British Virgin Islands aka: the "BVI"…..

April 6th – April 14th, 2014 (-4 on UTC)

Dear F&F,
We were looking forward to the 75 mile day sail from Anguilla to Virgin Gorda as it would be only our second chance this season to use our spinnaker pole. The spinnaker pole allows us to sail more or less directly downwind. You can use it with any of our front or \”head sails\”. We picked a great day with 15-24 knots behind us and seas which had not built up too much. We were flat and happy with a full main and genoa poled out to starboard – a really great sail; Sirius Satellite Radio a blasting.

Wikipedia – British Virgin Islands:

As we approached Virgin Gorda, we got a chance to sail very close to Sir Richard Branson\’s private and very own Virgin Island – Necker Island. It rents (we heard) for $55,000/day. But hey, you can have 25 people and it\’s ALL inclusive….:-) They even have a small submarine with Captain at your disposal! It looked lovely and we watched several people who were kite surfing, one of whom zipped by right in front of us. Not the safest maneuver as we have no way to quickly avoid him, but all was well and he waved and smiled as he went by. We did gybe once, but not till the last hour of our sail which is how stable the day was.

Necker Island: (Virgin Gorda in the background) – Kite Surfing: Something I really want to learn to do.

Cindy and I chartered a small monohull (aka: monomaran) here in 1996, so this would be a first for me – entering somewhere I\’d already been! (At least since French Polynesia in 2009). We took a mooring and headed straight for Saba Rock. This is a very small island (you can walk across it in about one minute) and is in the heart of the Virgin Gorda Sound. When Cindy and I were there in 1996, it had a few rooms and a very small bar that was right out of the bar scence from \”Star Wars\” with all th appropriate characters. Well…things have changed. They did a complete make over of the place and it\’s now quite up-market. We enjoyed the drinks and wifi and had a an early dinner. The next day, we went over to the Bitter End Yacht Club and enjoyed walking around their facility. I toyed with the idea of taking some kite surfing lessons, but the prices were outrageous and it was too windy in any event.

I took the dinghy across the mile wide bay to Gun Cove and checked in with Customs. The usual \”jobsworths\” as Nikki calls them, but for the most part, I just smile and say yes Sir, yes Mam. The word \”jobsworth\” comes from the British saying, \”I can\’t do that mate…it\’s more than my jobs worth\”. It describes the act of asking someone to do anything slightly out of their job description who in no uncertain terms…will not! The customs and immigration department\’s of most countries can be described as \”jobsworths\”. I have always believed that the bigger the country, the easier it is to deal with the customs and immigration officials when you\’re in their physical presence. In a few days time, I was about to find the definite exception to THAT rule….(next blog!)

We decided to move on toward the \”Baths\” at Virgin Gorda which are one of the highlights of the island. We anchored in a beautiful and shallow area behind a protective reef that we were told about by one of the Bitter End YC guys and avoided the crowds. We dinghied into Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor and took a quick look around. Not much going on there. The next morning, we got up early to insure we\’d get a mooring at \”The Baths\”. It was only a 15 minute trip (can\’t stay there overnight) and we got a really nice mooring close ashore. The Baths are a beach area about 1/2 mile long with incredible rock formations, very large boulders and nice clear water. By 9:30 am, all the 20 moorings were taken. Several boats were anchored out. We took the dinghy to the outer swimming area (no dinghies allowed inside) and went for a really nice hike on the west side of the island. From here, you could see \”Fallen Jerusalem\”. Fallen Jerusalem is a small island that when the early explorers saw it, said it looked like the Temple after it was destroyed by the Romans. Frankly, it does. We swam and hiked and really enjoyed our day.

\”The Baths\” at Virgin Gorda: These rock formations go on for about 200 yds. Great swimming and snorkeling. There are also enclosed area where you can be all alone with the rocks surrounding you.

Two features of the BVI are First, it\’s really crowded and second, all of the 10 or so islands are very close to each other. This is a reason it\’s so popular. You can get from one island to the next in an hour or so and it\’s very close to the US. The islands are definitely part of Pirate lore as well…more in a minute. We sailed to Trellis Bay, which I\’d not been to before, and it was packed like the proverbial sardine can! We did go ashore, but decided this was just to be an overnight stop off. The next day we headed back across the Sir Francis Drake Channel and went by Cooper and Peter Islands. Neither looked all that appealing to me in 1996…things haven\’t changed!… We did go by \”Dead Man\’s Chest\” and \”Dead Man\’s Bay\”. A \”Dead Man\’s Chest\” was a Pirate term for a coffin. The infamous \”Black Beard\” (Edward Teach or Thatch? one knows for sure) apparently marooned 15 mutinous crew here with the famous 15 bottles of rum. The island is only 1/2 mile from shore at \”Dead Man\’s Bay\”, but in those day\’s of yore, Pirates (nor most sailors) new how to swim. As they had no food or water, they all made a swim for what would become \”Dead Man\’s Bay\”. None of them made it…. With such history… .we moved on!

See Wikipedia: \”Dead Man\’s Chest\”:,_British_Virgin_Islands

Off Salt Cay lies the famous wreck of the RMS Rhone. The Rhone was caught in a late season Hurricane, October 29th, 1867 and smashed again the southwest end of Salt Cay.  In the 1977 film, \”The Deep\”, a buxom Jacquline Bisset is seen being dragged under the Rhone by a vicious moray eel! (what a croc!…:-))

See Wikipedia:  \”RMS Rhone\”: 

Cindy and I had done the dive in 1996, but we again wanted to move on. We went by \”The Indians\” (small islets) en route to Norman Island. It\’s this island that Robert Louis Stevenson apparently based, \”Treasure Island\” upon.

Norman Island (Treasure Island):
Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson:

The bay was very calm, lots of anchorages and a new restaurant bar had just opened. We enjoyed a bite ashore that night and went off to \”The Indians\” then next morning. It\’s a well known dive site and Nikki and I did a short dive off the north end. This was the site of Cindy and my \”Bumblebee Dive\”. When we were here in 1996, we dove the sight and had a small school of barracuda staring at us only a few feet away. Right then (in this most serious of moments…ha!), another very overweight gal in a one piece yellow with black pokadot swimsuit came around the corner. She was apparently still a new diver and literally looked like a bumblebee hovering over the flowers (baracuda in our case). She was a bit anxious over finding herself in this situation and flapped her wings mightily! Maybe you had to be there, but we spontaneously laughed so hard, our masks flooded (in synch!). From our nice time at \”The Indians\”, Nikki wanted to see Road Harbour on the island of Tortola. I told here it was effectively a large \”rent a car\” lot for charter boats without anywhere to comfortably anchor. Well, we did the \”buzz by\” and it was as I had remembered it…Hence, on to Soper\’s Hole.

The Inidans: Nikki and I did a short dive here. It\’s the place where Cindy and I did the \”Bumblebee Dive\” in 1996.

Soper\’s Hole is at the western most end of Tortola (main island of the BVI). It was a famous Pirate hangout and \”Blackbeard\” reportedly used it as a base of operations to come out against unsuspecting treasure and merchant ships en route back to Europe. There is Great Thatch and Little Thatch islands just outside the harbor and many feel his last name which we have all heard is \”Teach\”, may have been \”Thatch\”.

Wikipedia \”Blackbeard\”:

We had a nice evening ashore and a lovely dinner at the \”Fish and Lime\” Restaurant. Nikki always likes it when the guide book gives a good recommendation and it turns out that way. Not the rule by the way, but the exception. The next day, we headed off around the north side of Tortola to Cane Garden Bay. We went ashore, but it was too late to visit much of the area. It was a really nice calm anchorage with a great beach and swimming area. The next day, we motored back to Bomba\’s Surf Shack to check it out. It\’s a real dive and we would have had a lumpy time trying to get ashore. As such, we headed off for our last planned stop in the BVI – Jost Van Dyke.

Wikipedia – The Island of Jost Van Dyke:

We did a bit of a tour and finally ended up mooring in Great Harbour. Another Pirate Island, JVD was a Dutch Privateer. He used this island (only 5 miles from Tortola) as his base of operations for taking prizes with his \”Dutch License\”. The line between \”privateer\” and \”pirate\” could be a very thin one. A Privateer had a \”letter of marque\” from his host country which allowed him as a civilian ship to take prizes (other ship\’s and their cargoes) from nations whom they were at war with. Pirates were in it to take from anyone and everyone. Some of the Privateer\’s crossed the line and were then ruled Pirates. Sometimes, one countries \”Privateer\’s\” were another countries \”Pirates\” and on it went. Jost Van Dyke apparently crossed the line and was just considered a pirate. The English hero, Sir Francis Drake was an English Privateer, but to the Spanish, he was \”Pirata Drake\”. History of course is written by the victors…..:-)

Wikipedia – The Privateer \”Joost van Dyk\”:

JVD is home to \”Foxy\’s\” bar and also the home just around the corner of the \”Soggy Dollar Bar\” in White Bay. Foxy\’s was really famous throughout the Caribbean but we think it\’s heyday may have finally faded. When I was here with Cindy in 1996 over Christmas, the boats were rafted so thick, you could practically walk ashore. Now, Foxy\’s seemed a yester-year scene. The \”Soggy Dollar\” however was HAPPENING!…

Soggy Dollar Babes: They were hanging on my every word!……:-)))

It was the week or so before Easter vacation and the US Spring Breaker\’s were off to an early start. The Soggy Dollar was so named from the original boaters who came here and having no dock to land at swam ashore. They would pay for their drinks with the \”soggy dollars\” in their swimsuits. This is also the bar that invented the potent rum drink, \”The Pain Killer\”. They served them by the dozens in minutes.

Soggy Dollar Dude: Everyones favorite bar tender. He was non stop fun. The ladies seemed to be on to him however….:-)
Nuff said. I guessed there were about 4-500 people around and it was quite the scene. Very small bikini\’s were the rage.

They had live music and Chris (who was definitely in touch with his inner Jimmy Buffet) was playing all the Buffet classics. We enjoyed him and became fast friends. He told us he\’d been in the Caribbean for 25 years and that he would be playing at several bars in the USVI (US Virgin Islands) next week and we should come and check him out. The party was all day (and we\’re sure) well into the night.

Soggy Dollar Bar: Chris on guitar – Being in touch with your \”Inner Jimmy Buffet\” has it\’s advantages….:-)

We picked up a few souvenirs and dinghied the 1/2 mile back to Great Harbour. We did put in an appearance at Foxy\’s but it was like an old folks home next to the Soggy Dollar. The next morning, we checked out with BVI customs (more jobsworth\’s) and made the short trip to Cruz Bay in the USVI…. Now, that\’s another true story – and shortly I will tell it…..:-)

KIT, Scott and Nikki