Sailing the British Virgin Islands, Day 4

Navigating Out of the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Sailing from Virgin Gorda to Marina Cay

    • A new routine has been established–breakfast on deck, with cereal, bagels, fresh fruit and coffee.
    • We make a quick trip to the marina market to re-provision ice. It seems the fridge isn’t working so well and we buy a styrofoam cooler to keep food on ice.
    • Jenny and Rick plot our day’s course, a short sail past the Dog Islands (“the Dogs”), across Sir Francis Drake Channel and into Marina Cay.

Racing to Marina Cay

    • Winds are the heaviest we’ve seen yet (20 knots) and we reef the sail to keep from heeling too far. (Translation: we decrease the sail area by taking the sail down about half-way, preventing the windward side of the boat from hiking up too far.) Not everyone in our party is excited for an opportunity to sit on the “high side.”
    • The scenery is absolutely gorgeous, as we pass by one island after another.
    • It’s a bit of a tricky maneuver to get in around Marina Cay–a small island surrounded by a reef and encircled by other, larger islands, but wow, the view that opens up as we swing around the cay from the North-East is stunning. The island is trimmed with palm trees and bright red roofs of the market, gas dock, Pussers restaurant and hotel on the east side.

    • We score a choice mooring near Mother Turtle Reef, with an unobstructed view of Tortola across the water, the prettiest we’ve seen so far.
    • The varying blues of the reef are gorgeous, the ever-changing blues of the channel contrasting with the jewel green of the reef and Beef
      Island looming large and dramatic in the distance. This is exactly how I imagined the Virgin Islands to be.
    • Our welcoming party is a school of fish, repeatedly jumping out of the water.
    • Hot dogs on the grill for lunch followed by down time, napping, reading and relaxing.

Marina Cay

    • Around three in the afternoon, we take our first venture out in the dinghy, over to the cay to explore and do some snorkeling. Rick and Mary take a walk around the island while Jenny, Karen, Anne, and I snorkel in the reef just below the seaside restaurant.
    • Nothing too spectacular to see until I spot an eagle ray! It’s huge with a big nose, a very long tail, and a large wingspan, gently flapping up and down. To see it so close is thrilling, amazing and scary all at once, awesome to watch him glide along with an easy stroke. He’s in surprisingly shallow water and has a small, thin blue fish following close by, near his back. When I recover from the shock, I gesture wildly to my friends, coming up above the water to point out the big, scary flying fish!
    • I’m a wimp–he’s so near, in such shallow water, and came up on me so suddenly that it’s a little too up-close-and-personal with underwater nature for me and it’s not long before I’m out of the water.  😕
    • Also saw many dark purple and red anemones in the rocks near the shore. Watch your step!
    • On the walk back to the dock, I log a new bird for my Life List, the Bananaquit. I’ve also seen the semipalmated plovers, brown booby, and magnificent frigatebird.
    • Back on the boat for a bit more relaxing on deck, hanging laundry, reading and taking photographs during the magic hour as the sun sets.

  • Cocktail hour and then back in the dinghy again, this time with the added challenge of driving among the moored boats in the dark.
  • Dinner at Pussers restaurant, the famous home of the pain killer. The food is excellent, most of us opting for the ribs served Caribbean-style with spicy BBQ and ginger sauce. Conch fritters, another local delicacy, to start.
  • Our waitress is friendly and a bit overworked; the food is slow to arrive–the kitchen seems to be operating on “island time”. Nearly three hours later, we’re back in the boat and the tired crew turns in.
  • Unfortunately, we don’t log much quality sleep time since the boat rocks and rolls through the night with waves slapping against the hull all night.

Sailing the British Virgin Islands, Day 3 (Part II)

The Baths

Monday, 13 April 2009

    • The Baths, a collection of huge rocks and boulders on the south end of Virgin Gorda, is a popular place for hiking, swimming and snorkeling. Popular with cruise ship tours, it can get crowded, so we’ve planned our visit for late in the day. Rather than take the dinghy and wade to shore, (not something I relished doing with my camera gear), we opt to arrive by land, taking a 10-minute taxi ride from Spanish Town.
    • The island night life is getting started early. Loud music is playing everywhere, as we happen to be in the BVIs on a holiday weekend (Easter Monday). Our taxi has to make a bit of a detour to avoid a slow-moving parade.
  • The cab drops us off and the driver agrees to return at six to pick us up.
  • A short walk down through boulders to the beach and The Baths. Unfortunately, we’ve arrived too late to walk through the Caves, which close after 4:30, so we content ourselves with the beautiful beach.
  • Rick, Karen, Anne and Jenny snorkel around the rocks while Mary walks down the beach and I take photos. It’s a perfect time to be here, very few people and great light at the end of the day.
  • We return to the yacht club to make good use of the shower facilities and then enjoy dinner on board, delicious grilled chicken.
  • Unfortunately, Spanish Town is party central this weekend and we’re serenaded by the dueling sound systems of two outdoor bars. Non-stop reggae blaring until midnight. A complete opposite from the tranquility of our quiet anchorage the night before. We all make a note to scratch Spanish Town off our list of repeat visits.
Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor

Sailing the British Virgin Islands, Day 3 (Part I)

Monday, 13 April 2009

Sail from Peter Island to Spanish Harbor, Virgin Gorda

    • The sun and the crew are up at 6:30 a.m. Coffee and breakfast topside.
    • From the boat, wildlife spotted on Peter Island include wild goats and brown pelicans.
    • Anne, Jenny and Rick familiarize themselves with the workings of the cockpit GPS, something we’re not used to sailing with at home. They plot our course to Virgin Gorda, with a stopover at Cooper Island for lunch.
    • By 8:30, we’ve got the boat stowed and we’re underway.

House on the Hill

    • A nice sail through the Sir Francis Drake Channel, past Dead Chest and Salt Island, over to Cooper Island where we pick up a mooring ball and have lunch. The view of a rocky outcropping between Cooper and Salt Island behind us is absolutely spectacular. Shimmering blue green water, bright blue sky and puffy white clouds. To the north, rainstorms look to be heading down the channel toward us, but no one minds. We chill out on deck, waiting out the weather.
    • After a couple of hours, we head off again, chasing continuing bands of rain clouds, but up ahead the sun is shining on our destination, the island of Virgin Gorda.
    • We pop up the sail and the jib, the crew beginning to fall into a rhythm on the new boat. With Rick at the helm, Jenny mans the sail up on the foredeck while Anne raises the mainsail. I tail and take over for her to get the sail all the way up. (This is a much larger sail than we’re used to and none of us has the greatest upper-body strength.) Then Anne and Jenny let out the jib. We’re flying now.
    • We sail in the best wind we’ve had so far. The sky clears, the temperature returns to a balmy warmth and we’re jetting past Ginger Island and Fallen Jerusalem.
Round Rock
  • All eyes out for “traffic” on the water (not much to speak of) including lobster traps bobbing on the surface. The GPS keeps us on course.
  • Coming in to Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor is a bit of a trick, with its narrow entry around a shallow reef right at the mouth of the harbor.
  • Though we’ve called ahead for a slip, it’s not clear which one is ours so we just take the first one we see. Our entry is less than picture-perfect and we employ all the bumpers one after the other to keep the boat from hitting the corner of the dock. Yikes.
  • After paying for our slip and picking up the key to the bathroom/showers, we top off our water tanks and arrange for a cab to take us the the island’s premier attraction, The Baths.