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.)