baths, he insisted on walking every step, only taking assistance whenever the water got too high for him to walk, which didn't happen very often.
From Virgin Islands 2014
The disclaimer on the entry claims this to be a difficult and challenging walk, but in reality, both the 3 year old and the 70+ year olds had no problem negotiating the stairs, the steep rock surfaces, and the water-laden portions of the walk.
From Virgin Islands 2014
Upon reaching Devil's Bay, we took a swim and spied a hole in the barrier where the dinghy could get through. Arturo went back to get the dinghy and my mom while the rest of us waited and played in the sand and water. By the time Arturo got back, however, the crowds had arrived and it was impossible to beach the dinghy, so I dragged my mom through the water onto the beach where she had no problems getting the walk back. The return to the dinghy was made easier by the lines the dinghy was tied to.
From Virgin Islands 2014
After that, we had lunch on the boat and then there was only a time for a single 60-minute dive at the Aquarium (just outside Spanish Town) before we headed to Marina Cay. At Marina Cay, Arturo and Amy went for tank refills while I took my family to the beach for an evening swim. The long dive and the swim made me realize that my recent weight loss had one negative side-effect, which was that I got cold and stayed cold even in 82 degree water.
From Virgin Islands 2014

The local dive shop didn't have a cold fill, so we had to wait a while for the divers to get back to return us to the boat. However, watching the sunset from Marina Cay didn't suck at all.
From Virgin Islands 2014
From Virgin Islands 2014
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Virgin Islands 2014: Peter Island to Cooper Island

The morning rose and we discovered that the starboard engine was empty of coolant. I suspected that I hadn't closed the coolant cap properly during the previous coolant check, which caused the coolant to all leak out while the engine was running. We filled the coolant back up but I decided that the prudent thing to do was to bring the boat back to Conch Charters anyway.
From Virgin Islands 2014
Well, as we approached the mooring buoys off Burt's point, the alarm went off again and I found myself once again mooring with only the port engine! This validated the prudent decision we'd made earlier, and to reward us we got a few rainbows while waiting for the repair man to show up. When he showed up, he looked at it and realized that the water pump had broken, leaking coolant all over the place. "This is going to take at least an hour to fix, so feel free to go ashore."

We went ashore, reprovisioned and generally cooled our heels until the repair men (he didn't clone himself: he got reinforcements) declared the engine fixed. We ended up leaving Tortola around noon, and immediately headed for Cooper Island, since there was not a moment to spare in acquiring a mooring buoy: we ended up getting one of the last 3 available, and the others were immediately filled up within minutes after we were secure.
From Virgin Islands 2014

We took the tender over to the Cooper Island resort, and spent the rest of the day, snorkeling, getting ice cream, and swimming on the beautiful swimming beach. I decided to swim back to the boat using mask and snorkel, instigating a race with the tender. Unfortunately, I got lost and headed for the wrong boat and had to be steered back to the Sail Pending by the tender, which ensured that I lost.

It was a rolicking ride, because our late arrival meant we had one of the most exposed mooring buoys available, but we slept well, except for my son waking up in the middle of the night and upon seeing my CPAP mask, decided that since daddy was wearing a snorkel at night, he had to have his snorkel as well.

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