Sunday, January 30, 2011

West End, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, to Jost Van Dyke, BVI

A fabulous day --- we all were up early. While Karen and Kerry took a morning dinghy ride, Ron and I were hiking up the extremely steep mountainside, checking out the resident goats  scrambling about on the hillside fields, and taking in the amazing water views of Jost Van Dyke on the horizon. Just a gorgeous morning in the sunshine! 
Going up!
Views of Jost Van Dyke on the horizon from Tortola's West End
Equinox amid all the sail boats in Soper's Hole, West End
Mother goat with her twins on the hillside
We left West End before the winds picked up too much, and popped over to Jost Van Dyke for some beachside fun. We tried to anchor off the western side of the anchorage in Great Harbor, but the holding was negligible at best. The anchor was bouncing along on hard rocky shale, and after some discussion of depths and winds, we hauled up the anchor and made our way among the numerous charter boats to pick up a mooring. Throughout the day, we watched several boats all attempt to anchor in the same area, with the same results....clearly it's just an area of the anchorage that has poor holding. We were grateful to be on the mooring!
Self -explanatory!
Part of the mural on the side of Foxy's

We dinghied ashore at Jost Van Dyke and took a leisurely walk along the shore from the west end over to Foxy’s. It was quiet at that time of day! We then took a dinghy ride over to White Bay to enjoy the beach for the rest of the day. Lots of folks were there, with tenders and boats of all sizes anchored out off the shore, everyone enjoying the island ambience and blazing sunshine -- so fun! 
View of the beach at White Bay near the Soggy Dollar Bar

Ron at the Ocean Sea

View of the turquoise waters of White Bay from Ocean Sea
After a fabulous lunch of homemade pizza and some rum drinks at the Ocean Sea, we walked down the beach to have the requisite drink at The Soggy Dollar Bar. We people-watched, relaxed, chatted and had a great afternoon before we returned for an early night aboard with a dinner and a movie. Yep -- nine o'clock is the cruisers’ midnight!

The original! Dollars are still soggy after all these years!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

USVI to Soper's Hole, West End, Tortola!

Friday morning we cruised over to the British Virgin Islands in 3’-5’ seas, light easterly winds under sunny skies -- what is not to like? We vacillated between anchoring at St. John’s in Cinnamon Bay or going over to the BVI, before deciding to clear in at Soper’s Hole in West End, Tortola. It was another fun decision....and what boat should we see as we made our way to a mooring in Soper’s Hole? Blue Guitar, Eric Clapton’s former vessel!! We'd heard it was about, and it is a classic, gorgeous boat! It was a small treat, but a fun one for us, as I’ve been a fan of Clapton for as long as I can remember! 

The hailing port is still London, of course!
Soper’s Hole was packed; we were lucky to arrive when we did, since the moorings were quickly filled and many other boats were on anchor. Karen, Kerry and I washed down Equinox while Captain Ron took care of clearance with Customs and Immigration. Timing is everything, as clearance procedures here were definitely more complicated and took quite a bit of time. We three had not only washed and rinsed Equinox, but were wiping her dry by the time Ron returned!

With the formalities accomplished, the original Pusser’s Landing was calling!! We dinghied up and each relaxed with a different rum drink to celebrate landfall in the BVI -- who knew that a drink called "Nelson's Blood" could be so tasty? We enjoyed the day in leisurely fashion, and walked along the waterfront shops before returning to Equinox. A glorious sunset and dinner aboard completed our evening -- too beautiful for words!

The original Pusser's Landing, Tortola, BVI as seen from the dinghy dock
The gorgeous view of Little Thatch Island, BVI as seen from Equinox as we
dined on the aft deck. Living the dream! 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Touring Charlotte Amalie with Friends Aboard

Equinox on anchor with all the sailboats in Charlotte Amalie Harbour, St. Thomas, USVI

Ron and I now have our friends Karen and Kerry from Concrete Idea aboard with us! They arrived late Wednesday evening, and we spent Thursday walking about St. Thomas, first sightseeing in the morning and provisioning at the Pueblo in the afternoon. It was fun showing them a little of St. Thomas -- Karen had been here as a child, but Kerry had never seen the island before, so it was all new territory. The Virgins are so mountainous and visually different from the familiar flat islands of the Bahamas, and the historic Danish architecture of the downtown area so interesting. 
Blackbeard's Watchtower, dating from the 1600s
We hiked up "The 99 Steps" -- one of several Danish-built “step-streets” that were constructed to deal with the problem of St. Thomas’s steep hills -- all the way up to Blackbeard’s Castle, a watchtower built in the 1600s, where we enjoyed a fabulous view of the harbor, islands and anchored yachts -- you get a glimpse of what it must have been like 300 years ago! Ron and I have really enjoyed meandering through the quaint old sections of town, where the long Danish warehouse buildings once housed goods like cotton and indigo, used for trading to colonial New England or to Europe. We’ve also been on the lookout for more of the off-the-beaten-track places, trying to avoid the obvious tourist traps that spoil the charming local flavor. There are a few hidden gems: there is the Seven Artches Museum, which was once a Danish craftsman’s residence built during the 19th century, with a stairacse supported by seven arches. Ron discovered there is a synagogue here, one of the oldest in the U.S. and its territories, having been formally established in 1796 by Sephardic Jews. An interesting architectural note is that is has a sand floor, a reminder of when Portuguese and Spanish Jews had to worship in secret and used sand on their floors to muffle the sounds. There is also one of the oldest Lutheran churches here, established in 1666, the same year that the Danish West India Company took possession of St. Thomas. Very cool history indeed!
Frederick Lutheran Church, established in 1666, and the present building
rebuilt in 1826.
We were disappointed a bit with Blackbeard’s watchtower -- the tower itself is no longer adjacent to an open-access restaurant as it was long ago, but is now cordoned off, fenced off and hawked as a museum and rum factory tour. Rather disappointing on that score, but the views from the hillside are just as stunning, and we had a great walk up and down the stair-streets of the upper parts of the city. 
Looking out towards Crown Bay from the base of Blackbeard's tower

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Landfall: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands!

A mere three hours from the Spanish Virgins, we arrived in Charlotte Amalie Harbour, St. Thomas on Sunday morning. We’d left early yet again, and enjoyed an easy passage once again. But what a difference an anchorage makes!! After the glorious solitude and quiet of Luis Pena, the busy harbor here felt like Grand Central Station! Huge cruise ships line the docks on the eastern flank of the harbor, ferries and water taxis  are in full motion, plying the waters between the islands and a plethora of cruising boats (mostly sail) fill the waterfront anchorage areas. Nestled below the steep hills rising above the waterfront downtown buildings, the anchorage is a spectacular setting. 
View of St. Thomas downtown waterfront from the Charlotte Amalie Harbor
Ron, Ally and I had been here 7 years ago, when we chartered a boat for a fun summer cruise here and through the BVI. How things have changed! Charlotte Amalie is much busier now, in part due to the completion of a new mega-yacht marina complex next door to the cruise ship terminal. Filled with ships 100- 300’ long, it has changed the  atmosphere of the harbor with its high-end stores and focus on shopping. There are couple of waterfront restaurants as well, for those who don’t want a crowded jitney taxi ride to the historic Danish buildings of the old downtown area. Besides a small vendors’ plaza of island crafts, t-shirts and souvenirs, the main thoroughfares of the downtown are also dedicated to duty-free shopping by the cruise ship masses: watches and jewelry abound in every store, with merchants hawking their wares insistently.
Ron and I walked the historic streets, finding a few interesting spots among the relentless duty-free frenzy: we ate at Glady’s Cafe, a great little Caribbean eatery tucked in an old warehouse along one of the narrow Danish cobblestone streets, and spent some time in SOS Antiques, purveyors of old maps, books and authentic nautical items salvaged and recovered from the sea. The curried goat stew at Gladys’s was fabulous, and I really was fascinated by many of the unique items on display at SOS. From antique coins and bits of recovered pottery set in bezeled necklaces, to old bronze divers helmets, ships wheels and  glass floats, there is plenty to investigate. There are also small museums tucked here and there, amid the old Danish buildings, and it's a lovely place to explore on foot. We plan to do more tomorrow!
The stonewall of an old Danish warehouse
One of many narrow cobblestone passages 
Climbing the 99 (actually 103) steps
Ron about to start climbing!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spanish Virgins: Cayo de Luis Pena!

We left just before dawn on the overcast morning of January 20th, to take advantage of the light winds and calmer seas as we headed east. It was spectacular to slip out of the harbor beneath the looming promontory of El Morro, then head east along the shoreline to view Old Town San Juan from the sea. We enjoyed the sense of the history behind the waterfront area and the gated city as we passed. It really was an interesting port, and one we really enjoyed!
Old Town San Juan from the Atlantic
The forecast was true to form, and the seas were lovely, just 3-4’ in a fairly gentle ESE swell, with none of the nasty, short, bouncing chop of our previous passage. We cruised a solid 6 hours under increasingly sunny skies, making our way through the eastern islands and cays of  Puerto Rico until we reached the small National Wildlife Refuge of Cayo de Luis Pena, just to the west of the Spanish Virgin island of Culebra. There we found a beautiful protected anchorage on the northwest corner of the island, in the lee of the stiff SE trade winds, where we dropped anchor in a good 25’ of water. We found that we could have anchored in much closer to shore than we did, as these islands are not the shallow waters of the Bahamas, the Caicos Bank or even the Chesapeake! There is deep water -- 30’ - 40’ -- until quite close to the shoreline of these spectacularly rugged islands. But, not being familiar with the depths of these waters, we were cautious in our anchoring, and stayed offshore a bit. We had no idea that Puerto Rico’s Spanish Virgin Islands were so mountainous and serene: wild goats roamed the hillsides above our anchorage, with  stunning bits of beach tucked in between rocky crags and cliffs. The beach itself is a protected sea turtle nesting area. It was isolated, remote and starkly beautiful, to say the least! 
Craggy rocky shoreline of Cayo de Luis Pena
Pristine and remote, the colors glowed along this shoreline
We stayed on anchor there a couple of days, first giving the boat a thorough loving wash-down, rinse and dry after its salty passages of the past week. While we had the boat washed in San Juan, Ron and I put in a good 4 hours of time between us to really do the boat with care. It looked gleaming and gorgeous in the beauty of the anchorage! We enjoyed the solitude, swimming, snorkeling and walking along the beach before moving on. A couple other sailboats shared the anchorage with us before we left, but it was a cruising anchorage to remember. Gorgeous!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Boat maintenance in exotic locations, once again!

Well, after our excursion through the Old Town of San Juan, we returned to the boat and did a lot of needed chores. Ron did an oil change on the mains, put in fresh pencil zincs in the engines and hydraulic tank reservoir, while I did a major cleaning of the cabins and heads, and handled a few loads of laundry before documenting all the engine room work in the maintenance log. We also post the information on bits of tape in the engine room with date completed, engine hours and the next due date in the cycle. We put the next maintenance due date at the helm as well, so we know at a glance how close we are to needing another routine oil change. Granted, not very high-tech, but it helps quite a bit! 

Then, just to make the day interesting, the master shower sump pump died, and when we went to pull out the spare, we found that the unit that we had on board was the wrong pump! Great...clearly we should have double-checked, but we assumed we were given the correct model. Ugh! Oh well....anyone need a 12V DC water pump? We immediately went to work, scouting out the internet for replacements (should we need to ship one in) and then calling the two different chandleries here in San Juan for possible availability. Thankfully, CEA Industrial Supply is a Jabsco dealer, and not only had the correct 24V pump in stock, but said they had 40 of them in stock!! (How amazing is that, to find a 24V general purpose shower pump on island when we can't even find fresh vegetables here??) Seriously, the IGA in Provo was positively gourmet in its vegetable stocks compared to the Pueblo we found near the marina where we went to re-provision a bit. Amazing! Nevertheless...we were more than happy to find the pump, as we can always make do for a bit on the vegetable front! Even more happily, Ron took out the old pump and installed the new one without any issue. 
The correct 24V DC pump for our shower sump
After all our work, we treated ourselves to another bicycle ride to Old Town San Juan in the afternoon for a leisurely ride along its avenidas and calles, stopping for lunch at a little tapas place. It's such a cool part of the city here; as we said, it has a very European atmosphere in the midst of the Caribbean. 
Narrow one-way streets, with elegant buildings
Intricate detail on railings and cornices
Ornate mosaic tiled storefronts
The blue glazed cobblestone of the Old Town Streets
Some of the colorful buildings
Our luncheon spot on the left, where we feasted on ceviche and tostones
After a warm sunny afternoon of bicycling,we stopped for lunch and enjoyed the local cuisine. Mixed ceviche (octopus, shrimp and mahi mahi) with tostones (twice fried green plantains) were delicious! We returned to the boat in time for sunset, and to enjoy a quiet night aboard, watching as the full moon rose in the eastern sky. It's been a great stop here; one we certainly didn't anticipate, so we're valuing the experience all the more. We will be heading out in the morning; hopefully the weather will be as predicted with light winds and relatively calm seas! 

Castillo de San Felipe del Morro!

The rugged Puerto Rico coastline on the way to Old Town San Juan
We hopped on our bikes this morning and went over to the Old Town of San Juan, built on the point of land overlooking the east entrance to San Juan Bay. Inside its walls, there are over 400 restored buildings, museums and churches from the 16th- and 17th-century Spanish Colonial period. It's only a three miles away from the marina, and perfect for bicycling! The area is steeped in history, with a fascinating mix of ornate architecture and colorful storefronts sitting along narrow blue-glazed tile cobbelstone streets with a charming, old-world atmosphere. The first settlement in Puerto Rico was founded by Leon Ponce de Leon in 1508, and San Juan was settled shortly thereafter. Such history! Very cool.
Part of the wall of Castillo de San Cristóbal that surrounds
the old city of San Juan
There are actually two forts over in the Old Town, one being the Castillo de San Cristóbal, and the other, Castillo de San Felipe del Morro. Castillo de San Cristóbal is the largest fortification built by the Spanish in the New World. (Shades of Martin Harvey here, from Captain Ron!) Finished in 1783 as a defense against land-based attacks, the fort covered about 27 acres, with walls that wrapped around the city of San Juan. Double gates ensured control of entry or exit for hundreds of years. This was the first fort we encountered as we cycled out along the shoreline road, and its walls were immense!

The other castle, "El Morro" is Puerto Rico's best known fortress, built as a defense against sea-based attacks. Spanish troops fortified this 'morro' (promontory) starting in 1539, with further construction and fortification going on for the next couple of centuries. It was primarily built to keep seaborne enemies out of San Juan, and served its purpose well! Sir Francis Drake unsuccessfully attacked El Morro in 1595, getting a cannonball shot through the cabin of his flagship for his efforts. The Dutch attacked, the British attacked repeatedly, and even the U.S. Navy attacked in a day-long bombardment in May of 1898, during the Spanish-American War. 
As we biked towards El Morro, we went past the Cementerio de
Santa Maria Magdelena de Pazzis on the right, resplendent with its
many white tombs overlooking the Atlantic 
The place was fabulous to explore; it was uncrowded and open, and the history was staggering. We only saw a small part of it and we were there for a good couple of hours, climbing around the ramparts and looking over the breakwater below. The sentry look-out towers called garitas, are on the corners of the walls of El Morro. They are unique and distinctive; so much so that they are landmarks of Puerto Rico, even pictured on their license plates. The lighthouse atop the fort is still in use; we saw the large Fresnel lens rotating away inside. So much history, both Ron and I sat back and imagined how it must have been back in three hundred years ago. To imagine what it was like to sail in under its ramparts...mind-boggling!  
View through one of the gunnery posts
The coat of arms overlooking the entrance to Castillo Del Morro 
A view through one of the lookout points
The lighthouse -- still in use today
Checking out the view to the east, from under the lighthouse
This was an unexpected stop, but one we are really enjoying! It feels so Spanish and European after all the small islands we've been on...even Provo, with all its amenities, is not on this scale, and we are enjoying being in a cosmopolitan city in a Caribbean setting. Being aboard, we are getting more of the local flavor -- no fancy resorts, our home for the moment is just a working marina on the water. What cruising is all about!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Landfall: San Juan, Puerto Rico!

After two months of relaxation and fun in Provo, Turks and Caicos, we have moved on! We used the weather window we were given -- not as beautiful as some of the others we let go past, but our guests who came aboard or were visiting on island were our priority! Happily, on Sunday morning, we had a pretty fair window for departure -- as fair as it gets in December. We were up early, heading south to French Cay and points beyond just after South Side's Cruisers' Weather Net that morning. Initially, our contingency plans were to stop at Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic if we needed an out, but the main focus was to go non-stop to the US Virgin Islands. 
Of course, being aboard a boat, there is always the unexpected to deal with! We weren't  underway more than 10 minutes when our port engine alternator started to overheat, which Ron discovered during his second engine room check. (He always does one pre-departure, and one immediately post-departure.) So, barely out on the Caicos Bank, we shut down the port engine immediately and did damage control. We disconnected the alternator from both its external voltage regulator and the Centerfielder (the unit that monitors and adjusts the voltage between the two engines' alternator outputs to balance charging needs), making sure there was no resistance to generate heat. Once the bad alternator was off-line, we decided to go ahead and proceed on the starboard engine’s alternator, since we also have other battery charging systems (24-V DC Trace Battery Inverter/Charger  and 12- and 24-volt DC Dolphin Battery Chargers) that we can use. (Gotta LOVE redundancy!) We will have an electrical technician check the port engine alternator to determine where the issue is: bad alternator or bad centerfielder? Either way, we already have a spare alternator aboard, so that is a step in the right direction, and will get it corrected!
Sunny skies and light winds started our journey
From there, it was a pleasant cruise for the next 36 hours....we went off the Caicos Bank and took a rhumb-line to the USVirgins. The sun was shining, winds were light, and of course Ron had the fishing lines out! Not that we caught anything -- nary a bird or a weed-line in sight, but we tried! We debated briefly about stopping in Samana Bay, DR to spend a few days to see the whales there, but opted to push on and take the weather window while we had it! We knew there was a chance that the winds would kick up a bit, but all the wx forecasts indicated that seas wouldn't get horrendous -- seas of  6’ or so -- and a better weather was in store thereafter.

Unfortunately....we had to cross this thing called the Mona Passage. You may have heard of it? Yep, thought so! Called "The Thorny Path" by sailors, it's one of the most feared and most difficult passages in the Caribbean. It's an 80-mile stretch of sea between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea. Wind and waves are forced to squeeze between the two land masses just where the Equatorial Current flows through, moving west. Adding to the chaos is that the waters from the Atlantic Puerto Rican Trench push up from depths of 28,232 ft (the deepest point in the world, called the Milwaukee Deep) to ascend and accelerate into the Mona Passage, where the bottom quickly raises up to several hundred feet -- in some places to less than 100 feet! This means that the waves in the Mona Passage have to dissipate a lot of that energy as the water is stacked up, by means pushing and crashing, and make this one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world. 
Wikipedia map of the location of the Mona Passage
I'd like to say we cruised across the Mona Passage without any issue, but....we were just one of the many boats who have made the passage and encountered Mother Nature's, um, unpleasant side! Let's just say it wasn't fun. As Equinox was about to start across the passage, I was coming on watch at midnight to relieve Ron, who wasn't feeling well from a pulled back muscle. Unfortunately, it proved to be an ugly night at the helm! The waves were cresting ever higher, pushing and jolting the boat about with no apparent rhyme or reason, although most of the waves seemed to come on the nose, causing the boat to climb the face of the waves, dive over the tops to slam down awkwardly, then lurch upwards or sideways, only to do it all over again. Relentless! It's an amazing experience, but one I'd rather not repeat through the wee hours of the morning! 
The next morning wasn't much better, since the entire north coast of PR abuts that lovely deep trench -- meaning once again, the wave action had no where else to go but up! Can I say that there was never a landfall so meaningful, and beautiful, as San Juan? 
The mountains of Puerto Rico layered beyond the coast in the hazy sunshine
However, the best surprise of the Puerto Rico coastline was something entirely unexpected! Ron shouted from the helm: "Whale!! Whale!!" and indeed, he meant it! There was a whale breaching and tail slapping the water maybe 100 yards directly ahead of Equinox! We slowed immediately, drifting and lurching in the waves to about 100 feet away, but she wasn't about to move out of our way, no way! Immense and majestic, the whale was as large as the boat, so we moved out of her way, and gently let her continue her tail slapping and showing off! How cool was that?? 
Welcome to Puerto Rico!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Waiting on the Weather...

Stark beauty of the Caicos Bank with rain storms on the horizon
...but only for a day! We sat out the rainy day aboard; winds were whipping up the waves on the bank so it was sloppy and nasty out. We took a rainy day rest day -- no boat projects either. (Ron isn't very good at "rain-enforced inactivity", so we tried to fill the hours to avoid his going stir-crazy by the end of the day!) We just read, checked weather forecasts, slept, watched it rain, did puzzles, listened to music, did laundry, watched it rain, made dinner, watched a (bad) movie -- we didn't go anywhere, as we didn't even want to think about getting into the dinghy! So...a quiet day. we hope to be on the move tomorrow!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Weather windows

Windows open, windows close, slam shut! How quickly things can change! We'd optimistically hoped the weather would cooperate as initially forecast to allow us to head farther south this weekend, but .... no. The weather window was merely a mirage! Oh well! We'd coordinated everything, from clearing out with Customs to having a good-bye luncheon on the shores of Chalk Sound at Las Brisas with Lisa and Tim. They are scheduled to fly out tomorrow, and we will miss them both dearly after the fabulous time we've had this week! From wining and dining to swimming and snorkeling, we've enjoyed being together. As Lisa said, it couldn't have been a better time if we had planned it! Serendipity rules again. 

Lisa and Ron on the bow of Equinox
We used the afternoon's high tide to move out of the marina and out into Cooper Jack Bay, where we are currently anchored. We did so in anticipation of moving on, but that didn't keep us from taking the dinghy back in to South Side Marina for another fun cruisers' cookout. There were a lot of folks in attendance! Besides the dozen or so folks currently at South Side and and folks off the boats anchored here in Cooper Jack Bay, there were locals in attendance, as well as other cruisers who came by car from the anchorage in Sapodilla Bay. The rain squall that rolled through at sunset couldn't dampen the spirits, and everyone enjoyed themselves. It was a fun evening meeting new folks, chatting and hearing new stories, and sampling the various dishes people provided (loved the lobster salad provided by Simon and Charlyn!). Post-prandial activities included everything from ice cream to a bit of guitar music: all thoroughly enjoyed and all fun! 

It was a fitting send-off....or so we thought! However, by the middle of the night, I knew that we weren't moving on. The winds piped up, blustering along at 25-30 kts, torrential rains pounded down...not exactly the hoped-for adventures in paradise! Thus, we are staying put, looking ahead for the next window of opportunity. While it's not much fun to be waiting on the weather, it's infinitely better than pressing on in poor conditions!! And since we are not on any time schedule, we will simply hang on the hook and enjoy being where we are.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Family time again!

More family fun this week, as we have Ron's sister Lisa and her friend Tim on island visiting for a week. It was a bit of serendipity that they'd made arrangements to vacation here, since we'd each made plans to be here independent of one another: when they made their reservations, they didn't know we would be here this winter, and vice versa! We were delighted to discover the coincidence though, and have been enjoying the time together immensely. We rented a car for a few days so that we could show them around the island, and once they'd recuperated from their exhausting travel day from the northern midwest, we started off our time together with a delicious dinner at Coyaba Sunday evening. The past couple of months, Ron and I have had the chance to sample a few of the numerous restaurants that dot the waterfront of Grace Bay, and Coyaba is one of our favorites. We were delighted to introduce Lisa and Tim to the place, and we all enjoyed fresh island seafood, including simply grilled Turks and Caicos Wahoo, presented in a variety of delicious presentations. 
My scallops ceviche appetizer, delicious as it looks!
Monday was a day full of activity as well. Despite somewhat cloudy and breezy skies, we enjoyed an outdoor table at Da Conch Shack for lunch. Yes indeed, we feasted on conch, conch and more conch: conch salad, conch creole, curried conch, accompanied with the Da Rum Bar's signature rum punch, of course! It's such a pretty place under palms trees right on the beach, and definitely offers more authentic island local flavor than anything found at the fancy resorts. We introduced Lisa and Tim to Moses, the shell entrepreneur on the beach with his gorgeous collection of conch shells and horns, as well as to some of the friendly and cheerful waitstaff at Da Shack. After lunch, we took Tim and Lisa around the rear of Da Conch Shack for a lesson in cleaning conch.
The beautiful assortment of shells for sale, from the ubiquitous
queen conch to the rarer flame conch.
A pair of conch, freshly harvested and awaiting cleaning
After cracking a hole in the shell between the third and fourth spiral
from the center, the conch is able to be pulled out of the shell.
Conch, out of the shell and ready for processing. Lisa was glad she waited
until after lunch to see how conch salad is prepared!
Cutting off the claw, stripping the orange mantle and dark skin to expose the
edible white muscle. The heavy mallet on the cutting block is for tenderizing the
conch muscle when making cracked conch. 
The final bit of cleaned conch muscle, ready for dicing into conch salad. Yum!!
The afternoon was spent in the waters of Grace Bay, teaching Tim how to snorkel and checking out the reef life along the shoreline coral heads near the entrance to Turtle Cove Marina. Despite being rather uncertain about it beforehand, Tim took to snorkeling like a fish! He was grinning from ear to ear, and we were delighted that he enjoyed it so much! We lingered in the water for as long as we could, until we all got too chilled to enjoy it further. After warm showers and a bit of cleaning up to get rid of the salty sand, we hosted them aboard for a grilled lobster extravaganza later that evening. A great day in the islands, to be sure!