25 February 2012
We left St Martin at dusk for our first overnight sail since crossing the Atlantic, direction the British Virgin Islands (BVI’s) and our last stop in the Caribbean. We heard stories about the BVI’s being a lovely cruising ground but nothing quite prepared us for just how good it actually is. The BVI’s is made up of over 40 islands set within an area of only 59 sq miles, some uninhabited, some with just a beach bar and restaurant, some with shipwrecks to dive on, others privately owned by rich billionaires like Richard Branson who bought Necker Island thirty years ago for $68,000 and who recently turned down a $220 million offer for it! What’s most enjoyable is how it all works in harmony with each other to become this mecca for charter boats, cruisers and super yachts all enjoying each other’s company in the famous sites and establishments. What’s more, the sun shines more here than in the rest of the Caribbean though maybe this was just luck on our behalf. The snorkeling is great and most islands have free internet (great for keeping abreast of the current Gillard/Rudd battle). We particularly like that every bar has a happy hour from 4-6pm daily so we’re generally in bed by 8pm.
We started on Virgin Gorda Island with a visit to ‘The Baths’, a collection of volcanic lava boulders dated from 70 million years ago. The boulders are not only fascinating to see from above the water but also lurk under it making it great for snorkeling. There is a very cool trail from the Baths beach to Devil’s Bay that goes through the caves, over the boulders, through tidal pools and finishes at the white sand beach. From here we headed to North Sound, an idyllic bay surrounded by mountains with the famous Bitter End Yacht Club and Saba Rock Resort based in the bay. After a couple of days in North Sound we met up with Bridget and Ben from Ganga whom we hadn’t seen since Rodney Bay. Bridget’s Grandfather, Don and brother, Jason were with them to help crew to Panama. We had a lovely couple of days with them in North Sound and a particularly drunken night at Willy T’s on Norman Island before they left for the San Blas islands (our next stop).
Having booked to do two dives on the famous ‘Rhone’ (a 310ft shipwreck broken up into a few pieces in 20-80ft of water) we headed to Cooper Island for pick up the next morning. We planned to only have one drink during happy hour so we could be in top form for the dives the next day. That plan went out the window when we met eight Americans chartering on a huge catamaran who invited us back for dinner and drinks. The dives were great and well worth it. From there we spent one night in Sopers Hole on Tortola. Unfortunately, we ripped our main sail when furling it as we entered the bay so the form wasn’t great that night. It’s been an ongoing issue with the batten pockets so the next day we made a quick stop in Nanny Cay Marina to get a sail maker to make new pockets that Hugh designed and patch the UV on the Genoa.
While waiting for the sail to be fixed we went to White Bay on Jost Van Dyke. There is a very popular bar there called the ‘Soggy Dollar Bar’ because most visitors jump off their boats and swim into the bar for a drink. Hugh was snorkeling to our anchor when he came back with his own soggy dollar, a $20 note that he found floating in the water J. We also spent a night at Great Harbour Bay before heading back to Nanny Cay and Road Town on Tortola.
If you’re thinking of a sailing holiday for this time of year we would definitely recommend chartering a boat in the BVI’s. We’ve certainly enjoyed our time here. We’re about to leave the Caribbean now on a 1054nm (c1800km) passage to the San Blas Islands in Panama. This will be the longest passage Hugh and I have ever done or will ever do alone. The weather is in our favour so we’re not expecting much drama and should arrive in about 7 to 8 days.