Trip Report: 7 days of sailing with my wife Deanna who was disabled from shoulder surgery and her brother and sister-in-law who had never sailed and signed on as grunts, sailing Le Joie de Vivre, Also 2 days in St John just the 2 of us (March 4 – 14) The highlight of this trip was my wife, Deanna had shoulder surgery 7 weeks prior. She worked with one arm instructing her brother on mooring, anchoring, docking, one arming lines and boat hooks and taking the helm when we hoisted sails. She’s my hero. Then there was the boat…sweet!

For those of you that don’t like wordy reports, just read the notes and skip the rest:


1) GaryT’s boat, La Joie de Vivre was a pleasure to sail. The most comfortable cabin I’ve been in and a great ride on high seas. Highlights are: it’s a NEW boat, large cabins, electric head, large cockpit, electric halyard winch, lots of storage, new dingy and motor, lots of hatches. The bloc of ice we put in the freezer the first day was only 10% thawed at weeks end.
2) If you like crowds and parties, March is the time. I’ll not go back for a March sail. You had to be tied up too early. I felt sorry for the boats that stopped for diving. By the time they got in, all the balls were taken. Too many crazies on the water.
3) The snap hook shown in the BVI pictures works well, especially when it’s crowded or windy. But the best way to tie up…grab the pendant, wrap it on a cleat, run your bridle through the eye and release the pendant then secure your and adjust bridle.
4) The Kensington FM adapter work perfect for iPod music
5) The water was very cool. Quite a bit more than a year ago. The coral bleaching had healed quite a bit. The nights were cool. This is the first time I’ve put a jacket on in the VI’s. No bugs. I’m predicting much fewer storms this summer.
6) Flying to STT and taking the ferry over is still my favorite. One less plane means one less chance of losing luggage. Waiting on the ferry ride is much more relaxing than waiting in SJU
7) My new Cannon A620 with underwater housing worked good. I need to learn some things. Without my reading glasses in the dingy I was dead when it came to changing settings. How do you shoot moving subjects when you have a thick mask and plastic housing between your eyes and the LCD.
8) The dinghy step I purchased from Sailonline worked well. You need to make sure it’s adjusted so it’s not under the dinghy.
9) My new GPS 276C worked well, but for the money and my needs, my old 76C was more than sufficient.
10) This is the second time I used owner’s time. TMM treated me like any other customer.
11) We packed our meats and no one asked us for a meat permit…just the 5% duty.
12) With all the crowds and the seas this was a real a working trip. Yet everyone involved totally enjoyed it and remained extremely relaxed. We did a lot, saw a lot and enjoyed it all. Still, I don’t think anyone went home and said “what a relaxing trip”. This was no cruise ship tour. This was how a modern day Magellan took vacations.
13) My green crew brought lots of magic to prevent seasickness. They never needed it. They trusted La Joie de Vivre.
14) How does an 3rd generation Luxemburg/American get a boat that starts with the name La. I’m a US citizen on a Beneteau named La Joie de Vivre. Next to me is a French family on a Hunter named Kimberly. You boat owners make it hard to talk on the radio. Let’s clean up these boat names. Gary, do a little advertising. Get an agreement with Carib. Call your boat Carib.
15) What’s the etiquette on reserving mooring balls. We arrived at Cane Garden to find a flotilla lead boat had put had out fenders on 10 mooring pendants???

Here’s the long version --

The drive down – We flew 4.5 hours non-stop from O’Hare to St Thomas. The more planes involved in your trip the greater the chance of snafus. With only one plane and a ferry, you know where your bags are. We arrived at 3:00 which made the 3:30 ferry possible. Too bad the luggage conveyor at STT was broke. They sent us to the opposite end of the terminal to get our bags in a room that can hold 20 people. Needless to say we didn’t make the 3:30. We got to the dock as the 4:00 was departing. We were greeted with a fight between ferry operators over us. When all was settled, we ended upstairs having a Carib & waiting for the 4:30. It was a beautiful, relaxing ride to Sopper’s then Road Town, and a great way to bypass SJU. The one thing you have to watch is every 10’ someone wants to carry your bags for $$. I don’t mind employing the locals or tipping but I counted 7 times we tipped from STT to TMM and Bobby’s provisioning.

The sleep aboard worked out well. I had heard that TMM could get really hot & buggy, but good news. Our evening was cool & breezy. The forward cabin on Le Joie is quite large with its own private head and Tool Time electric toilet. Very comfortable. I had scheduled Bobby’s for a 6:00 delivery and they didn’t show until 7:30. Everything was there, but the extra wait was hard because we were tired and starved. It was 8:30 when we hit the Pub…good casual food. The downside of a sleep aboard was we had to unpack everything including provisions when we exhausted from the trip. The good news was we didn’t have to mess with an additional move from a hotel room the next morning.

Day one sailing was a late start. With all the boats going out, we did get checked out until after lunch. I did get to tour Jeannius thanks to a group of jovial nurses from Boston who had chartered her and Captain Sammy. They had their first drink at 9:30 that morning. Great boat, Mike. It was a great first day sail over to the Bight. The first thing that struck me coming in was all the boats were facing west. The next thing I notice was the mooring field was full, at 2:00. We tied up to one of the 5 remaining balls. We dinghied over to the Caves for a wonderful snorkel. The coral bleaching from last year has recovered about 80%. When we got back to the boat we saw that the Willie – T was at capacity. I’m surprised it stayed afloat. The dinghy dock was loaded and there were numerous power boats rafted along side. We approached just in time to see a pair of bare-naked Olympians jump off the back. As these ladies toweled off a powerboat arrived with passengers flashing their chests to a fleet of cameras. I’ve often heard the discussion on whether to take kids. Well, 100 yards off the back of Willie sat a family of 5, mom, dad and 3 grade school aged children in a dinghy observing the diving contest. The kids were in awe. That night we went aboard for a drink and to watch a bit of grinding. We met the nurses again who were still going strong. Jeannius was parked near the Willie and the one nurse who didn’t drink was back on the boat dancing under the cockpit light while her partners on the Willie cheered her on…funny.

The next morning all of the moored boats had taken on a more normal easterly worship. For as much partying that had gone on the night before, I was amazed at how early all the boats were leaving. We had plans of stopping at the Indians, but all the balls were already taken at 10:00 AM. So we headed out and west of the Indians and prepared to pose for Yacht Shots. Sure enough he little dingy and photographer were dancing around a couple of boats in the Sir Francis Drake channel. After our session ended we headed up with thoughts of stopping at the Baths. We got within periscope range and found that this too was crowded. So we headed to our destination of Saba Rock on a gorgeous day of power sailing. We arrived at Saba at 2:00 and guess what? The moorings here were also near full. A couple of balls had life jackets on the pendants noting they were reserved. By 3:00 all balls were taken at Saba and BEYC…anchor only. We watched boat after boat head for the balls with the life jackets only to realize they were taken. Our plans were to spend 2 nights on this ball and just relax. Again the nights were cool as was the water. I brought along a wet suit top and was glad I did. Boats continued to roll in well into the dark. We had several boats anchor along side of us, and our normally P&Q spot became quite crowded.

Day 3 was a lazy day spent snorkeling up in Eustacia. A bunch of sand had moved in since last November and the best snorkeling was further out. The highlight was my new camera with underwater housing. I was dancing with a lobster that kept charging me every time I stuck the camera in his face. I took some good pictures and I’m pleased with my purchase, but it’s very challenging to operate, especially if you need readers. It’s hard to find a moving subject when you have a housing and a mask between your eyes and the LCD. The best way to capture a creature was to anticipate their moves and hold the camera still until they crossed your path. This ain’t easy when you’re 6’ under holding your breath. That afternoon was calm and we decided to dinghy over to Leverick and pick up some staples. We could’ve taken the Saba ferry, but found it a simple 15-minute ride. Back at the boat we watch a 200’ yacht back into the dock at BEYC, quite a spectacle.

Day 4 was suppose to be a trip to Cane Garden with a stop at Monkey Point or Diamond Cay as an alternate. The anchorages at the Dogs and Monkey were packed. With our crowd experience and forecast of minor NE swells we decided to head right to Cane Garden and find a mooring in the eastern part of the bay, “the quiet part”. Upon arrival at 12:30 we find almost all the balls taken or marked with fenders tied to pendants. A Moorings flotilla lead boat had come in and marked off at least 10 balls. I was furious as were the boats coming later in the day. Can a lead boat reserve multiple balls??? We ended up moored in one of the most exposed areas of the bay. Again we faced northwest. The afternoon seemed harmless but by evening we were in the rock and roll hall of fame…5 to 7’ swells. My brother in law took his terrified wife ashore, and the 2 first time sailors hung out on the beach, watching anchor lights shoot across the sky while they contemplated where they may sleep. Deanna and I stayed onboard, un-pinned the gimble and cooked spaghetti. It was hilarious. We got rolled so much, we were laughing. The only thing that stayed in place where the pots on the stove. There was no wind that night so the rocking would disappear and then come back with a furry. At about 9:00 my crew came back on board and with much courage crawled into their berths. You had to sleep on you back, cuz you’d get rolled off your side. No one slept well, but we did sleep.

Day 5 forecasts were for 15 to 20 kt. winds, swells to worsen and a danger alert was put out by NOAA to all beach goers warning of riptides and surfs up to 15’. (Manpot…Surf’s Up!) I recorded a wind gust of 27 kts. I watched a couple of smaller boats head out and with no sails, get beat up. I knew I had get my crew out of here or they would never talk to me again. The question was where. The 2 safes spots I could think of were #1 Soppers and #2 Great Harbor. Our original goal was to spend a night at White Bay, but I could just guess what was waiting there. The only chance would be anchor on the east shore and pull a stern anchor to keep the bow into the surf. Gary has a shoal draft, so I know it would work. We decided to go take a look. I was amazed at how quickly my brother-in-law had learned and how much he knew from reading books ahead of time. Anyhow, we reefed one and hoisted our main right after passing the channel markers. The swells were pretty much straight out of the north. So, I point our bow towards Diamond Cay figuring we can quarter them until we get west of Sandy Cay. It worked perfect. GaryT, your boat rode the waves like a charm. Once past Sandy we turned downwind and it became pleasantly quiet. Other than the surfing, the sail around the corner was quite easy.

We dropped sails at the east entrance to White Bay and begin to motor in. There was one good spot left to anchor…the eastern balls were all gone. As we closed on the channel markers a large private cat came up fast on our starboard side and threatened to collide at the channel. If I hadn’t thrown the throttle into hard reverse I have no doubt we would have crashed. Everyone aboard was cussing and shaking fists, but now I was left with another problem. The boat was stopped in a swell and a reef not too far off. I forgot my anger and worked on regaining steerage, then immediately turned out. As we turned toward Great Harbor I watched the cat anchor. The son-of-a-#$%% knew I was heading for that anchorage. I was determined not to let some [censored] wreck my trip. So I wiped it out of my mind.

So then we prepared our anchor as we entered Great Harbor. At 11:30 it was already crowded. Again boats were facing northwest. I decided to anchor just west of one of the channel markers well into the bay in 25’. We came alongside another mono and dropped about 150’ south of him. I wished I had put a bottle on the anchor, because it was just a matter of time before the winds shifted back from the east. That afternoon saw another zoo load of boats come in. At one time I counted 70 masts at anchor. A cat anchored in between me and the other mono, but didn’t grab. He drifted towards us and finally picked anchor and moved on. The moorings flotilla entered the harbor late in the afternoon and one of their 473’ fouled with another team boat. The flotilla lead dinghy ran around trying to get everyone in a safe position. I was really worried about what the night would bring. Sure enough the winds were shifting. A mono came in and started to position itself somewhere around my anchor, but with the shifting winds I couldn’t be sure where it was. I warned them of its approximate location. I know they didn’t drop on me, but when they let out road, their boat floated somewhere near or over my rode. I would deal with that next morning. Meanwhile boats kept coming in. At 5:00 Jeannius came in with no apparent place to anchor, except this captain had his private spot. He dropped anchor right in the ferry channel about 200’ south of the ferry dock, then proceeded to back up towards the western shoreline. One of the nurses tied a long dock line to the stern, walked it into shore and tied it to a tree. There they stayed all night, not a worry in the world. I was impressed.

We tried to dingy over to White Bay, but when we rounded the corner the surf was bigger than I’d ever seen. I’m so glad we didn’t try spending the night there. We scratched that idea and decided we would hoof it over tomorrow. The flotilla lead boat, a 4700 had taken a full load of people from Great Harbor to Soggy Dollar that afternoon. They came back about 5:30. Guess what, they couldn’t find a place to anchor. That was one angry captain. He found a spot, but ˝ hour later had to find something better. This crazy captain moved several times, and didn’t settle in until 7:30 at night.

Day 6 forecasts were the same. We decided to stay put and enjoy the day. We did move anchors to what we hoped would be a quieter nightspot. The mono next to us did have to weigh anchor as we came close to him as we came out. As it turns out a couple of boat loads of day sailors from the Ritz came in and a private barbecue was set up. There were also 2 large tall mast ships anchored outside the harbor. With all the people, Foxy’s was in full swing and the man himself was up entertaining. I got to talk with him later and he showed me some of his plans for the future, the biggest being 6 luxury rooms to be built upstairs. I’m not sure there’s enough room for 6 but it should get a lot of attention. That afternoon we found a kayak loose and tied it to our mooring ball, believing the owner would come for it.

That afternoon we hiked over to Ivan’s for the sunset show. What a beautiful walk, about 20 minutes. The surf was beautiful. The sunset was gorgeous. The camps and cabins were full. I’ve never stayed there, but I get the feel of a 1960’s hippie commune. No offense. I think it’s neat. We walked back and counted 60 masts in Great Harbor…way too crowded. The kayak was still with us. I was not about to have a kayak with us all night, so I towed it around looking for an owner. None to be had. I was about to beach it by the ferry dock, when the owner showed, a cruiser who should know better. There was a barbecue at Foxy’s and we decided to give the grill on the back of the boat a rest and have our first dinner out. The place was packed and the party egg had hatched. That night the band played well into the evening. One of the tall mast ships began firing cannons…that was cool.

Day 7 we wake up and find a Moorings 4700 parked next to us that wasn’t there the night before. No one heard it come in. The captain was in the water with a mask inspecting the back of his boat. A little while later he dinghied by and hollered to us “some crazy guys drug their anchor and broke me loose…cost me a boat”. This was not good. I don’t know who or what he hit last night, but we made a quick inspection of our boat. He was anchored right next to a red channel marker, so it’s possible he hit the shore on the other side of the channel…boat’s name was something line Marmellie. I’m guessing by the make up of the passengers and this being a local captain, that he was a charter captain. At this point it was fair to say that the BVI waters were at or beyond capacity.

We headed over for a night at Soppers. My brother-in-law and wife would catch the ferry there next morning to make a 2:00 STT flight. I had arranged for Tortola friend and family to sail back to TMM with us next morning. We sailed out towards St John off the west end of Great Thatch. Greg wanted to learn more about sailing so I let him take the helm and prepared him for his first tack after Thatch. Well anyone who knows that channel could tell you you’re in for a flurry of tacking trying to make your way east. Everyone did fine. Sopper’s too was crowded. There was a 200+” ship tied up by the Harbor Market. Someone tell me how that ship gets through all the boats in the mooring field? We went to Jolly Rogers for my birthday, desert and a drink. They were very busy. The day ended as the week had started, cool weather and crowded ports. That night we had our first rain for the entire week…lasted about 20 minutes.

Day 8 was back to Road Town. My Tortola friend had to cancel out. So it was Deanna with one arm, me and a 47’ boat. We motored the entire way. A year ago if I had told Deanna we were taking this boat into TMM ourselves she would have jumped ship. This whole trip she was totally at ease and confident in our abilities. She took the helm the entire way. The plan was that she would drive the boat around the harbor while I put out lines and fenders, then call TMM for support. The fuel dock was the first stop. I knew everything goes on the right and the dinghy on the left. When we get to the harbor, I pull the dinghy up. I turn around, Deanna’s already up on the deck prepping lines. What a sport. We slipped in front of a cat at the dock and tied up with a little help from our friends.

After the boat checkout we went to the West End for a 4:00 ferry to St Johns. Time to have a rotti at Pisces…good food. I won’t go into a lot of detail about St Johns other than I was saddened by the development there. A year ago they were building a new car ferry dock in a dredged bay between Cruz & Great Cruz. A year later the dock was completed but not operational. The person who greeted us at the ferry dock told us that after the dock was completed they realized they didn’t have the roads to handle the large truck traffic. They may have to take down a gas station and some other things. So it’s on hold. There are 2 40-unit condo complexes going up on the west end. One right across the valley from where we stayed. We had rock hammers and excavators in our ears all day long. You couldn’t open the patio door with all the noise. What really concerns me is they continue to develop housing on the west end and they don’t have the infrastructure to handle the growth. It’s kind of like let’s build a bunch of stuff, then deal with the problems it brings. The one thing that still brings great cheers to my life is Uncle Joe’s Barbecue…the beast meal in all the ilons.

The ride home was uneventful. We got to STT on Tuesday 1.5 hours before our flight and whisked right through. Arrived in Chicago at 7PM. Glad to be home. So now we have 6 weeks until we’re back on Tortola. It’s a hard life.

Mike M.