“And right now there is a very unique weather phenomenon happening in the Virgins…” we were listening to Chris Parker giving his morning weather report on our single sideband radio, a report which unfortunately coincides with breakfast time meaning picking up the whole thing between baby screams and toddler demands is near impossible.
“Momma! More yogurt please” “….cold front…..creating a dam effect…” (Various baby screeches and yelps looking for more food) “….significant northerly swell…” “Momma! More yogurt!!” (more baby screeches) “…and now for the Mona Passage…”
And that was about all I got. Something about a weather phenomenon, demands for yogurt and significant swell. I got the yogurt and the report for our area had ended.
I’ve written a few times about rolly anchorages. At best they are uncomfortable, at worst they are unbearable. They are, without a doubt, one of the negative aspects of living on a boat and cruising because no matter what, you will experience them at some time or another. The past three days found us smack in the middle of the “unique weather phenomenon” Chris spoke of which just so happened to make our northerly exposed anchorage somewhere between uncomfortable and untenable. We, along with our buddy boat Necesse, had already moved once (from Caneel to Hawksnest Bay) in anticipation of the weather and subsequent wacky swell. Unfortunately for us, the anchorage that would have provided the best coverage was completely full (many other boats were also in search of calm), meaning we had to take the next best which, as it turned out, wasn’t good at all.
“We need to move first thing in the morning” I said to Scott at 2:30am when the rolling began to peak. Our boat was rocking back and forth aggressively, so much so that laying in bed actually required effort and core strength. I could hear the books falling off our shelves and the contents in our cupboards kept threatening to bust out of their containment. Of course being a mom meant the only thing I was really concerned about was the kids and their precious sleep. Isla was stirring and complaining that her belly hurt, and upon the next roll which produced a particularly loud clanking noise from somewhere (we didn’t have time to investigate) the babies started to wail.
Up to the v-berth I went to calm them and nurse them back to sleep. All was quiet for a brief moment when all of a sudden I heard the loudest, most terrifying banging noise coming from the bottom of the boat, followed by a shuddering thud. “What the…” Every subsequent roll I brought a BANG followed by a reverberation. My heart started beating double time. “Holy ***, we’ve broken from our mooring and run aground!” I thought. With the babies on each boob I yelled, very loudly and slightly panicked, to Scott. I didn’t hear him.
BANG. Shudder. BANG. Shudder. Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod.
The babies were full-blown screaming now, terrified. I frantically put them back in their bunk and rushed on deck to see what was going on.
“Scott! What is happening?” I panicked.
“I tried to lower the centerboard to slow down the roll” he said back as he labored to crank it back up.
BANG. Shudder. BANG. Shudder.
Babies screamed in surround.
BANG. Shudder. BANG. Shudder.
We needed to move.
Unfortunately it was 3am meaning that moving was really not an option for us. I got the babies back to sleep, calmed Isla and got her back down and Scott got the centerboard up so the rolling no longer produced the horrible vibrations and noises. Exhausted and slightly nauseous, I retreated back to our bunk until daylight. Sleep evaded me the rest of the night.
By daylight our buddy boat had dropped her mooring in search of a calmer anchorage and we followed suit minutes later. The swell had gained size and momentum during the night and motoring into it as we exited the harbor turned our boats into aggressive hobby horses (broncos?). Because we had left in such a hurry, we didn’t have time to properly prepare. It was raining. The boat was uncomfortable and stuff was everywhere. I had the kiddos down below, hungry and tired, and all three wailing and wanting to be held by mommy. Scott tried to settle our boat in the wind and waves and I worked on calming the kiddos. To say this little passage was “unpleasant” would be a very large understatement. Thankfully, it was short.
Thirty minutes later we were in Francis Bay. The new anchorage was better, but still not great. I was exhausted and could feel the familiar “tired headache” kicking in. Scott got to work making fresh waffles for all of us and our friends came over for a couple hours of playtime and breakfast. By noon it became apparent that our new home was going to be just as bad as the previous one and once we heard that the swell was only going to get worse, we dropped our mooring again – the third time in two days – in search for a calm bay and a good nights’ sleep.
After a beautiful two hour sail while the kids were all napping (so much nicer to sail while they sleep!) we finally dropped the hook on the other side of the island – the only area where we were certain to find protection from the dreaded roll – and found our calm in Hansen Bay. It was blissful and beautiful. Not a wave, ripple or roll in sight.
I don’t think I have ever appreciated a flat anchorage, and a good nights’ sleep, so much as I did yesterday.
The feeling of calm. Siigh.
We are certainly finding our groove around here. Of course we have our moments, as any parent does, but over all – life on the boat is going really well. I might even dare to say better than expected (there were tongue-in-cheek bets happening back home about how quickly we’d purchase our return tickets…the earliest – three weeks, longest – five weeks). A huge part of our “success” is the fact that we have two full-time, hands-on parents aboard and the second component (and I know I sound like a broken record, but it bears repeating) is the simple fact of where we are.
The US and British Virgin Islands (USVI and BVI, respectively) – albeit a bit expensive – are truly a wonderful place to cruise with a young family. There are so, so, SO many places to sail just an hour or two away and, to us, those short hops are key. Having sailed from Florida to Grenada and back up to St. Maarten (approximately 5K nautical miles in total) with one baby, I can say that these little leisure sails in these comparatively calm and protected waters – which cater more to families than the islands further south – are infinitely easier. Lately we’ve been doing our “passages” (if you can call them that) while the babies sleep which makes sailing all the more pleasant (and easy) for us, and the babies seem to even sleep better underway; the natural and gentle motion of the boat lulling them into a cozy slumber. Win/win.
The last week found us reconnecting and enjoying time with our old friends on s/v Necesse. We first met them in Georgetown, Bahamas in 2011 and then again in Georgetown in 2013. They have two adorable daughters, one of whom is only a week younger than Isla (you might remember them from my “Bahama Mama” post) and even though two years has gone by, it’s almost like no time has passed at all and it’s wonderful to see our kids to play together again. We have missed them and their company tremendously and this reunion was a long time coming. I have mentioned before “kid boats” like to find each other and stick together, and the wonderful Necesse family is no exception. This, coupled with the simple fact that the seeds of friendship are sown and grown at warp speed out here made for a very happy reunion. We plan to stick together as long as possible.
We’ve also been able to meet up with even more fantastic blog followers. Scott was clearing back into the BVI when one of them said, “Welcome back” and introduced himself (nice to now know you Brand) and then another lovely couple recognized Scott and offered him a ride in their rental car from Nanny Cay to Soper’s Hole (he was going to ride his bike) – all within three hours of each other! Big shout outs to our new friends Adam and Kelci (thank you for the Painkillers and awesome company for two evenings) and the crew of s/v Pixie Dust (thank you for the ride) – it’s truly incredible to see, in person, the far reaches of what began as a simple little blog of my musings written from my office cubicle. Sometimes it kind of blows my mind. The world is small, my friends. Very, very small. And the vast majority of people are really, really good. It’s a nice reminder.
In other news…Scott – always on the hunt for a way to make a buck and add to the cruising kitty – has secured a couple days of work acting as captain for a sea trial for a boat that we met back in Norman’s a couple weeks ago. They’re selling their boat but cannot be here for the trial with the new owners, and Scott offered his services. Having a captain’s license and being a solid person with an eye for opportunity can get you places in these parts. We have some very neat and exciting things brewing that might just keep us here for the long haul (we are currently living on savings at the moment and need to work again soon-ish) but we are going to have to wait until we know for sure what’s happening before we divulge. In the meantime, we’re going to continue island hopping and simply enjoying this beautiful salty life; the good, the bad and everything in between.
As usual, we’ll keep you posted.