Redwings Round the World

Virgin Islands

16 - 20 March 2001

 

 
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Colleen near "The Baths", Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

15 March - Anegada Passage - Anguilla to Virgin Gorda BVI

Aaron - We crawled out of bed at 0530, threw on some coffee, toasted a couple of precious bagels secured in St. Martin, and had the anchor aboard and steaming lights on by 0600 with the bow headed west towards Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands just as dawn began to break.

For details of the passage, pick just about any day from our Atlantic Crossing Log - 15 to 20 knots from the East, moderate seas, blue skies, some puffy white clouds, no traffic, making six to seven knots over the ground, gently rolling back and forth, nap, watch, nap, eat, watch.... but it only lasted 12 hours instead of 18 days this time!  Eighty miles in the bag.

We rounded the tip of VG just as the sun was setting - a bit nerve wracking with a 5-7 foot swell running, reefs and breaking surf 100 yards to port, a rocky point 100 yards to starboard, the depth steadily falling and the sun in our eyes - but as we entered, wow is all I can say.  It's like we entered a new world.  The large bay between VG, Tortola and a myriad of other small islands was fairly calm (no swell) and golden in the sunset.  Islands all around.  Trees again!  Palm fringed beaches between massive boulders, yachts at anchor, beautiful homes..... what a dramatic change from St. Martin.

We motored the few miles up the coast to the anchorage off Spanish Town and dropped the hook in 20 feet of calm water.  Tomorrow, we start exploring.

16 March - Road Town, Tortola, BVI

Colleen - We dingied into to check in with customs and immigration in Spanish Town.  This seems like a major revenue racket, and we took serious pity on charter boats that appeared to be getting stuffed the worst.  A poor French man in line in front of us was told that on top of the port fees he had to pay US$4/per day/per person on his boat because they were chartering it.  When he was told the total bill was US$240, he pleaded with the officer to let him come back after going to the ATM for more cash.  We got off with $17 port entry and $5 port exit fees as a private yacht.  However, they asked us for 20 cents to pay for our immigration entry card forms.  Despite having just landed from a foreign country (St. Martin) the immigration officer expressed surprise that we didn't have change in US dollars and said we couldn't use a US$1 to pay the 20 cent fee and expect change!  Luckily I scraped up 15 cents at the bottom of my bag, and she said that was better than the one dollar bill, and let us go with a five cent discount.

Spanish Town seemed to hold no more attractions than a marina and the customs/immigration office, so we dingied back to Redwings and raised anchor.  We motored 2 miles south to the famous "Baths" of Virgin Gorda.  We anchored two bays north of the Baths, as the Baths area itself was chockablock full of charter boats on top of each other.  We think the name of the inlet was Little Trunk Bay - its hard to tell on the chart.  Anyway, this struck us as one of the loveliest beaches we've ever seen in the world.  There were barely a handful of boats in the bay, and only four or five people quietly enjoying the beach.  The beach was totally pristine, baby fine white sand, with a border of mangroves and palms behind, with splashes of color from bougainvillea and tasteful wooden homes. We dingied ashore, and snorkeled in the most inviting water we've ever seen- crystal clear turquoise begging you to dive in.  Unfortunately Aaron badly scraped his shoulder and head on some coral when diving under to view the fish - a bloody mess.

We dingied further south through the Baths - which seem to be smooth boulders with pools of water between them - basically interesting snorkeling and swimming scenes.  Aaron stayed in the dingy for a half hour not wanting to re-expose his scraped shoulder to the water, while I snorkeled in and out through the boulders.  

After lunch we took off for Road Town, Tortola, the capital of the BVI's.   We were all smiles gently rolling downwind for the 10 mile sail with only the genoa out and no sea in the protected bay.  I was looking backwards luckily and spotted our dingy floating away which broke up the reverie!  After two tries with the boathook we finally retrieved it.  Aaron guessed he didn't tie the painter on tight enough.

In Road Town we tried to hook up with internet and to find our friends Dick and Clare Kanter form Runaway who are staying here for two months while their boat is refitted.  We had no success with neither mission, which was rather depressing.  Tortola looks like a miss without much to do besides drink at dockside bars with lots of yachtie wash ups and US tourists fresh off the planes from up north.  We did manage to spot the location of the famous Davy Jones weather center, and we also spotted Asteroid on the dock, with what looks like its new owners (we cruised up the Red Sea with Asteroid when our buddy Paul Johnson was the boat's captain. He has since left the boat and last we heard it was up for sale in Florida).  

The fruitlessness of our journey ashore was further compounded by the fact that we spent a rather uncomfortable night in a very rolly anchorage there for it.  We swayed and swayed, with both of us getting little and fitful sleep.  Finally in the middle of the night I tried sleeping sideways in the bed to go with the roll.  I achieved this in our narrow bed only by putting my head halfway in the clothes drawer next to the bed.  Pretty pathetic, but it helped a bit.

17 March - Jost Van Dyke, BVI

Colleen - Again, another pleasant downwind sail in protected waters to Jost Van Dyke, another island of the BVIs.  It looks like a freeway for boats around here there is so much sailboat traffic.  Aaron says it reminds him of Penobscot Bay in Maine in the summer. 

The most notable thing about Jost Van Dyke seems to be its famous Foxxys beach bar.  Our buddies on Gigolo were coming over for Foxxy's St. Patrick's day party, and we thought it sounded like a nice idea.  The anchorage was pretty crowded, and we got a first hand look at the charter boat anchoring madness.  

We took a brief walk ashore and enjoyed watching all the pelicans dive into the water for fish.  Gigolo came over for sunset cocktails before we went ashore for the evening.  The St. Patrick's day party seemed the same as every other night at this beach bar, with the exception that the stunningly rude and belligerent bartender put shamrock stickers on her shirt situated where her nipples would be.  This was hardly very exciting to patron however since on top of being rude, she was rather unattractive.  The bartender seemed to be put out if anyone wanted a drink, so getting them at the bar wasn't a pleasant experience and we didn't last too long at Foxxys.  

Everyone who charters a boat in the BVI's feels they must call in at this bar.  Consequently, we managed to meet 3 different people from Maine without even trying in the space of 30 minutes who approached us while we were talking about Maine to Gigolo.  This seemed to make Aaron think maybe beach bars in the Caribbean aren't so bad after all... 

March 18 - St. John, US Virgin Islands

Colleen - Well I guess its a momentous day when Redwings checks into customs in her first US port!  We sailed over to Cruz Bay, St. John, US Virgin Islands, dropping the hook at around 11:30 am (the customs officer wanted an exact time of entry ?!? so I remember).  The harbor was horribly small and crowded so we felt our stay to check in and look around should be short, we were almost blocking the ferry channel.  

We made the mistake of checking in on a Sunday, whereby there will be overtime charges, to be split somehow amongst all the boats that enter during that day.  

They can't estimate the charges until the day is done and they know how many boats they will be split between (although maximum per boat would be US$25/boat), so they request a mailing address and say they will mail the bill to us to pay later by check!!!!

Now, this could easily be the stupidest policy I have ever heard, remarkable that one of the most advanced nations in the world is embracing it.  We tried to plead that we lived on our boat and didn't have homes to pay the bill from when it arrived asking if there was anyway we could pay on the spot.  The customs officer had no conception of the idea that a boater wouldn't have a land address they could pay bills from.  So we'll see what happens, he said the bill should arrive in 2 to 3 months....

Cruz Bay didn't seem so bad, mildly quaint, but very overweight trinket shops and beachside bars.  It feels strange to see people boozing it up in bars at 12 noon, but I guess they're all on holiday from a very cold place...

 

The Virgins are lovely and quite clearly a cruisers paradise, endless little sweet anchorages that can be sailed to pleasantly in a protected beautiful bay.  Lovely beaches, fantastic snorkeling.  I guess we just don't really fit in though right now, as we're not part of the 10 day charter crowd looking for the beach bar.  Maybe that and the fact that we having a nagging itch telling us we need to keep moving if we want to make it through the Bahamas by end April means we'll be heading on tomorrow towards Culebra in the Spanish Virgins, after a really pretty brief cruise through the US Virgins.

We motored over to Christmas Cove on St. James Island to spend the afternoon and night.  Aaron and I went snorkeling off the southern tip and saw a large shark as well as a turtle, sting ray, and lots of fish.

March 19 - Culebra, "Spanish" Virgin Islands

Aaron - Following a good night's sleep in the anchorage at St. James Island, we got up and got going early lifting the hook at 0830.  We are in moving-mode and feel more like putting in miles and getting on with it than hanging around.  It was great to spend the afternoon snorkeling, and this is a nice spot, but the next spot will probably be just as nice as well as different and further down the track.

First stop on today's itinerary: the main port on St. Thomas to try to buy a duty-free digital camera.  We motored the seven or eight miles across the bay to St. Thomas and entered the large main harbor of Charlotte Amalie with low expectations.  We expected cruise ships, gross development, a poor anchorage, and local hassle.

In fact, it was a pleasant surprise.  Large anchorage with good holding, a fairly clean and pleasant harbor.  Ok yes there were three mammoth cruise ships in, but they pulled up well away from the yacht anchorage.

Ashore it was the tourist Mecca expected: jewelry shops every ten feet with all wares "75% off", guys selling t-shirts that change color depending on how much sunlight there is, mozzarella sticks, buffalo wings, and sweet pink drinks in plastic cups for US$8.00 per pop - the cruise ship minions were having a ball.  We got in on the duty free action too, however, and bought a new Minolta digital camera.  A new toy for me!  Lots of pics will follow on the website pages now that we don't have to wait to scan in our 35mm photos.

We hauled anchor after a quick lunch and headed out for Culebra, which is part of the "Spanish Virgin Islands" which are several small isles off Puerto Rico that are actually a part of the territory of Puerto Rico (i.e. USA).

We had a pretty uneventful five-hour down wind sail.  The wind was fairly light and we had to pole out the genoa.  Such a small sail handling event seemed momentous as we have not even raised the main since we sailed from St. Martin to St. Barts about a week ago.  We are getting pretty used to the easy down wind life of just unrolling the genoa, putting the boat on auto pilot, and putting in 20-30 easy miles in a morning or afternoon.  We did, however, catch two barracuda on the way, which kept my pulse ticking.

After picking our way in through the well-marked reefs of Ensenada Honda, a huge inlet of several miles that penetrates Culebra, we dropped the hook at around 1600 in 15 feet of water behind a small island just off the town.  Flat calm.  Beautiful anchorage.  A few cruisers, but we are now away from the charter hordes.

A small canal connects Ensenada Honda with another anchorage / port on the other side of the town.  Cheryl and Heikki on Venla were anchored over there and we all met for a drink in town.  They have been exploring Culebra for several days and really like it.  Great reefs and anchorages.  They will take off tomorrow for the north side of Puerto Rico and we for the south so we probably won't see them again until the end of April in the northern Bahamas when they are preparing to cross the Atlantic back to Finland and we will be preparing to cross the Gulf Stream to the continental USA.

Cool village.  Totally bilingual, lots of small colorful houses with character.  Cats and dogs everywhere.  Could come back and spend some time here.  Next time.... feel like pressing on tomorrow.

March 20 - Green Beach, Isla de Vieques, "Spanish" Virgin Islands

Aaron - We dinged in at 0900 to check in (to Puerto Rican territory) but that was not early enough according the customs guys.  They were a bit mad that we did not call in last night and mentioned that there was a US$5,000 fine for not checking in "immediately".  Everywhere else, "immediately" means within 24 to 48 hours - especially if you arrive after office hours.  Well this really is the USA and things are different here I guess.

After asking if we had any Jaguars on board..... (apparently they were tipped off that someone will soon try to illegally import one to the island - the actual feline version that is), we cleared in quickly for the low low price of US$25 for a "cruising permit" and were on our way.

We had a hard time figuring out where to go and what to do but finally decided to head for another "Spanish Virgin" Isla de Vieques, stop there for the afternoon / night, and then push on tomorrow for PR.  The sail was a bit sloppy and we ran into a dark squall line right at the tip of the island.  The wind quickly swung right on the now and we found ourselves pretty close off a lee shore in 20 knots of wind, darkening clouds, and rain in a matter of minutes.  We quickly turned on the engine and got around the point, and all of a sudden, the wind died.....  so we just motored all the way down the coast of the island (catching two barracuda on the way) and finally tucked into a small inlet on the western most tip of the island off "Green Beach" (see photo).  Twenty more miles in the bag.

Really lovely.  Quiet.  Two fishermen in open boats jigging for mackerel.  Waves lapping the palm fringed shores.  Rainbow and powerful sunset. 

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Copyright 2001 All 

 

 

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Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved by Aaron Henderson and Colleen Duggan