The British Virgins have been well and truly explored. Since January we have anchored in every possible bay, snorkeled every reef, seen every sunset, and sampled every beach bar’s conch fritters. So with this season’s guest list completed and waved off, we have decided to head west to more Virgin territory.
The British Virgin Islands are a sailing paradise. The temperature is always 80 degrees; the sun shines brightly most all day, but there are enough big puffy clouds to provide some welcome shade and an occasional boat-cleaning sprinkle. The wind is always out of the east at 15-25 knots and the crystal-clear water is deep with few unseen rocks and reefs to heed. One can more or less sail by sight with only the occasional check of charts when coming into a bay or harbor. Perfect.
We have had a lotta fun sharing the BVI with a great group of guests this year. First off were Susan and Neil, returning to Genevieve for another season, making their way to the BVI from wintery London. They had spent their honeymoon on Virgin Gorda seven years ago and were excited to return. We met Susan and Neil at Trellis Bay, which is literally at the end of the Tortola airport runway. You walk out of the tiny airport, scoot the chickens aside, and walk a few steps to the dinghy dock. Susan and Neil came armed with an assortment of engine parts, luxury edibles, and even a teapot!
Susan and Neil got to experiment a bit with us as we had not explored much of the BVI before they arrived, but by the time the first West Gilgo Beach crew landed a few weeks later— Jon, Nora, Billy and Gigi—we had the loop down to an art. The loop being… pick up guests, and do more or less a counterclockwise tour around Tortola, hitting highlights like The Indians, Willy T, The Baths, Bitter End Yacht Club, Anegada, Sandy Cay, Foxy’s, and Soper’s Hole. When Tom from Chicago and then second WGB wave, Murney and LeeAnn, arrived we changed the itinerary up a bit to include the US Virgin Islands before heading into the loop.
Between the well-trodden highlights we discovered some great peaceful anchorages; lovely bays with no mooring buoys and therefore few charter boats (see below!). Our fave’s were Benure’s Bay on Norman Island, Booty Bay on Salt, Prickly Pear in North Sound, Maho and Cinnamon Bays on St John, and Savannah Bay on Virgin Gorda. We even made the pilgrimage (several times) to Christmas Cove St. Thomas, home of our West Gilgo Neighbor Sasha Bouis’ fantastic floating pizza boat, Pizza Pi.
We really enjoyed all our guests, spending time with them and sharing some of our sailing life and the truly spectacular part of the world. And it gave us a focus trying to get and keep all systems in the boat operational and dependable for the tenure of the visits…not an easy task. But not much broke. And we hope everyone had a fun time!
Over the last four months, we have only spent a couple of days in a marina, usually when we needed to get some work done on the boat that we could not do on the hook or without a chandlery close at hand. It was a nice change to get into Nanny Cay Marina to live the marina life, do the laundry and have access to stores! While John engaged in sunset yoga classes, Martin hung out at the Nanny Cay beach bar with pal Lisa as she prepares her own lovely boat Azimuth for a long sail south. We met some other lovely folks through Lisa who are cruising or who are in some way connected to the boat business in Nanny Cay.
So you wonder, what do we do all day? Well having guests kept us busy showing the folks the sights. Between visitors we slowed the pace a bit (!) and sought out lovely places and sometimes stayed put for a couple of days. We did our boat maintenance chores (not an insignificant amount of time), read, swam, snorkeled, hiked. We watched the entirety of The Wire and reprised Downton Abbey from series one. Of late we have put some effort into going out to the drop off where the depth goes from 150 ft to 2000 ft in an instant. This is where the big fish hang. But we have had only mild success as the days it’s most appealing for us to go out to the depths to hunt, i.e. sunny and calmish, is just the conditions that fish don’t like. They prefer overcast and roughish to do their prowling. But we are determined that the mother lode of wonderful fishing lures that LeeAnn and Murney brought us will not go to waste. We have had more success with lobster hunting, some really big crustacea have caught the end of our Hawaiian slings and have ended up on the grill or in lobster linguini.
Alas, because of this combination of sailing “perfectitudes” mentioned above, the islands are FULL of charter catamarans shaped like floating shoes. Now, we don’t mind charter boats per se, but we have come to realize that the bareboat charters (i.e. without a Captain supplied) can be big trouble! They tend to herd together, particularly at the beginning of the weekend when they have just gotten aboard their boats, and create trouble due to the fact that they don’t know what they are doing! We were narrowly missed by one on a Sunday morning, anchored, mid-coffee. A Sunsail charter dragged its anchor— all aboard ignorant down below. The boat started to drift out the anchorage, bumping our topsides on the way! They had been anchored in about 20 feet of water but with only 25ft of chain deployed instead of what would have been prudent, at least 100’. When underway, generalizing just a bit, these charter types have scant understanding of navigation rules (COLREGS) and tend to motor everywhere, even in perfect wind conditions.
I’m not finished, there is another type too. Those who charter HUGE glitzy catamarans, still buggery-ugly and shoe shaped. These have a professional captain, a cook, and a steward, sometimes another crew. They also tend to motor everywhere at top speed because the crew can’t wait to get the guests to the next bar, off the bloody boat, and out of their hair. The guests are drunk all the time, and loud, but at least the captains know the COLREGS. Having said that, we were still hit by one! We were in the middle of deconstructing and greasing one of our winches while anchored in our favorite idyllic bay. A gargantuan, shiny shoe was leaving and it soon became painfully apparent that our anchor lines were crossed and the behemoth smacked into us. The knowledgable captain was insistent that we had maliciously anchored over his chain. But as he had been in the bay for 12 hours and we had been there for 36, that seemed a tad “alternative fact”. Anyway we came out of the mess unscathed while he had a 3 ft long, deep scratch down the side of his shiny shoe. Shame.
But now we are winding down our season’s adventure. As mentioned, we decided to explore the Spanish Virgin Islands, officially part of Puerto Rico and consisting of some lovely unspoiled islands just off the eastern coast of PR. We headed first to Cayo Norte and found a wonderful bay all to ourselves. Then we sailed to Flamenco Bay, apparently named the second most beautiful beach in the world by Discovery Channel. Really very lovely, but those Discovery Channel folks need to get out more! The snorkeling in the Spanish Virgins is a grade higher than in the Virgin Islands (which is saying something). Less sunscreen in the water maybe, or maybe as PR is part of the States, global warming does not occur here as its just a hoax in US territories.
By May 1, we will head for Nanny Cay and begin a week-long process of putting Genevieve to bed for the summer. Haul-out is scheduled for May 8 and we wave sleeping Genevieve goodbye, fly out on the 9th to Miami and pick up the car for the long drive north. We are looking forward to getting to WGB just as the Spring matures into Summer.