After a brief trip back to UK to catch up with family and domestic life, I returned a couple of weeks ago to Tortola to await the next crew. Crispin, Ann and my god daughter Lottie arrived and were joined a few days later by eldest son Tom. Together, we have just spent a wonderful few days sailing around this excellent, sheltered and benign cruising area.
Benign, that is, outside of the hurricane season. Hurricanes Irma and Maria (September 2017) hit the BVIs in common with the neighbouring islands and the damage caused by them is still very obvious. The islanders are recovering well though, and despite a lack of greenery and many destroyed buildings and boats, life has resumed. It will, however, take many more years for a full recovery.
First stop for us was Virgin Gorda, and Gorda Sound. Some of the iconic yacht bases (Bitter End, Yacht Club Costa Smerelda) are still rebuilding but Leverick Bay has been reconstructed quickly and appears to be benefiting from good trade. We motored up there into the prevailing wind, picked up a buoy, and met the local Cruising Association Honorary Local representative and had drinks with Simon and Nichola, the crew of another yacht, Parati, we had previously met in Madeira.
The next morning, after a motor around the Bay to see the state of the repairs, we headed down to The Baths on the leeward side of Virgin Gorda. We swam ashore with our stuff in a big waterproof Ortleib bag, and enjoyed the boulders, snorkeling and views from the restaurant at the top of the hill. Our destination for the night was Salt Island, an uninhabited spot which provided us with a tranquil anchorage in company with a couple of large yachts. I took the opportunity to fly the drone, and we swam the next morning over the wreck of RMS Rhone, which sank in October 1867 after another hurricane.
Anchorage off Salt Island. A rather larger yacht (and ensign) belonging to another Squadron member behind.
Stroll up to a peak on Salt Island – photo taken by the drone
Crispin diving down to inspect the wreck of RMS Rhone…
…which is still fairly intact. You can see much of the superstructure, masts and even the propeller
After Salt Island we returned to pick up Tom, and headed back across to the southern BVIs to visit Norman and Peter Islands, sailing around both in a clockwise direction to enjoy the wind and Atlantic swell. On Norman Island there is a ship called ‘Willie T’ which attracts many to its bar and location. It’s quite a party place…
Tourists jumping off Willie T. You might recognise the famous figure stood on the left – a well known resident of the BVIs, and knight of the realm…
We didn’t fancy a full-on party so instead motored over to Peter Island, where we found a delightful anchorage (Little Harbour) where the yachts and boats were anchored in a semi-circle with lines taken ashore. We took ours to a pontoon, and enjoyed a tranquil evening and night with turtles swimming around and rays fanning over the seabed beneath us. As I inspected the anchor, a ray with a long tail was passing over…it seemed like a good omen.
Little Harbour – a tranquil place on a deserted island
As the winds tend to come from the east, our bow usually lies in that direction, and we view the setting sun from the stern. With a line ashore, in shelter, this time the opposite was the case
This used to be a nice house on the tip of Peter Island…as seen by the drone
After this fabulous anchorage we headed over to one of the BVIs’ renowned snorkeling sites, called The Indians, by Pelican Island. Picking up a buoy, here we had the best snorkeling of the week, amidst a myriad of fish and coral.
Snorkeling amidst the resident fish of The Indians
Next was Jost Van Dyke, an island to the north of the archipeligo. Here we entered White Bay, where there was little water but we managed to anchor first on a short chain, then were offered a buoy by a parting catamaran. I looked at the previous owner’s blog from 2008 and we had a very similar experience, just touching the sand in one place as we maneuvered about. One day Spellbinder will get a skipper who knows what they’re doing! But out here sometimes these things happen, particularly if you are adventurous and know that water will be tight. What’s important is to have an escape route!
At White Bay we visited the famous Soggy Dollar Bar – so called because of the wet nature of the notes which are often brought ashore by cruisers. We enjoyed the cocktails, beach games and a wonderful rising moon over the beach.
A Soggy Dollar ‘Painkiller’. Never have a third…
Full moon rising
In the morning Crispin and Tom went for one of their morning runs, enjoying the views from the hilltops over Jost Van Dyke.
A quick trip to Great Harbour followed, to visit the famous Foxy’s Bar – Foxy is well known in the BVIs and was recently awarded an MBE. We didn’t see him though, but the place certainly looks as if it has hosted some great parties. After a coffee and a breakfast for the runners, we headed around to Little Jost Van Dyke and Diamond Cay to have lunch in a lovely beach shack called Bee Line, where we enjoyed the relative isolation of what was little more than a beach shack.
Beach games at Bee Line. Lottie and Tom comparing juggling skills.
Our destination for the evening was Trellis Bay, for the famous Full Moon Party. There were dozens of yachts already in place, but we anchored where we could and went in to enjoy the bars, music, artwork and braziers in the water. It was great fun and rightly attracts a good crowd when it happens.
Full Moon Party Trellis Bay and a decorative brazier
We awoke slightly the worse for wear and headed over to a delightful little island called Marina Cay for a restorative fruit punch. This little island was also ravaged but is coming back, and another time I’d spend a night on a buoy here and enjoy the views.
Marina Cay. Some coconut palms survived Irma, and some didn’t…
Our final day was spent on a buoy in the Dogs, a small group of islands which are uninhabited but which are good for snorkeling and generally watching the world go by. We had lunch, swam and flew the drone – a familiar combination. We have been gradually scrubbing the hull to get rid of the growth of the past few months – not enormous, and the Coppercoat is largely doing its job – but necessary nonetheless as I look forward to three long passages ahead to return to the UK.
Spellbinder in The Dogs
Tom diving deep to scrub the keel. Thanks too to Crispin for helping with this – we now have a relatively clean bottom!
And that was it – back to Tortola for a final dinner, and an early start for Crispin, Ann and Lottie to fly back to UK. Thank you to all three for being such a great crew and company.
Tom and I now have a few days to explore Anegada, a beautiful coral atoll 13 miles north of Virgin Gorda, from where I write – a separate blog will follow. Thereafter the passage home starts in earnest – to Bermuda at the end of the month, to the Azores at the end of May, and back to UK in early July, all going well.
Tom enjoying helming, although he hates the bimini, which restricts his ability to trim the sails…
Thanks Crispin and Ann…
…and Lottie! Glad you enjoyed yourselves