Thursday, March 29, 2012

Baby Quilts

I have both a niece and a nephew that are having their first babies this summer. When my generation had their children I went on a baby quilting making tear. I liked making baby quilts. They were small and fun to make, with lots of creative cute patterns to follow. I burned out on quilt making years ago after tackling a full-sized quilt, but the thought of a new generation of babies prime for baby quilts got me excited about quilt making again.

I knew that I had a stash of quilt patterns stored away somewhere. I remembered seeing them when we lived in Hong Kong, but now I couldn't find them. I kept going down into the basement and hunting through the boxes stored there "one more time" but no luck. I would decide to give up, and then take another look. Finally on my third and final expedition into the basement I found them. In a box at the bottom of a stack of boxes, in a box labeled "books" there they were.

The old patterns were yellow and musty-smelling, but still perfectly serviceable. But, they also seemed dated, and more complicated than I remembered. There was one quilt pattern that I was especially fond of, but it required hand-quilting so I decided to save it for another time. After all of that I decided to go buy some new patterns after all.

There is a very nice quilt store right around the corner from our house. The ladies at the Pine Tree Quilt Shop were very helpful. They came up with the ingenious idea of using a printed panel for the center of the quilt, and choosing complimentary colored fabric strips to frame it. After choosing the required fabric I was ready to take my purchases home and begin.

It was at this point that my aging brain ran into a little trouble. The first step was to cut out those fabric strips for the border, but I couldn't seem to calculate the lengths and widths correctly, allowing for 1/4 inch seams. I kept measuring and calculating, but finally had to pin the strips together to make sure I cut them correctly. It shouldn't have been that hard....I started worrying about incipient Alzheimer's, but it all worked out.

Now over then next couple of months two quilts should start to take shape. I've been looking at the other quilts we own, trying to decide what quilting pattern I should use once they are put together, but I don't have to decide that just yet. One thing at a time!

Friday, March 23, 2012

BVI Day 7 - Back to Road Town, Tortola

In the morning Doug decided that he wanted to try to see the wreck of the Rhone before we headed back to Road Town, so we got an early start. The winds were calmer than the previous day, but we still motored through Soper's Hole to get over to the Channel. Although I continued to do a good job of navigating, a somewhat ambiguous note on the chart threw me off.

The chart had two places marked "Rhone", but the one I chose turned out to be merely the anchor. It was a pretty setting on Peter Island, but it wasn't where we had intended to go. We motored over to Salt Island, where the rest of the boat had sunk in a hurricane back in the 1800's. Sally, Doug and co had a good time snorkeling over to the wreck, even though in order to really see the whole boat you have to scuba dive.

Then it was time to head back to Road Town. One more time across the channel, and before too long we were in our slip, hooked up to shore power and ready for one more night on the town.

This time we chose a local restaurant called C and F Seafood. They specialized in curry, lime and garlic butter sauces over various types of seafood. They had conch, which is often tough if not cooked properly, but their's was great, spicy and delicious. We tried all the different sauces over conch, shrimp and scallops. It was all great.

We had to get up very early for our flights back to reality the next day, so we called it a night before very long. No more crazy cocktails, no more sleeping on a rocking boat under a star-filled sky. Time to go home, where early spring and a small white dog are waiting.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

British Virgin Islands Day 6 - Passage to Jost Van Dyke

The following day the winds were much better. They were still strong but the swells were smaller. It was time to head to Jost Van Dyke, an Island on the other side of Tortola. We had far to go today, almost 20 miles, but with favorable winds we hoped the journey wouldn't be too long.

I've beome the official navigator on our sailing adventures. Navigation is one thing about sailing that I really enjoy. Plotting a course, determining our heading, getting our bearing...its all fun to me. I'm slowing improving my methods too, mainly by writing down headings and bearings as I figure them out. Otherwise I just spend the day constantly recalculating things, cause I can't remember anything anymore. I've started writing down the current heading and bearings on little slips of paper, because otherwise by the time I climb the stairs from the nav table to the cockpit I've forgotten them again. When we get our own boat I will learn how to plot waypoints into the gps, and that will eliminate the need for little paper pieces, but for now they will do.

We stopped at Diamond Cay for a little snorkeling, but it was too rough for me. Instead I stayed on the boat, writing and reading while the rest snorkeled. Suddenly a school of large silver blue fish came flipping and leaping around the boat. They even flew underneath the boat, making thump thump thumping noises as they tried to jump but hit the boat instead. They would start to fly out into the bay and then they would come back to the boat and repeat the whole enterprise.

Then it was on to Great Harbor. The few moorings available here were already taken so we had to anchor. Then it was time to go Into shore and walk around in the little town. This part of our first trip to the BVI I remember very well; the little Police Station, and of course Foxy's. I bought a Foxy's tshirt, my one souvineer for this trip.

We had crazy Caribbean cocktails, (Sally and I chose mango mohitos), and the kingfish for dinner. We listened to funky, relaxed, regeaa music, and had key lime pie for dessert. Back on the boat, we were reduced to bobbing on an anchor all night which sucks, but what can you do? That's the way it is on a boat sometimes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The BVI Days 4 and 5 - The Bitter End

The Bitter End is a resort in North Sound at the very tip of Virgin Gorda. After the Baths we motored up there because we were heading into the wind and the seas were very rough. We picked up a mooring without any trouble, and with a bit of island-time confusion, managed to make dinner reservations as well. I threw on a sundress, and off we went to enjoy the West Indian Buffet at the Clubhouse Grill.

It was SO GOOD! We had snapper, tuna, steak, salads, jerk chicken, Carribean rice, BBQ ribs, bread pudding, guava tarts, banana cream pie, and some people even had coffee with rum at the end. We really could barely walk back to our dinghy after that meal.

Actually I was having trouble walking for a different reason. Earlier in the day I managed to stub my toe on the nav table in the cabin. My toe was swollen and purple, and it really hurt. I hoped it wasn't broken....I was planning on starting my marathon training again soon, and I sure would be disappointed if I had to wait for a broken toe to heal.

The rough seas and swells were supposed to persist for another day, so we decided to spend Wednesday at the resort and wait until Thursday to head to Jost Van Dike. This part of our earlier vacation I remember very well. It was one of my favorite days the first time around, and so it was this time too. Because my toe still really hurt I decided to hang out by the pool. I could be the anchor spot while other people came and went on their adventures, meeting off and on for lunch and refreshments.

Sally and Doug opted for wind surfing. They are experienced wind surfers, but they said the equipment was worn and the swirling winds made conditions less than ideal. Sadie and Douglas decided to take Hobie Cat lessons. They had a great time! Lee hung out at the pool with me.

Later in the afternoon my foot felt a little better so I decided to take a short walk on one of the trails along the coast. Although my toe still hurt, moving actually made it feel a little better. I went slowly and took lots of pictures. I started to take a trail that led up a hill, but I almost stepped on an iguana sunning himself across the path. He eyed me with a sleepy, grumpy glare, and I decided it was time to turn around.

We headed to the bar at 4:30pm, ready to try hot wings, conch fritters, $2 beer, and rum punch. Sun drenched and a little drunk, we headed back to the boat for the night.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

BVI Day 2/3 - Norman Island to Cooper Island to the Baths on Virgin Gorda

In the morning we woke up and plotted our course for the day. We were heading for Cooper Island and we thought it might be fun to head around the south side of the island into the Atlantic for part of the trip. For awhile it WAS fun, but it didn't take too long before we realized that between the swells, and having to head into the wind (which meant we needed to tack, zig-zagging back and forth) we weren't making very good progress. We circled around Norman Island and headed back into the Francis Drake Channel.

It was calmer, as far as swells went, but the wind was strong. With Doug the speed demon driving, we stayed on a fairly close reach, heeling enough that we buried the rail once or twice. Lynn the coward probably had her eyes shut half the day. Finally the wind got so strong that Lee said we needed to take the sails down and motor the rest of the way. Yay for my sensible captain!

There is only one small mooring field on Cooper Island, and because of our little misadventure in the Atlantic, we got there too late to pick up a mooring ball. But there was a decent place to anchor around the corner from the mooring field so we made our home for the night there.

We needed ice, so a few of us decided to take the dinghy over to the little beach restaurant and see if they would sell us some. Originally we thought that we would go out to eat at the little beach restaurant, so this gave us a chance to see just how rough the ride would be. The answer was, very rough indeed. Rough enough that I was cowering on the floor of the dinghy, praying for that ride to be over quickly.

The verdict was, no ice, and dinner on the boat again. Oh well!

After dinner we turned off the lights to watch the stars. Suddenly Doug said "Wow! Look at that!" something was making little phosphorescent lights in the water. At first it looked like little fireflies were swimming around the boat. Then here and there the fireflies would gather together and create a little explosion of light, followed by a string of lights disapating into the water. We watched in fascination as the lights blinked, gathered, exploded and disapated, over and over. We thought they were little marine animals of some sort, and later we found out that they were a biological thing but not exactly an animal per se. That was a little disappointing; we thought it was some sort of mating ritual!

In the morning we lost no time getting ready and leaving for the Baths on Virgin Gorda. We knew it was a popular destination and wanted to be able to find a mooring ball and avoid the crowds.

Once again I initially had no memory of the Baths. We pulled into the mooring balls and decided we could swim into the shore. Suddenly a little storm swept through and a rainbow appeared in the distance. It was a complete rainbow, very cool, with a faint double rainbow visible above the first.

I was a little anxious about the swim, because it was a little farther than I usually like to go, but with flippers and a mask I did fine. The waves at the shore were pretty big, however. There was a yellow flag flying, which meant use caution. Getting through the breakers and into shore was no picnic, but I made it.

Then, we started walking along the little path along the beach, toward the rocks. The path disappeared between the rocks and suddenly I remembered the Baths. Small sandy paths wound between big boulders along the beach. Pools of water glimmered in the dim recesses between the rocks. I could remember our kids clambering around on the rocks, and the beautiful little beach at the end.

The only difference was the crowds. Fifteen years ago there was hardly anyone there. This time there was a line of tourists wandering along the paths. When we got to the little beach there were lots of people. It was still beautiful but it just wasn't the same.

On the way back to the boat we took a higher path to avoid the crowds. That was fun. We saw little birds, lizards and cactus. For being surrounded by water, these islands are actually pretty dry.

The swim back to the boat was pretty hairy for me however. Just getting away from shore with flippers on was difficult and I started hyperventilating and couldn't put on my snorkeling mask. I finally held onto someone's dinghy until I could breathe calmly. Then I could swim back to the boat without too much trouble.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sailing in the British Virgin Islands Day 1 - Norman Island

We've often talked about repeating vacations that we've really loved, but until now we never have. There are so many places we want to go and so many things we want to do that it has never seemed practical to do something twice when uncharted territory beckons.

But after saying all that, here we are in the BVI, the British Virgin Islands. Fifteen years ago we came here with Phil, Gail, Stephanie and Becca. Sarah and Becca were 14, Stephanie was 12, and Daniel was eleven.

We came here for two weeks. We had never ocean-sailed before, so the first week (at my insistence) we had a captain, and the second week we did by ourselves. We learned a lot, had a wonderful time, and made memories that will last a lifetime.

But it's really funny what I remember and what has entirely slipped my mind. On our first day out we are moored at The Bight on Norman Island. The BVI consists of a string of small islands and pretty much lives to service vacationers, both in sailboats and on resorts. I don't really remember this island very well, but today when we went snorkeling at the caves I suddenly remembered snorkeling right here. In my memory the snorkeling in the BVI was just incredible, with vivid colorful coral everywhere we went. Unfortunately the coral in the BVI has died off a lot in fifteen years, just like about everywhere else in the world. It's pretty sad, although there still are bits of color here and there, and as always, the tropical fish are beautiful.

We have a newer, nicer boat this time, with 3 staterooms, two bathrooms, and "real" showers. We are sailing with our friends Sally and Doug, and their high school and college-age children, Sadie and Douglas. So far we are getting along well and are having a great time.

Everyone else went off to hike around on the island, but I stayed behind to take a shower and write a little in this blog. That blue, blue Carribean water is all around me, a sea of boats happily bobbing on their moorings, facing into the wind.

When we were here before it was late June, and hot. Our boat didn't have aircon and things could get pretty stuffy. I think I remember some children actually sleeping outside on some nights.

This time it is early March, and sometimes the breeze is chilly, and the water was kind of cold when we were snorkeling. I don't think we're going to need the aircon on this boat!


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