Sailing the British Virgin Islands, Day 8


Saturday, 18 April 2009

Return Sail to Road Harbour, Tortola

  • Up before the sun. Watch the sun rise on a half moon and a pair of bright planets.
  • We quickly pack up our gear and stow away after a buffet breakfast of mish-mash leftovers: cereal, tea biscuits and jam, cheeses, pepperoni and fruit.
  • By 7:30, we’re underway, destination where we began–the Sunsail marina in Road Harbour.
  • We enjoy a pleasant morning, soft, warm breezes and good sailing up to the mouth of the harbor. Sails down, we motor in and have our most hair-raising experience of the week maneuvering through all the traffic while trying to get confirmation from Sunsail about where exactly we’re supposed to dock the boat. Added to this is the challenge of backing (!!) into the slip.
  • With help from a Sunsail employee on the dock, we make it in with no problem.
  • Checking out is a snap. We return the ship-to-shore phone given to us by Sunsail (which came in handy when calling for the mechanic) and get back our dinghy deposit. We strip the bedding and dump it in the cockpit and take out the trash one last time.
  • Per charter boat custom, we offer up our leftover charcoal, dry goods, 1/4 bottle of rum and a couple of six-packs of coke we’d inherited from another boat in Spanish Harbour, to grateful boaters preparing to take off for their week’s sail.
  • After the onboard checkout (boat hook–check, four fenders–check, six cushions–check), we unload our gear and trundle over to the dockside restaurant for celebratory Bloody Marys. We made it!
  • Kudos all around and cheers for a great trip.
  • Lots of talk about “next time” as we begin planning for our next “sailcation.”
Our Room Had a View
  • Rick and Mary take off for the airport and the remaining four of us take a two-minute cab ride into town to our hotel, Maria by the Sea. Our room is on the second floor, overlooking the light blue water. It has a balcony with room for all of us to sit and enjoy the view, listening to the sea lap on the shore below.
  • Jen takes a swim in the pool and Anne does a load of laundry at a laundromat across the street.
  • We grab a late lunch at the only dining establishment that seems to be open, the hotel’s open-air dining room. While we eat our Neptune salads (very tasty indeed) we enjoy the view and watch a huge cruise ship that’s been at port here all day pull out to sea. I still feel like I’m rocking and rolling on the boat (a feeling that will stay with me for over 24 hours.)
A Much Bigger Boat
  • More relaxing and reading on the balcony, enjoying our last bottle of wine from the boat.
  • We have dinner at Spaghetti Junction, a restaurant overlooking the marina. In spite of its silly name, it turns out to be a great restaurant with a warm, casual ambiance. I had a delicious frutti du mar (scallops, shrimp and lobster) on angel hair pasta in a creamy lime tomato sauce. The clientele was a mixture of tourists and locals (always a good sign) and included a small, yet festive wedding party.

Sailing the British Virgin Islands, Day 5

Between the Camanoe Islands

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Sail from Marina Cay to Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

    • Breakfast and boat preparations early in the morning as a choir of rooster calls echoes back and forth across the island. We’re on our way before nine o’clock.
    • We motor along Beef Island and cut through the Camanoe Islands (Little Camanoe on the left and Great Camano on the right) then head west, past Monkey Point on Guana Island, traveling along the north side of Torotola to our next destination, Cane Garden Bay.
    • The trade winds are unusually strong for the area (25 knots) and even with the sail reefed, the boat heels quite a bit with the lower rail of the boat nearly in the water. Quite an exciting sail!
    • After a brisk back and forth, we take down the sails and head into Cane Garden Bay where there’s lots of beach activity and a few jet skis buzzing around.

Laughing Gull

  • This is a popular overnight spot and by the afternoon, most of the mooring balls have been filled.
  • After lunch, we lounge around on deck, reading, napping, card playing, napping, and more reading.
  • Laughing gulls provide a good bit of entertainment. They alight on the dinghy and laugh, laugh, laugh. Flocks of them float by in the water.
  • Colorful houses dot the hillside. Pelicans and frigate birds swirl like hawks over the island. I enjoy watching the cloud shadows play over the green hills and canyons of Tortola. As the boat swings gently back and forth, the view before me is constantly changing.
  • Cocktail hour on the boat as we watch the sunset. Then we dinghy over to shore to have dinner at Quitos. Burgers all around on the open-air balcony overlooking the bay and a view of our boat.
  • Back on the boat, we chill out with music and conversation, stargazing and watching the lights on shore until it’s time to turn in.
Cocktail Hour
Ships Pass

Sailing the British Virgin Islands, Day 1



This weekend, I have my first big planning meeting for our sailcation in the British Virgin Islands. In doing research to plan our route through the islands in April, I thought it would be a good time to revisit last year’s trip. Installments of my 2009 trip journal and photos to follow in the days to come.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

    • We fly from Chicago to Puerto Rico and then on to Tortola where we will claim our boat in Road Harbour. Passports required, since we’ll be in the British Virgin Islands. Biggest challenge (next to figuring out just how much food to provision a 48-foot sailboat with a crew of six for a week) was fitting all my gear into a duffel bag big enough to hold everything but small enough to stow (not check) on the plane. (No one wants to be held up at the marina, waiting for a luggage delivery.)
    • First hurdle cleared when all our luggage fits in the overhead bin. (The medium adventure duffel bag from L.L. Bean turned out to be a great buy. You can stuff a lot in it (especially when combined with packing cubes) and it stows away easily in the plane and on the boat, where storage is at a premium.)
    • After a short layover in San Juan, we board an island hopper for the 40-minute flight to Beef Island, Tortola.
    • Other than a helicopter ride in Hawaii, this is the smallest aircraft (eight passengers) I’ve ever flown in. The flight was smooth and gave us a nice overview of the Virgin Islands.
    • Clearing customs is a snap, especially if you don’t use green pen to fill out the form.

Taking Command of the Ship

    • Sunsail (the charter company) picks us up at the airport for the 10-minute ($9) shuttle ride to the marina.
    • We’ve arrived! Our boat (The Wandering Eye) is almost ready. They’re tinkering with some technical problems, having to do with the refrigerator.
    • The crew explores the boat and hangs out on deck, enjoying the warm breeze. (Though it’s April, for us midwesterners, spring is a good month off, so we’re just thrilled to be in the sunny warmth, free from bulky winter coats.)
    • The sun begins to set and we all note that it’s setting earlier than it does in Chicago. (It’s not until a few days into the vacation that it dawns on me why–we’re near the equator, where no matter what time of year it is, you have 12 hours of sunlight. Duh.)
    • Technical problems with the boat persist and they’ll have to continue looking at it in the morning. (Boats chartered by the week are turned around quickly, kind of like floating hotel rooms; guests return their boat in the morning, unload their stuff, and check out. Cleaning and maintenance crews tidy up, restock the boat with the basics, and attend to any repairs before the next crew boards the boat that evening.)

Captain Rick and First Mate Jenny Walk the Deck

  • We don’t unpack too much, since we may have to switch to another boat, depending on the outcome of the fridge problem. Luckily our provisions (purchased on-line from a local grocery) won’t be delivered until tomorrow.
  • There aren’t any dining options within walking distance and it’s getting late, so we opt to have dinner at the restaurant overlooking the marina. The food is decent, nothing spectacular and overpriced. We all enjoy our first (of what would be many) painkillers, the local specialty drink, a frothy mixture of rum, orange juice, pineapple juice and cream of coconut, dusted with nutmeg.