Sunday, December 4, 2011

Saturday: Hawksnest and On Our Way Home

The winds came up and the northerly swell returned so we had a bit of a bumpy night at Hawksnest, but just as planned we headed off for one final hike up to the top of Margaret Hill on the west end of St. John.  The hike was not particularly long but took us up to 800’ and fabulous views of Cruz Bay and the Pillsbury Sound between St. John and St. Thomas.
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The trails on St. John are all maintained by the park volunteers and they do a fabulous job of what can be pretty rough terrain..
Given that when we returned to the big boat it was getting really rolly with the swell, we decided to pick up and head on to Christmas Cove where we spent one last afternoon lazing in the sun and getting in one last snorkel.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thursday: Cooper Island

Forecast:  Winds N 6-11 knts, seas 3-5’, scattered showers.
A high pressure system has now settled quite nicely over the area so no showers to be seen.  Overnight it was almost dead calm and the sea was like glass in the anchorage as we got up.
We liked it so much here we decided to stay put.  We headed by dinghy this morning into Cooper Island Beach Club where we sat in the bar for a while with a nice cold drink, doing the usual exchange for wi-fi.  Catching up on posting to the blog and email all within feet of the ocean; can’t get much better than that.
Cistern Point, just to the south of Manchioneel Bay had some great snorkelling.  Never seen so many sergeant majors just everywhere you looked!PC010059
(Not a great photo but it gives the idea of how many there were.)
PC010050We headed back to Mowzer for lunch and while sitting on the deck looking down through the 25’ of water we are anchored in, we could actually see two rays on the sand below.  We joined in the fun for another snorkel as we followed the rays from the surface for about 15 minutes around the boat.  The picture is a little murky since I’m 25’ away but the ray was about 2’ in width and about 5’ long including his tail.
Then, over to the reef off our bows for another ‘aquarium’ swim.  This time is was a school of blue tangs that caught our attention.
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Dinner tonight was made up of left-overs from a number of our previous meals:  bbq chicken, rice, corn and stir-fry veg and the last of the meatballs.  I have to say that I am quite happy to see the last of those darn meatballs.  They were quite yummy but a bit too numerous!  We’ve done very well with our provisioning though with not a lot of unused supplies.  We’ll probably pick up a breakfast treat when we check out at Soper’s Hole or in at Cruz Bay tomorrow but otherwise we should just about make it home.  We’re planning on one last day on St. John on Saturday (I feel another hike in the planning) before heading back to CYOA on Sunday.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wednesday: Trellis Bay to Cooper Island

Forecast:  Winds NNW 7-12 knts. Seas 3-5’. Isolated showers, then scattered showers.
Our hiking habit needed a fresh injection so we thought we’d take a walk around Beef Island.  From the boat it looked like there might be a track up over the headland, at least there were power/phone line poles heading in that direction.  I can definitely understand now why the airport was built here – it is flat!  Boasting the airport and the first point of entry for those who fly in, it also contains what is most likely the flattest, straightest and widest piece of tarmac on the island, and I don’t mean the runway.  We walked all the way round the airport to the bridge that joins Beef Island to the mainland and then had to walk all the way back.  To make the return a little more interesting we found the old overgrown road which had been replaced by the aforementioned tarmac.
According to the tourist map (the one that led us in circles on Jost Van Dyke) there was a back-road that would lead us into Trellis Bay.  As before, we found a number of rough trails but all of them ended up at private homes or as in the last case, into Aragorn’s fields where he grows the produce he sells to boats in the anchorage.
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The forecast is for dropping winds for the rest of the week so we were thrilled to have a wonderful sail out of Trellis Bay and up to The Dogs.
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The Dogs are a group of small uninhabited islands with a few small mooring fields where the snorkelling and diving is said to be excellent.  Unfortunately the moorings were all full but we decided to hang out for a bit, have a bite to eat and see who was going to leave next.  As we passed by the boats we realized that one of them was Maia whom we had met at dinner at Taboo a few nights ago.  We had a quick chat on the radio and then one of the other boats departed and we were able to continue our conversation in person.  Laura and Gerry, Julia and Charlie welcomed us aboard for a cold Caribe and wonderful chat.  It is always a treat to meet up with folks down here and it is sometimes difficult to do with the charter crowd of large boats full of families and friends.  Laura and Gerry had made the night-sail over from St. Martin so we were very interested to hear of their experience.
The snorkelling at Great Dog was quite good but what was so pleasing to see was the health of the reef.  We saw more varieties of corals than we had seen elsewhere.
Finally, to round out the day we headed down through the passage between Ginger and Cooper Islands.  As you round the islands to the Caribbean side they become massively rugged and Caraval rock just rose up before us, looking a bit like a dragon about to pounce on the unwary.
From the side though a bit more like a sleepy turtle.
 IMG_4542 For the evening we decided to drop the anchor in the lee of Cooper Island and for the first time ever we had an anchorage in the BVI entirely to ourselves, if you discount the barracuda that took up residence beneath our hulls.  The sun set in a wonderful fiery display and then gave way to the twinkling lights of Tortola in the distance.

Tuesday: East-end Tortola

Forecast:  Winds NE 13-18 knts. Seas 3-5’. Scattered showers.
This was one of those days: an exhilarating sail, an isolated bay, an aquarium-like snorkel all wrapped up with a fun beach-bar.
We set out from Cane Garden Bay to find the winds running about 20 knots and the seas at 4-8’ up the north side of Tortola.  We tacked our way up the coast managing to tack very conveniently around rain-showers as we made our way into White Bay on the west side of Guana Island by late morning.  This is a privately owned island and so no chance to go ashore but with all the fish-action there was plenty to keep us occupied.  The small-fry would jump in concerted clouds across the bay, like watching the wind blow across a wheat-field.  This was followed by jumps from larger fish into the middle of the school of small-fry which would send them scattering in all directions.  One can only imagine the larger fish jumping with a gleeful ‘cowabunga’ and then hoots of success for how could they miss, the fish were so plentiful.  Finally, this show was followed up by the kamikaze-style dives of the pelicans and boobies (yes, they are called boobies).  It was like a concerted show put on just for us.
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We had the bay to ourselves for about an hour and then two more boats pulled in.  I have to say I have never seen so many boats flying France colours – is it a national ‘go to the Caribbean while your region’s economy tanks’ holiday?
Just around the corner lies Monkey point where we made a lunch and snorkel stop.  There were only about 4 or 5 boats there and yet the snorkelling was the best we’ve seen so far.  Unlike The Caves you’re not having to spend half your time dodging other swimmers all lined up to see the parade of fish.  We saw more species and had great fun identifying them afterwards on our fish guide and the deck of Tropical Fish cards we picked up.  Unfortunately the camera battery was dead so no pictures here.
We thought we might make the night’s stop in Lee Bay on the west side of Great Camanoe Island and there was one other boat there (flying the Canadian flag) but the bay was very bleak and uninviting so we carried on and left the other boat to their solitude.  Through the tight passage between Great and Little Camanoe Islands we headed down to Trellis Bay.  Even tighter is the navigation in the bay between the moored boats, but we found a spot and settled in for the evening.
Ashore, we then settled onto the bar-stools of Da Loose Mongoose for a free drink from our copy of The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI, and then a few more. 

When we were here with Jim in Feb. 2010 we sat in this beach bar (shack) and watched the Olympic gold medal hockey game between Canada and the U.S.  This time we met up with some interesting folks in the bar:  being so close to Beef Island airport, the beach bars are really like the arrival and departure lounge and true to course a young woman arrived lugging a big duffel back, still dressed in jeans and sweater – she had just flown in from Kansas via San Juan.  Another fellow was a deputy fire-chief in Connecticut who swaps out all his time so he can come down here and crew on a private motor yacht.  Locals as well were in the bar since it is a popular stopping point on the way home from work each day.  Henry even recognized a face from time were were down here.
Unfortunately, because there is a cyber-cafe in Trellis Bay there is no free wi-fi and we were too far from Marina Cay to pick up theirs, so although we’re back in the main islands we are still disconnected (not a bad thing.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monday: Island Time

Forecast:  ENE winds 14-19 knts. Seas 5-7’ in NNW swells. Numerous showers and isolated thunderstorms
Yep, it’s really settled in now that our second week has started.  We’re on Island Time.
We had a pretty restless night with very high winds and a bouncy ride until about 4am when things settled down a bit.  Glad to be able to get some good sleep after that.  No matter how confident you feel about the set of the anchor (I snorkelled it and it was well dug-in) and the fact that you haven’t budged an inch before dark, when darkness falls in the anchorage it all feels completely different with the wind whistling in the rigging and the waves bouncing you around.
Once daylight arrived we motored around to Great Harbour to have a look at the new fuel dock and pick up some wi-fi courtesy of Foxy’s. 
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That’s where the postings for the last few days went up as we sat at the bar, watched the rain and were regaled with stories and rhymes by Foxy himself.  He asked where we were from and when we said Canada his spoken word covered places from Tofino and ‘Hongcouver’ to Hamilton and Toronto and then up to the Tulip (two-lip) Festival in Ottawa; all delivered with tongue-in-cheek innuendo and a political slant.  He also took us on a personal tour to see photos of his MBE presentation by Princess Anne and then the 32’ sloop that is being built by JVD high-school students which is quite a sight to see. Here’s their link.  Foxy’s new personal mission is to try to slow the pace of development on JVD by having part of the island declared a National Park.  Having seen the road-work going on across the island we thought he was right on the mark.
The new fuel dock (part of that development I guess) is very easy to access so we made a quick stop to top up our tanks (water, diesel and fuel for the dinghy) and dispose of our bag of garbage.  We figure we can do two weeks out on full tanks but this takes all the worry away for the last couple of days.
Just an hour away on the north shore of Tortola lies Cane Garden Bay.  When we stopped here with Jim a year and a half ago we thought it very pretty but much too touristy with the beautiful beach covered with beach-chairs.  I think that’s still the case but we went ashore anyway and were delighted with the little narrow front street fringed with restaurants, bars and guest houses.  Every colour of the Caribbean has been used in the paint selection and yet it all works together.
We walked on up to Bobby’s market to stock up on some food needs as well.  For those wondering, the shopping is just like at home only the establishments are smaller and the prices higher (except for alcohol of course).  There is a Costco-type place on St. Thomas but once in the other islands food is available through much smaller venues.  None-the-less we find that we can get just about all that we need.  This morning on Jost the grocery shelves were a little bare because the boat had not arrived yet with supplies, but timed right, you can pick up the necessities as you go along.
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday: Jost Van Dyke

Forecast:  Winds ENE 12-17 knts, seas 4-6’, scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms, temp 84F

Cloudy skies and light showers were the markers for today but given that we planned an ashore day, this was actually quite pleasant.  We weren’t quite as good as we had been about getting up really early but given that it rained all night, and was still very cloudy the temperature was nice and mild this morning.  The kicker was the humidity which was probably at about 98%.


We started our JVD hike setting out towards Little Harbour.  We looked down at it but rather than march down the hill just to have to come on back up, we opted to carry on up the side of the mountain towards the Mountain Trail which was very clearly marked on our little tourist map. 


Our plan was to take a little bit of the Mountain Trail and then find our way back down to Diamond Cay and the bubbly pool.  We clambered on, passing numerous herds of goats on the way (this should have been a warning) but no sign of the road back down to the bay.  By the time we had climbed up over 800’ we were cluing into the fact that there was no easy loop road that was going to take us back.  In places the ‘trail’ was a two-lane concrete affair that had probably never seen the tires of a car because at other times it was a mud and grass track.  One can only assume that the lovely patches of concrete will eventually join up and be accessible from the bottom of the mountain.  After about 3 hours of road/trail that really only goats should climb, we arrived at the base of the radio towers on Majohnny Hill at an elevation of 1050’.  Needless to say the views from the top were spectacular!


Given that none of the other roads marked on the map ever materialized we decided the most prudent course was to retrace our steps – so much faster going down than up, but oh so hard on the knees.  Lunchtime found us back at Taboo enjoying a cold Presidente and a heaping fresh Greek salad.

For Caitlin and Jim – do you remember when we visited Great Harbour and walked over the road to White Bay?  Take a careful look at this picture and you can see the road heading up over the peninsula – remember how steep it was??


Our final trek on this island today was to head out to the north-east corner to the bubbly pool.  This is where there is a narrow cut in the rock and when the northern swell is up, the waves crash in and create a bit of a washing-machine effect on anyone who is up to playing in the pool.  Most of the waves today produced a gentle-cycle action but there were one or two that poured in that got everyone pretty excited.


Here’s our trek across the island – I’ve marked on it in orange the two roads we searched for that just didn’t exist.  When we showed the map to the bartender at Taboo he and his pal studied it with great concentration and then proclaimed that it might be a track but as far as they were concerned it was just a gut.  A gut is a creek bed.

2011-11-27 JVD Hike

There’s a low pressure sitting just NE of the islands now that is causing all these showers.  It may send us some pretty blustery weather overnight and tomorrow but will hopefully clear out after another 24 hours.

Saturday: Anegada to Jost Van Dyke

Forecast:  Winds ENE 12-17 knts, seas 2-4’, scattered showers

This was a downwind travel day but the hoped for winds of 15+ knots never did arrive so it was a slow, rolly drift with the winds and light swell, past the north shore of Tortola and down to JVD.  The only excitement in the 6 1/2 hour sail were a couple of rain showers that passed us by, but being very localized we only needed to change course a few degrees to avoid a soaking.  The winds remained in the 8-10 knot range pretty much all day so we sailed some of the time with just headsail alone which allowed us to sail almost dead downwind toward our destination.  We had the main up for a while and although it afforded a few more knots in speed, we had to bear off the downwind run to avoid a jibe so our speed towards our destination was no better than headsail alone.

We pulled around Sandy Spit and up to the Diamond Cay anchorage in front of Foxy’s Taboo in the mid-afternoon.  Taboo is an adjunct business but with a very different vibe from Foxy’s in Great Harbour.  The open-air restaurant was very quiet but inviting and after waiting for another shower to pass, we headed in for one of the best dinners we’ve had in the islands.


Not much else to report from the day.  Overnight we had very heavy rain, the advantage being that it washed our decks clean of the accumulated salt that becomes very sticky over time.

Friday: Anegada Day

Forecast:  Winds ENE 10-15 knts, seas 2-4’, scattered showers, temperature 84F

The last time we were on Anegada with Jim we rented bicycles and rode out to Loblolly Beach for lunch at Flash of Beauty.  We wanted to explore Anegada again and perhaps see a little more of the north shore, but knowing the condition of the deep-sand roads decided against bicycles this time.  Sorry Jim, given there were just two of us we opted for scooters.  Yeah, give a couple of newbie scooter-riders machines that are capable of 60+ km/hr and let them loose on roads that mire in sand up to 6” deep.  It wasn’t all bad though because we got to practice first on the concrete road leading out to The Settlement.  We actually got on just fine and had a fantastic day exploring and enjoying this idyllic island.


Anegada lies tilted slightly from south-east up to north-west, with continuous powder white sand beaches running along the whole of the north shore and western end of the island.  All told, Anegada is only about 11 miles long and there is one main road on the south side and one sand road on the north side so it doesn’t take long to explore at 30-40 km/hr.  We headed up to Loblolly Beach where we placed our order with Monica for lunch at Flash of Beauty before heading off for a walk along the endless north-shore beach.  This beach is renowned for snorkelling within the fringing reef but we found we didn’t even have to get our feet wet to see the fish feeding on the reef! 


Flash of Beauty is an open-air restaurant where your fish, lobster, conch, roti etc. is made to order and we happened to be the only customers there that day. 


To the accompaniment of the local cat we enjoyed a beautifully prepared lunch and encourage anyone who is exploring the island to come here.  We visited the next place down the beach, Big Bamboo, and while it is was definitely busier and provided many services to its guests/visitors it hadn’t the charm of FoB.

Once our bellies were comfortably full, we headed off to the west end of the island to Cow Wreck Beach.  This beach is named for the boat-load of cow bones that were wrecked here way back (and that’s all I know). 


It is now home to one of the most laid-back bars we have ever visited.  We wandered up and were served our first drinks (the specialty Cow-Killer and an excellent Painkiller) but after that we were on our own.  A clip-board was provided to record your purchases and when ready to leave you settled up with whomever was behind the bar at the given time.  How fantastic is this!


I love this island and its laid-back charm; as the t-shirt slogan so rightly proclaims:  Anegada – hard to get to, harder to leave.


Thursday: Spanish Town to Anegada

Forecast: Winds ENE 0-15 knts, seas 3-5’, isolated showers

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. and it’s a strange sort of dichotomy here in the British Virgin Islands – there is no tradition for Thanksgiving here and yet because so many of the folks who come here are American, the holiday is somewhat observed.  Not so much in the commercial establishments unless Black Friday can be put to use, but upon talking to one shop-keeper on Anegada today she said her family and others celebrate because they like to eat; and yes, they eat turkey.

Sitting in what we northerners think of as paradise it is not hard to come up with things to be thankful for – warm caressing sunshine, just the right amount of tropical breeze, powder-white sand beaches with swaying palm-trees; all rather like a post-card. 


However, now that we are here in Anegada after a wonderful sail from Virgin Gorda, I am reminded of other things I am thankful for.  Jim – this place brings back great memories of our first trip on Mowzer when you were with us and we came to the ‘drowned island’ for the first time; we hope to head up to Loblolly Beach tomorrow where you had so much fun a year and a half ago.  Caitlin – I thought of you yesterday at The Baths as I watched a young woman about your age scaling one of the massive boulders (but with no broken arm like when you were here .)  Family, friends and colleagues of course but I promise not to get too maudlin so here are some other things that came to mind today:

  • Perfect wind and seas for a single-tack sail from Virgin Gorda to Anegada


  • The best pedicure you can get for free (walking on the beach)
  • Walking so far down that beach that your ‘up-hill’ leg starts to hurt so you have to turn around, but regretting that you’ve only walked a short portion of this seemingly never-ending completely uninhabited strand of white
  • Meeting a guy in the local bar who also has a dream – in this case to start a micro-brewery in the islands, but not before he has just one more to take on the road with him (literally)
  • Anchoring on the fringe of a crowded anchorage, that still only contains about 40 boats which is nothing compared to some of the anchorages down-island.  This place feels almost like you’ve reached the end of the world.


  • Joining your fellow boaters at a restaurant on the beach for a meal of fresh-caught lobster and shrimp and a chilled glass of wine as the breeze blows through and you actually need to be covered up because it is getting a little chilly
  • Knowing that it is just fine to be sitting in that open-air restaurant in the best clothes you posses but that your bum is soggy from the dinghy ride in and your flip-flops are full of sand


  • Juicy anticipation of the next day’s explorations around and across this little island – 11 miles long, 2 miles wide and only 25 feet high (yay, no hikes up a mountain-top)
  • Watching dark skies and looming clouds develop through the evening only to have them blow by with nary a drop of rain or gust of wind and the reward being the best of sunsets


  • The skittering sound of a sand-piper running across the deck as you awake to calm waters in the anchorage.
  • Sharing the fun and adventure with your best friend.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!