Wednesday, May 9, 2012

British Virgin Islands 4th April-5th May 2012

One of Valentine's old sailing buddies, Fred, came over from Switzerland to spend some days with us. And as we were ready for a little testing after our long working stop on St Martin, a week sailing in the BVIs sounded like a good idea.
This writing is conducted from a relaxed position in our cabin as we motor directly towards the weather back to St Martin. The guest is at the helm, I study the waterdrops in front of me. Both the window and the mosquito mesh frame on the inside have drops on them. The outside ones are sea spray, the latter remains from last night's rain. We always sail with closed hatches, so you would expect the inside environment to be on the humid side. But the slight air movement induced by the small fan next to the bed, and the perfect temperature in this area make this a pleasant spot to stretch the corpus right now.
Under me a happy Yanmar, humming peacefully at 2400 RPM, newly treated with QMI teflon in fresh oil, and receiving it's modest 2 liter pr hour diesel request through very clean Racor filter / water separator.
Life is supposed to be good for everybody on Yum-Yum.

Traveling in the opposite direction last Friday we had an easy going gennaker day from 6 in the morning to anchor drop just as the daylight left us a few minutes before 7 at the North Sound of Virgin Gorda.
After a slow start we checked in and spent the following day in Spanish Town.

The Baths on the southwest of the island is an interesting constellation of huge rocks and white sand. The marked trail inside the formation's caves has a lot of sidetracks that is fun to explore for the visitor who respect the surge of the waves.

The next stop was the wreck of British Mail steamer Rhone at Salt Island.
Being the most spoken about sunken boat in the Caribbean, we had to give it a try.

And behold: this is a spot where anyone able to open their eyes in a diving mask can experience by self sight the wreck dive images we know from the adventure documentaries.

The mooring system in the BVIs is really something that should be copied on every frequently visited seabed around the world. Paid for at customs clearance. Simple, clever color coded, well laid out and maintained, with a limited 90 minutes max visiting time, this both saves the bottom from devastating anchor damages, and secure a good circulation of visitors. Bravo!

With the proximity to US Virgin Islands, and the huge Moorings charter boat base on Tortola, this is really a crowded area. We were pleased to find out that there still exists quiet hideaway anchorages all around, and that even in Road Town there is the free anchoring spot for the low-bud cruisers at the mangroves in the inner harbor.
Pussers still serve a selection of Painkillers to cure three levels of discomfort, but still not quite strong enough to compensate for the wallet-ache induced by their pricing.
It's a been-there-done -that kind of place, but the maritime interior reminds us of Peter's in Horta, Fajal, Azores, and that is good for Valentine and me.
Road Town was the starting point of the Moonlight Serenade Atlantic crossing in 2010 with skipper Pål, plumber Hallvard and me, a trip on which we encountered many adventures. Under our boarding of the Lagoon 57 Soleil in Horta harbor I came across a lady named Valentine with a big laughter and a cabin with big mirrors.
Since our respective captains and the turn of events at that time were pushing us in different directions, it took some months before we were able to meet again. Now we meet quite frequently... wellwell. Back to the Virgins.

Fred wanted to offer us a meal in Road Town, and our random choice of not-fancy-at-all dockside restaurant resulted in a surprisingly pleasant dining experience. Normally we end up having winners and losers around the table when food arrives in this class of facilities, but this time all three; the tuna, the rib-eye and the jambalaya had to share the gold medal. Even the house red wine was fine. Another Bravo!
From Tortola we sailed to Peter Island, a crossing where we had exceptionally many opportunities to practice the “traffic rules” that applies when sailing vessels are on collision course.

On Peter's we had this anchor drop. Not much worry about dragging that night.
Actually, we feel safe with our anchoring in general. This is something that is much easier here than back in Norway. The steady tradewinds and the shallow anchorages in sand make things very predictable.
I have mentioned before the three levels of boat “parking” that applies in our kind of cruising: dockside marinas, moorings with a daily fee, and the free anchorages. We usually end up using the latter, as we dislike crowds and love to jump directly from Yum-Yum into clear, turquoise Caribbean water.
At the Dogs, the small islands west of Vigin Gorda, there are some good diving spots / day anchorages with the unique Virgin Islands mooring system. The best spot was fully occupied. But the 90 minutes circulation worked this time, so after a little waiting the most attractive inner mooring became available for us.

The Chimney is a dive between sandbeds and impressive coral and stone formations. Underwater life here is influenced by the proximity to open Atlantic waters. We see bigger and slightly different fishes, and less of the brown algae that seems to cover more and more of the used-to-be colorful Caribbean corals these days.
This was yesterday. Last night we dropped the hook in Nelson's Anchorage in the North Sound, and early this morning we set off back to St Martin.

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