Great Harbor - Jost Van Dyke
11 March 2007 | British Virgin Islands
We were up in the dark of the morning for hopefully the last time for a while. We had to weight anchor and work our way out of the harbor back the way we came in. The anchorage has a fair bit of shoal water around it and we were the deepest boat in. This is nice for getting to shore but not so nice when leaving the anchorage first thing.
We decided to motor out of the anchorage and up the cost a bit until we could clear Puerto Rico under sail. We were rounding the reef at about 5AM and raised the main. At 5:49 we fell off and pulled out the jib. We had 17 knots of wind and Swingin' on a Star was doing 8 knots. Off went the diesels. It was great to just sail again. The day was turning out to be quite a bit nicer than any over the last week.
We sailed up the east coast of Puerto Rico making for the 2 fathom bridge through Punta Arenas. Punta Arenas is a nasty reef running North West off the tip of Vieques. I had read up on this area and looked it over heavily in the charts. It always bothers me when the authorities say you can go here but there are numerous shallow coral heads.
The sun rose over Vieques in a blaze of reds and yellows. While beautiful this made it tough to make out much in the water as we sailed north east. As we closed in on Punta Arenas (something like "danger" in Spanish) I noticed disturbed water everywhere and even some breaks. I bucked up and prepared to follow my well worked out plan. Then at 100 feet out I threw the boat hard to port.
It was just too scary looking. In the end making it though would buy us a little time, but cracking into a reef would cause several complications. So I chickened out and rounded the safe water buoy.
Once round the buoy I tried to get as far up wind as possible, making for Virgin Island number two, Culebra. We had to tack Southeast around Cayo Lobo. The northwestern boundary between Puerto Rico and Culebra is scattered with many small islands and shoals. There is a cut just west of Lobo and the armada of Puerto Rican Sportfishers were often blasting through.
We tried to clear Vieques on the next tack but didn't make it. The wind had moved a little south of east and it was hard to make headway on this tack. The good thing was that we had a shot at making the lion's share of the voyage on the next starboard tack.
We sailed up toward Culebrita making for the Virgin passage and Saint Thomas. As we approached Culebra's Ensenada Honda we noticed that there was a sailboat race going on in the waters outside. The very waters we were trying to sail through.
I made a futile attempt to raise the race officials on the radio. Contrary to popular belief, most older Puerto Ricans don't speak much English. As noted our Spanish is awful. No headway on the radio.
Races courses aren't really on the charts so we had no way of knowing where the circuit ran. Sure there were packs of boats that were easy enough to avoid but as soon as you'd think you were out of the track some one would tack right at you. We tried to stay well clear of any buoys we saw but the course seemed to take up all of the good water between two reefs. It was pretty fun to see the race up close and I don't think we impaired anyone.
As we wove our way up through the islands it was interesting deciding whether to stand off of an island to get un obstructed wind and bigger seas it whether to get in close to ride local wind affects and avoid the bigger waves.
The channel between Saint Thomas and Saint John seemed to give us a lift and we were fetching Jost Van Dyke for a bit. As we got back into the gradient wind we ended up out side of Tobago. At this point it was clear that we were not going to make Trellis Bay by night fall.
After considering the matter a bit Hideko and I decided to head for great Harbor on Jost Van Dyke. JVD is a fun island in the BVI and a port of entry. We arrived near sunset and had to anchor a few times until we were comfortable with our spot. This harbor is packed in season and there are reefs all around the edges so you have to put out minimal scope and check your swinging room. You also need to consider the fact that there are a lot of inexperienced skippers on charter boats here.
We finally shut the boat down at 18:30 just after sunset. Hideko made a nice dinner and then she, Roq and I drifted off to sleep with the big noise of Foxy's rumbling through the bay.