12 September 2013

Rocky Mountain Sailing: Utah's Trial Lake

Trial Lake, Utah.  A Sailing Destination 10,000 feet in the air.
These waters beg to be sailed.  At 10,000 feet above sea level, the clouds skim across the top of your mast, filling the lake beneath you with cool, clear rain.  Eagles fill their wings with the wind that spills from your sails.  Deer wander curiously along the shore, drinking the water from under your keel.  Trout swim playfully in the tiny eddies trailing your rudder.  Nature is so big here that you can't become one with it, it's just too enormous
A large submerged rock near the shore serves as a makeshift dock.  (Either that, or I am actually walking on water.)
We come here once a year and spend a week camping along the lake.  There is no boat ramp here, so we wheel our little 14 foot Lido down to the water's edge and launch her by hand.  The Lido weighs 300 pounds, so I use a small trailer dolly that connects to the boat trailer's hitch to walk it around on shore and lower and retrieve it from the water.  

With no docks, we launch the boat by walking it out into the water until we find a submerged rock to serve as a makeshift dock for launching.  Everyone climbs on, and the last person aboard shoves us out into the lake, where we drift for a moment until the water is a little deeper.  Then we lower the keel, raise the sails, and GO!
Lido 14, Waiting impatiently on the shore of Trial Lake
 Although there are smaller, lighter day sailers out there, I prefer the Lido for these high mountain lakes.  It has a roomy cockpit that seats 6 kids if the winds are light, or fewer when the winds pick up.  The boat has enough freeboard to keep the water out, which is important when the water is only 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 Celsius)
"Abandon Ship!"  The crew jumps into Trial Lake
Of course, 45F (7C) water doesn't keep the kids from swimming.  The high mountain sun is so intense, an 80 F degree (27 Celsius) afternoon sun feels like 95 F degrees (35 C), and it isn't long after lunch before the kids are jumping from the boat and swimming along the shore.
Um, it's reflection of the sail in my hair that makes it look like I have a bald spot.
 When we're done sailing for the day, we raise the keel, swing the rudder up, and lash the sails to the boom.  We pull the Lido up on the beach, and walk over the to campfire for dinner and a fantastic display of stars under the blackest skies on earth.  Hearty pioneers built up the south end of Trial Lake to serve as a natural reservoir, which is still in use today.  During late summer, the lake is drained a couple inches each day, so each morning we find the boat a little higher on the beach than where we left it the night before.
The wind picks up in the late morning and runs until dusk, but it is shifty.  The fun in sailing these lakes is the challenge of attentive sail trim.  When the breeze is up, the boat will heel over and scoot a mile across the lake in a few minutes.  The Lido is perfect during the lighter winds too, its light weight can turn even the softest breezes into a great afternoon of sailing.  

The reason the most beautiful lakes are harder to reach is that someone wanted to keep them a little closer to heaven.  Lakes like these were meant to be sailed.  

29 March 2013

Splash 2013: First Sail of the Year

Sunrise over Utah Lake, from the docks in Pelican Bay
Finally ready to put the boat in!  We decided to put her in at the American Fork Boat Harbor, which is only a few miles from the house.  Usually we put in at the Provo Marina (where the slip is), but we were looking forward to starting the year with a fun sailing trip, and planned to sail from American Fork over to Pelican Bay for the night, and then sail down to Provo the following day.

The American Fork ramp has long been rumored to be a poor launching site for keelboats.  This is not true.  The ramp drops off steeply, and for the first time ever I was able to launch the boat from the trailer without having to use a strap to lower the trailer deeper in the water.  Much easier.  

It was a perfect first sail.  Northwest winds at 10mph let us heel nicely and sail all the way to Pelican Bay on a single tack.

Once in Pelican Bay, we tied up to the end of the docks and got serious about our favorite card game, BANG.  

For dinner, I called around to several restaurants in Saratoga Springs until I found one willing to deliver down to the marina.  Tenney's Pizza came though, and the pizza was fantastic!  Our favorite was their signature "Backyard Barbecue" pizza.  Great for dinner, and for breakfast the next morning!

14 January 2013

BVI Summer Sailing: Lessons Learned

Flying home, we talk about the lessons learned on this trip.  If you found this end of the trip blog, you should click here and start from the beginning of the BVI family sailing charter.

This is our first June charter in the BVI, so our conclusions must be remembered with a grain of salt.  But here are my thoughts.

I've chartered down here in winter, spring, and summer.  I don't know whether I prefer Winter or Spring more.  April is probably my favorite time in the BVI because it's less crowded, the water is warm, and the evenings are warm.  Not that the temperature differs much between seasons here, it is only a difference of 5 degrees in the water and maybe 10 degrees on land.  In winter, it is nice to have a light jacket for evenings ashore, and when the sun goes down we usually stop snorkeling.  The water is warmest in June, and you wouldn't mind snorkeling all night if you could.  The days get a little hot, and it's nice to have an air conditioner on the boat.

In June, the trade winds aren't as strong, and have a lot more variability.  We had a sizable low pressure system go by south of the BVI for the first 4 days which meant constant rain and cloudy skies.  Also, the humidity is much higher. No that it's bad down here in June.

Bottom Line
Bottom line is, I wouldn't pass up a chance to sail down here ANY time of year.  If you are planning a trip, I'd recommend Winter or Spring, but don't be surprised if you see me posting again about a summer trip here either.

One of the advantages of summer is that the anchorages are for the most part less crowded, the water is never more than 4 feet away if you want to go for a swim and cool off, and the rain is rather refreshing.  But I guess that's why it's the low/shoulder season.

This June BVI sailing charter was fantastic.  Read about our sailing charter here in January with some good friends, or about our first sailboat charter experience in the British Virgin Islands here.

13 January 2013

Fallen Jerusalem and Great Harbor, Sailing Day 10/10

This morning we refilled water at Marina Cay ($20 for 100 gallons), then raised sails and headed over to Fallen Jerusalem's North Lee Bay. 

We spent several hours exploring along the shore and snorkeling just off it.  The younger kids invented pirate games along the beach as they switched from snorkels to sand castles to rock climbing and back again.  The older kids went further afield, snorkeling far out along the bay, exploring all the coves, reefs, and caverns between the rocks.

We found one area with a pile of  expired and broken conch shells, numbering easily into the hundreds.  I don't know how they all ended up in this place hidden back up in the rocks along the shore, I assume it is the result of the water currents in the bay.  The place almost feels sacred, with such a treasure tucked away by mother nature.

I should point out here that the collecting of shells is different today than when it was years ago.  Now, many shells (including conch shells) are protected by law and common sense.  You can read about current regulations in the online BVI Marine Guide.  But really, just use common sense:  "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and kill nothing but time."  The beauty of the BVI is its pristine nature, which we need to preserve for our children to enjoy.  

After several hours' exploring, we took some family pictures, and then headed back to the boat.  The kids are more interested in snorkeling back and forth to the boat by the end of the trip.  We take the dinghy to carry the camera and younger kids, but the older kids like to spend a good hour working their way from shore to ship.  

As we we left, another boat was arriving, and a local tour boat pulled into the next bay to the west and dropped anchor for snorkelers and scuba divers to get out and explore.

This is such an incredible family vacation.  No interruptions, no cell phones, no internet.  Just our family rediscovering the power of being a family.  I'm full of gratitude for each of my kids, and try not to think about the fact that we're leaving tomorrow as we raise sails and slip quietly down Francis Drake Passage.  We're heading to Great Harbor on Peter island where we picked up a mooring at the Oceans 7 Beach Club and the kids played on an inflatable trampoline and floating climbing wall in the water.

Tonight we barbecue steaks and play our favorite card game, BANG, until everyone was too tired to stay awake.

12 January 2013

The Caves, Cooper Island, and Marina Cay, Day 9/10

My son Zack and I got up early this morning, so he helped free us from the mooring and we sailed around to the Caves on Treasure Island (Norman Island) to pick up one of the moorings and wait for the family to wake up.  Privateer Bay, just a little further than the caves, looked like a great mooring field with about 5 mooring balls and a long secluded beach. The snorkeling would be great there, although better suited to a catamaran due to the anchorage's openness.

Moored outside The Caves on Treasure Island
We sat on the nets and talked for an hour before the sun finally climbed over the hill and shone onto the boat.  We ate breakfast, taking our time while the sun slowly illuminated the water near the dark caves.  

While waiting, the kids stretched out on the nets and watched the fish swimming beneath the boat.  Their "OOooohs!"  and "AAaaahhs" sounded like spectators at a fireworks show.  When finally a large turtle went gliding along under the boat, they could hold back no more and went diving overboard to catch the turtle.  Luckily, turtles swim faster than kids, otherwise we would have had to have the "Sea turtles don't make good house pets" talk.

With half the kids in the water, we decided to head for the caves.  So everyone donned gear and jumped in for the swim over to the caves.  The caves aren't too deep, but it is helpful to have an underwater flashlight when going inside.  The younger kids found the experience a little spooky, and didn't mind focusing their snorkeling around the mouth of the cave.  We searched and searched, but found no pieces of eight.

Doubloonless, we returned to the boat and readied for a sail up the pirates' Gangway, heading for my favorite island, Fallen Jerusalem.  I've found it easier to raise the main before leaving the mooring.  The sail snags less in the lazy jacks, and having the sail ready for service is probably a good fail safe against some unexpected engine problem while navigating our of an anchorage, as long as the captain considers the wind and point of sail in choosing the path out of the anchorage.

Once clear of the island, we sailed all the way to Beef Island without tacking. I found the catamaran (a Privelege 435) would sail to within about 30 degrees of the wind before forward progress slowed. I've also found that adjusting the main on the catamaran is best done with the traveler, not the main sheet.

From Beef Island, I could see two boats moored over in North Lee Bay of Fallen Jerusalem, which was very disappointing because I've never seen anyone else there. So we sailed back to Cooper Island and picked up a mooring ball there next to shore. Cooper Island Beach Club is very beautiful with landscaped plants, carefully manicured walkways, and a screensaver-worthy beach.

The older kids and I went out to snorkel Cistern Point.  Swells were fairly heavy out of the south but we still snorkeled all the way around.  Snorkeling in swells is more tiring than in calm water.  The biggest challenge is that the swells push you back and forth - the bigger the swell the farther the push.  So to hover over a spot, you have to work harder, and keep an eye on nearby reef and rock to make sure you don't get pushed into something you'd rather not.  By the time we made it all the way around Cistern Point, we were pretty tired.  Rather than swim all the way back around to the dinghy, we chose between going ashore and walking around on the land, or trying to navigate shallow reef between the beach and Cistern Point.  We chose the reef, which was quite challenging in the swells.  I look forward to trying that again without the swells.  It was one of the more exciting snorkeling trips of our vacation.

Back at the boat, we discovered we were down to 8 gallons of water in the tanks, so rather than stay at Cooper Island, we decided to head for Marina Cay for the night where we could resupply water.

The Marina Cay the fuel dock was closed, so we picked up a mooring and planned to load water first thing in the morning.  We grilled dolphin steaks on the barbecue for dinner, then went ashore for the best dessert in the BVI: the "Crazy Coconut."  We discovered this with friends on an earlier charter, it's a chocolate shell shaped like a coconut, covered in toasted coconut flakes and filled with vanilla ice cream.

11 January 2013

Sopers Hole and Treasure Island, Sailing Day 8/10

After a leisurely start to the day, we set sail under a beautiful blue, sunlit sky and steady trade winds over to Sopers Hole.  We picked up a mooring near the main docks and enjoyed lunch aboard while the Caribbean-colored waterfront stretching peacefully before our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Then, into the dinghy and off to explore the Caribbean-colored shops along the waterfront.  

While walking along the dock, we happened to look over and see a dorsal fin swimming alongside the tethered dinghies.  This wouldn't have worried my six year old, but the 5 foot long shark swimming under the dorsal fin did.  I was worried she would be afraid to go snorkeling after seeing a predator bigger than her, but she seemed to buy my explanation that the shark was obviously leaving the BVI at the time we saw him, because sharks do not like the warm water and don't want to be around all the snorkelers.  (Note to my daughter: Princess, in a few years when you're old enough to read this and realize that I wasn't being completely forthcoming about the predators I made you swim with, please realize that your Mom put me up to it.)

Sopers Hole is a great place to resupply.  We deposited trash at the docks and picked up 10 lbs of ice, some ice cream sandwiches, and 8 more gallons of water.  Now that the storm system has passed and the sun is out each day, the eight of us are drinking about two gallons of water a day between us, along with a large bottle of juice at every meal.

We sailed out of Sopers Hole, around the end of St John in the US Virgin Islands, and on to Treasure Island (Norman Island), the setting of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.  Entering the island's largest anchorage, The Bight, we found a mooring in Kelly's Cove, a remote spot with space for only 5 boats.  The cove was completely empty, so we picked a mooring closest to shore so the kids could snorkel safely and easily in the water between the boat and the rocky shoreline.  In just 15 feet of water, they were over the side and snorkeling before the propeller stopped spinning. 

Beneath Kelly's Cove is a rock-strewn biological wonderland to explore.  In addition to all the usual fish, the kids chased octopus and several other creatures to our list of sighted marine life. My oldest kids spent about 4 hours in the water snorkeling along the shore, and the little kids all spent an hour snorkeling before they retired to the galley for a long series of uno card games together.

We grilled chicken on the barbecue, and then opened the coconut Scott found yesterday on Sandy Cay. The kids were fascinated by the process of opening the coconut. We swam it in to shore where we found a large, sharp rock.  We smashed the coconut on the sharp edge to pierce the husk.  Then, pulling on the husk, ripped it apart and pulled the coconut out of the center.  We brought the coconut and a fist-sized flat rock back to the boat so we could smack open the coconut at the dinner table. Once opened, the kids spent half an hour picking the coconut meat out for dessert.  We all agreed that if necessary, we could live off coconuts here for some time.

10 January 2013

Sandy Cay, BVI Bareboat Charter Day 7/10

Very light wind forecast for today.  1-6 knots.  This means adventure is to be found on land today, not under sail.  Perfect conditions for exploring Sandy Cay.

Early this morning, before breakfast, we headed over to Sandy Cay.  Despite our early departure, we barely picked up one of the last moorings.  We ate breakfast aboard while I finished worrying about our distance to the boats on neighboring mooring balls. With no wind, the boats were free to drift in any direction they wanted, so I put out fenders as a precaution.  I didn't dare leave the boat until the wind picked up.  With a little wind running, all the boats will swing in the same direction with no chance of collision.

While we waited for wind, the kids dove for sand dollars in about 15 feet of water, and managed to find the biggest starfish I've ever seen. It was bright orange, and had to be over a foot in diameter.  We had to have the "Starfish would make poor pets back at home" speech.

Later in the morning, we went ashore and explored Sandy Cay.  With so much wildlife scampering, fluttering, and slithering about, a walk through Sandy Cay's lush interior is half spooky and half edenic.   The little kids stayed close as we walked through the tree-covered tunnels on the interior of the island.  I can only imagine what the first Europeans thought as they explored these islands in such a pristine state.

The kids had a great time chasing hermit crabs, lizards, and exploring the tunnels through the island.  On the far side of the island, the island rises above black cliffs that overlook the sea, where you catch a glimpse of Tortola's north side, and all the way out to Anegada.

After our exploration, we returned the sandy beaches to play and snorkel along the shore.  The kids gathered several coconuts, which the older boys found to be excellent tropical footballs.

Hours later, swam back out to the boat for lunch, and then sailed over to Manchioneel Bay, by Foxy's Taboo where we hiked over to Bubbly Pool.  Normally, Bubbly Pool lives up to its name and is quite a bubbly pool.  But in the calm after the storm of the last several days, the swells were down, and bubbly pool wasn't very bubbly.  Unflagged, the kids played for half an hour there - the younger kids playing in the pool and the older kids hiking through the rocks.  Finally,  a somewhat bigger set of waves came in and turned the water to its churning, broiling, namesake.

Walking back to the boat, we decided to wade across the shallow isthmus that separates Little Jost Van Dyke from its bigger brother. The water was waist deep, and about half way across I was bitten by a sand flea on my ankle, so we spent less time wading and more time hurrying back to shore. 

My oldest son was more interested in the breaking surf further out, and went for a few body surfing runs.  With a shallow, coral-strewn floor beneath, he had to be careful not to be ground into the bottom.

Back at the boat, the younger kids returned to jumping off the bow and swimming to the back of the boat, a feat they repeated so many times I believe they may have permanently altered the ocean currents that year.

The older boys and I went in to snorkel along the shore. We found sand dollars, sea urchin shells, and several beautiful conch shells. The conch shells were smaller, but perfectly formed and very pretty. They appeared to be uninhabited, so we each loaded two into the baggy cargo pockets on our swimming suits for more careful examination back on the boat. As we set the conch shells on the catamaran's stern swim platform, we were all surprised as legs extended from each conch shell and they scrambled over the side back into the water.  Apparently we weren't the only ones interested in the shells.

It was a beautiful quiet night in the cove.  We sat and watched the towering clouds above Tortola while we grilled shishkabobs under an unfolding blanket of millions of stars.

At bedtime, we discovered that a few of the crew had been a little sunburned in places. We'll see how things look in the morning and decide how that affects the schedule. If they need a day of recovery, we'll spend a longer time sailing and less time in the water during the direct sun times of the day.

The saloon in the Privilege 435 catamaran is perfect for our family of 8.  The only challenge is that the people sitting in the back of the round table are committed to stay there for the whole meal, or card game.  But we're already together as a family in the BVI, so where would a person want to go?!

09 January 2013

Monkey Point and Cane Garden Bay, Sailing Day 6 of 10

Dance of the Leverick Bay Fuel Dock
After topping off fuel and water at Leverick Bay, we motored out of North Sound to sail for Monkey Point on Guana Island. On the way out of Leverick Bay, the Admiral decided to give the stern steps a quick wash-down with the deck bucket.  The deck bucket is tied to a short line, which you use to to haul the bucket back on board once its full of water.  Important safety tip: do not drop the bucket in the water while underway.  The bucket may fill quickly with water and you cannot retrieve it.  Apparently this is how Davey Jones replenishes his deck bucket collection.

Fine sailing today under clearing skies.  We reached 10 knots at a few points. Sailing a cat is a very stable experience.  When the wind blows the boat surges forward, but you have to pay attention to your speed because there is no heeling over to tell you when to adjust sail.

We didn't tack once all the way to Guana Island, finally dropping sails when we summoned the iron genny to take us up the east side of the island and around Monkey Point.  The moorings were all taken, so we dropped anchor and ate lunch on the hook before taking the dinghy in to the dinghy line near shore.  Monkey Point snorkeling was really fun.  The kids had a great time- especially the younger ones.  This was their first time swimming around reefs and chasing schools of fish.  (Only the older kids had explored the reefs by the pirate canons.)  I towed the youngest around and could hear her yelling excitedly through her snorkel "Fish! Look at these fish!!" the entire time.  I don't know if she ever even stopped to breathe - she was so busy yelling through the snorkel.

After snorkeling, we sailed around Rogue Point and on to Cane Garden Bay.  In Cane Garden Bay, we took a mooring ball and the kids resumed diving practice, jumping off the bow, stern steps, and cabin top.  

Pretty much any where they could find to jump from, they jumped.  The kids love this Privilege 435, Jeannius.  After the adrenaline-pumping high altitude plunge from her decks, the kids would swim between the two hulls and under the galley, mesmerized by the dancing green reflected sunlight on the hulls which transformed the tunnel beneath the catamaran into a Disneyland theme ride, their laughter echoing between the hulls as they raced back on deck to ride "Pirates of the Caribbean" again and again.

Then we rigged a spare line up in the air to swing out and drop in the water.  Opening a  barrel of monkeys on deck could not have increased the fun we were having.  Crew on neighboring boats stopped to watch, and I think our crew ended up in video footage from some nearby boats.  There's something therapeutic about children's play.  It's ageless.

When we'd finally spent all our energy, we went in to shore to walk along the beach and look for dinner.  We settled for hamburgers at the Banana Restaurant. The mosquitoes were out though, so we quickly ate and retreated back to bug-free safety off shore.

Kids are not at all impressed by the beach-side grills and other adult-friendly hangouts in the BVI.  They are most impressed with snorkeling, cliff diving, jumping off the boat, and exploring uninhabited islands.  I'm adjusting the rest of the trip to include more unstructured exploration and free time for these activities.

08 January 2013

Leverick Bay, British Virgin Islands Bareboat Day 5/10

This morning I awoke this morning to very heavy rain again.  If the ocean was empty the night before, it wouldn't be after this storm.  In fact, I was wetter standing under the deluge on deck than I would have been in the shower.  Peering out from under the bimini, I could barely make out the faint outlines of the boat moored on the next mooring ball, only 100 feet away.  But the rain is so warm, and the boat decks are very clean.

With the tropical depression hanging around one last day, the winds were still a bit too heavy to sail.  Looking for a little change, we motored a mile or two over to Leverick Bay on the other side of North Sound.  Winds were running 37 mph apparent on the port beam as we headed over, and that's after being blocked by Virgin Gorda.  I suspect the winds are quite a bit stronger outside North Sound.  

Leverick Bay is much smaller than Bitter End Yacht Club, but there's a nice feel on shore.  The  buildings are tucked quaintly into the hillside: a couple restaurants, a nice fuel dock, Pussers store, grocery store, and a small swimming pool that is free for use by sailors moored in the bay.  I don't understand the appeal of a pool next to an ocean.  Pools are tiny, chemically sanitized, and in a word, boring, while oceans are so vast, unbounded, and in a word, explorific.

With heavy winds out of the south, we picked a mooring closer to shore, sheltered behind the steep hill above Leverick Bay.  In most BVI anchorages sailors can pick moorings and not worry about swinging into a neighboring boat.  Leverick Bay's moorings are closely spaced like its buildings on the beach, which works well enough for the sailors sleeping on shore.  However, once moored, we realized that the 50' Beneteau nearby was swinging to within 30 feet of us. In the lee of the hill, it would be possible that boats could swing around, potentially hitting each other. So we dropped that mooring and moved to one further out where there would be no chance of hitting another boat.

We picked up ice cream sandwiches at the grocery store while the kids swam in the pool (pools next to oceans are so enticing.)  We are the ice cream sandwiches in the rain as we motored back to the boat.   Snorkeling was uninteresting this far offshore, so we spent the late afternoon in the galley watching Pirates of the Caribbean on the laptop, then had dinner.

After dinner the kids went out on deck for diving and swimming practice as night fell.  I found my #5 kid sick in his cabin - temperature of 102 and a stomache ache.

Tylenol for the fever, but no meds available for the stomach ache.  As the kids went to bed tonight we quarantined the sick one to the galley couch. He had napped for 2 hours and was feeling quite a bit better already.  Hopefully this passes by morning, but in this humid air and all living in the same boat, I'm trying to minimize exposure and praying for a speedy healing.  We  gave the boat a thorough wipe-down with clorox handy wipes, which are a great thing to bring along on trips like this.  Keeps the boat clean and the staff from staph, so to speak.

Tomorrow the winds will be down in the upper teens, so we're planning to refill water and diesel at Leverick Bay (100 gallons of water free with mooring) then set sail for Monkey Point on Guana Island for snorkeling and lunch. Afterwards, we'll sail for Cane Garden Bay. Our goal is really Jost Van Dyke, but winds and waves are supposed to run southerly tomorrow, so north-facing Cane Garden Bay is going to be the calmer anchorage. Waves will shift to northerly the following day, which should be perfect for the bays on Jost van Dyke.
(Not my feet...)

And now a quick sidebar to record some hopefully handy anecdotal information.  The following capacities may be helpful for future planning. As of bedtime we have been aboard for Saturday evening, and all day Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. We have used 86 gallons of water for a crew of 8 family members. We are not drinking water from the boat's systems, but are drinking bottled water and juices, so drinking is not included. This is for showers (several quick on-deck showers each per day as kids get back from swimming and playing in the water.) Also from on board showers (not all are showering every day - depends on how much time they spend in the water.)

We have run the generator a lot on this trip to charge batteries and to run the air conditioner. The weather has been hot and humid, so the air conditioner has been run quite often. We have used 17 hours on the generator. (838 - 855 Generator Hours)  At least, it seemed like a lot to me, but when I got back at the end of the week Conch's staff commented on how little we'd run the generator compared to most charterers.

07 January 2013

Saba Rock, British Virgin Islands Sailing Day 4/10

After several hours at the Baths, we hoisted sail and sailed up past the Dogs, around Moskito Island, and into North Sound.  The forecast called for increasingly heavy weather and storms for the next few days, so we wanted to be in a sheltered anchorage with lots to do while we waited out the storm.  North Sound is home to Bitter End Yacht Club, Saba Rock, Biras Creek Resort, Leverick Bay, not to mention great snorkeling where you can actually see pirate canons overgrown by the dangerous reefs past Saba Rock.

The storm was to come from the East Southeast, so we picked up a mooring right up against the hill above Bitter End Yacht Club.  The hill would protect us from the 30+ knot winds over the next few days.

That night we went to my favorite restaurant location in the world.  Saba Rock.  I love being able to step off the sailboat onto the dinghy, then motor through the sleeping yachts past the beaches of Bitter End and out to the tiny island that is Saba Rock.  The edge of the restaurant is a dinghy dock, where you step from the dinghy to the dock and then sit at your table just 5 feet away.  Dinner, you hope, will take all night.  Floodlights beneath the water illuminate the great circle of life that surrounds you.  Giant fish swim warily around one another at dock's edge, contemplating eating their friends.  High overhead, anchor lights dance against the starry night sky.

I was disappointed in a few changes Saba Rock had made to the menu though.  Prices were up (around $40 per person) and the menu lacked the creativity and differentiation of the past.  So unless they make changes, consider just ordering dessert and enjoy dinner at anchor.

But for the experience, there is no finer restaurant location in the world.

During the night, the storm rolled in, unleashing her fury.  Even in the lee of the island, boats strained at their moorings and wind whipped everything off the shore and boats that wasn't securely lashed down.  I awoke in the morning and went out on deck to check things, only to find the dinghy, hanging on her davits, completely filled with rainwater.  Stepping out from under the bimini, I was completely soaked through in a matter of seconds.  It wasn't wet like taking a shower - but wet like taking a bath.  It felt great.

In the morning, the kids slowly awakened, and sat under the bimini to enjoy the show as water poured down all around us for hours on end without stopping.  And then the kids asked, "Can we go jump off the boat and snorkel as long as we're stuck here?"  I love my kids, they have an unquenchable (or undrownable) lust for adventure.  Is it safe to swim in the rain?  Why not...

So we stripped down to swimsuits and spent several hours diving off the catamaran's bows, swimming back to the stern steps and climbing aboard just to walk up front and do it again.  They seemed to most enjoy swimming between the hulls, where they could look through the portlights into the catamaran as they enjoyed the overhead shelter from the rain - while swimming in water.  It doesn't seem to be such a novelty now, but it sure was fun then!

The kids decided this would be a great time to do a little laundry too.  They took some of their clothes and clothes-pinned them to the lifelines.  The youngest was particularly concerned that her favorite swimsuit would blow away, so she used 20 clothespins to secure it.

In the afternoon, we went snorkeling along the beach of Bitter End Yacht Club, where we found scores and scores of conch shells and starfish.  The easterly storm created a bit of a current along the north end of the island, which we found to be quite advantageous to snorkeling.  We would walk eastward along the beach for several hundred yards before donning masks & snorkels and heading into the ocean.  Then we'd just let the slow current carry us effortlessly along as we dove to explore all the starfish, conch, and other sea life.  In about 20 minutes the current would bring us to the swim dock where we would exit and hike back again for another go.

Later in the afternoon we decided to take the dinghy a mile out into Eustatia Sound to the edge of the reef.  Centuries ago, a ship had run into trouble here and hastily dumped ballast overboard, including a couple of canons that are now permanent residents of the reef.  We snorkeled around for 10 minutes exploring the reef until we found the canons, and then dove to be able to say that we had touched pirate canons on the ocean floor.  Much to my kids' embarrassment, their Dad even kissed one of the canons.  Which wasn't on my bucket list before I did it, but is now.

In the evening the rain let up a little, so we decided to try the hiking trails between Bitter End Yacht Club and Biras Creek Resort.  This is a beautiful walk, covered with vegetation, great lizards, and views of the anchorage that peek unexpectedly through the trees.

I thoroughly enjoy North Sound in the typical blue sky Caribbean sun, but also found it to be an enjoyable place to hole up while waiting out the tropical depression that dumped rain on us for a few days.