Monday, 2 March 2015

The BVI’s or ‘The Solent with Sunshine’!

The BVI’s or ‘The Solent with Sunshine’!
Yes it really is like that here. Sunsail, the Moorings and every other charter company seem to have a base here. The ‘credit card Yachtmasters’ are everywhere. Fortunately there are hundreds of mooring balls so they don’t have to anchor near us!

On a mooring Sopers Hole

After checking in at Sopers hole (West end Port) we spend our first night in the BVI's in the Bight on Norman Island. According to our pilot book there is an anchorage in the NE corner of the bay and also in the middle away from the 2 bars. Not so my friends -  everywhere is blanketed with payable moorings at US$30 per night. We manage to find a spot to anchor in 20m of water and let out all our chain (65m). Fortunately the wind is light and we are OK. We will have to find somewhere more suitable tomorrow as it is nearly sunset when we arrive.
Our plans are to do some diving and snorkelling. We are close to the ‘Indians’ a noted dive and snorkelling site and also close to the ‘Caves’. Unfortunately we both seem to have had a relapse of the Chickengunya symptoms we caught in St Thomas. The problem of this nasty mosquito borne disease is not only do you feel like you have got the flu but all your muscles and joints ache as well, like a bad case of arthritis. So we decide not to dive and to anchor round the corner in Benures Bay.

Our posh RYS visitor in Benures bay
Benures Bay is much better than the Bight. Anchored in 5m we are perfectly sheltered from both wind and waves (not a mooring ball in sight). The turquoise water is so clear we can see Bar Jacks around the boat as we anchor. Hundreds of white butterflies dance across the bay, birds call in the dense scrub and in the evening American Oystercatchers forage on the waters edge. Recovered from our ills (so we think) we enjoyed some lovely snorkelling close to the edge of the bay. The pretty little reef along the NE shore revealed 2 new species for us, a giant hermit crab in a conch shell and a new game fish, a Cero, alongside the normal reef species and colourful corals and sponges.

Scrawled Filefish in Benures Bay
We spend longer here than planned, partly because the weather was very squally with rough seas in the channel and also because we both had another relapse!

Yet another squally day!
With more settled weather we move over to Road Town for some shopping and to get VI sim cards for the phone and dongle. The anchorage off the marina wall is pretty rolly but we are graced with a mother and baby dolphin swimming a few feet from the boat. In a busy commercial port it was not something we expected to see. Tearing ourselves away from the dolphin watch we go to town and after lunch we are off to Great harbour on Peter island for the night. Anchored in front of the beach it is very crowded but we manage to find a spot.

Mother and Baby
With good weather forecast we decide to head to Tortola and then to Anegada. The weekend forecast is for no wind so we plan to sail there on the Friday and hang out until the wind returns.

Anchored in Anegada
Anegada is beautiful, the inner anchorage is filled with moorings but there is space to anchor outside when the weather is settled.

View while having dinner

Anchored off the dock in 3m of water we are settled here for a few days. We plan to do an Island tour and just enjoy the place. The highest point on the island is about 10m so the wind just blows straight across.

Easy rider eat your heart out!

This weekend there is no wind and we watch the charter boats motoring in and out having spent just the one night - shame!

One of the 3 grocery stores on the island - ASDA, Tesco take note!

We hire a motor scooter and tour the island, dirt roads and motor scooters are a tricky combination and we have a few scary moments!

The only fuel station on the island

The so called snorkelling MUSTS of Loblolly and Cow Wreck Bays prove very disappointing. The beaches are lovely but there is not much life below.

Anegada's indiginous Iguana - The sanctuary looks after them until they are 2years old and then released in the wild

Pruning Palm trees Cow Wreck Bay
Finally the wind returns on the Wednesday and we have a pleasant sail to Jost Van Dyke. Anchored off Little Jost Van Dyke we have a lovely view of Sandy Spit which looks just how a child would draw a deserted tropical island! Many Pelicans and Brown Boobies and quite good snorkelling with an occasional turtle make this a really nice anchorage.

The Bubbling Pool
A short dinghy ride takes us to the landing at Foxy’s Taboo. From there it is a short walk to the ‘Bubbly Pools’ where the sea crashes through a gap in the rocks creating a Jacuzzi effect. We eventually tore ourselves away and walked back past salt ponds with some interesting birds – Black Winged Stilts, Bermuda Ducks, Ruddy Turnstones and a new one for me – a tiny Wilsons Plover. We ended our excursion with a delicious lunch at Foxy’s.
From Little Jost Van Dyke we sailed to Great harbour on Jost Van Dyke but did not stop for long. The only reason we would come back here is for the biltong and Mrs Ball’s chutney at Rudy’s Superette.  From there it was a short sail to Cane Garden Bay on the North coast of Tortola, where we planned to visit the oldest continuously working Rum Distillery in the BVI’s. They produce 25 gallons a day for approximately 26 weeks, all in a small pot still. Their 4 brands are White, (straight out of the still), 4year old (aged in an oak barrel), 10year old (again aged in Oak barrels) and ‘Panty remover’ (4 year old with stick of sugar cane in it – a so called Lady’s drink!)

Callwood Distillery
We tasted them all, the White (paint stripper!), the 4 Year old (dark paint stripper but OK with a mixer), 10 year old, an OK sipping rum, and I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the ‘Panty remover’ but it tasted like rum with sugar syrup added.

The 'Original' cane press
Cane Garden bay is a pretty village with all amenities. The anchorage was as we expected full of moorings with little space to anchor. We struggled to get the anchor to set as the bottom was strewn with coral rubble and all the best sandy spots were taken. Snorkelling to check the anchor was set we saw a Spotted Eagle Ray right under the boat. There is always something to see.

Our thoughtful painter has painted all around him with no way of getting off the roof without walking on the newly painted! - Sopers Hole (Where else!)
From here we are back to Sopers hole for some more shopping and on to Great Harbour Peter island where we met up with ‘Right Turn’ who we last saw a year ago in Antigua. From here we are off to North sound Virgin Gorda to check out. Our plans are to sail to St Kitts as an overnight to St. Martin is normally too close to the wind.

Sundowners at the Oceans 7 Bar in Peter Island - Not exactly crowded!
We had planned to spend much more time diving and snorkelling in the BVI’s than we did as our ‘chicken disease’ really put paid to our plans. Still there is always next year?
As things turn out we manage to sail almost all the way to St Martin. We know our friends on Paw Paw will still be there and hopefully Impressionist as well. Anchored in Marigot bay after an overnight passage we are also surprised to find Secret Smile are here as well - could get a bit sociable if we are not careful!  

What happens if you make ice cubes going to windward!