British Virgin Islands 2015

Another sailing trip! As I explained in a previous post my wife and I have friends that own a sailboat. Last year we met then at Staniel Caye in the Bahamas for a week of sailing. This year they were in the British Virgin Islands.

They picked us up in St Thomas at Molly Malone’s. We had to take a forty minute cab ride from the airport to Molly Malone’s in Red Hook. They drive on the left side of the road and there isn’t s straight section of road on the island so I am glad I didn’t have to drive.

 

Sara Shane and Lucia
Sara Shane and Lucia

 

Shane was at Molly’s when we arrived. We loaded ourselves and our suitcases into the tiny dingy and motored to their beautiful 45 foot catamaran where Sara and Lucia the dog were waiting. We unpacked and Shane raised the anchor, or at least tried to.  The anchor had become tangled in a section of anchor chain on the bottom of the ocean. One of the crewed yachts near us saw our predicament and launched a dingy to help up. We were free in no time.

We saw a regatta during our crossing. The two boats in the picture came very close to hitting each other. i don;t know much about racing so i don;t knwo which boat was in the wrong but they were swearing at each other loud enough that we heard them clearly on out boat.

 

Regatta
Regatta

 

 

St Johns

We sailed over to Watermelon Cay on St Johns, dropped anchor, had dinner and stayed the night. We got up the next morning, went to shore and hiked up to Annaberg plantation.

 

Annaberg Planataion
Annaberg Planataion

 

We sampled Johnny Bread, which is deep fried bread. We also got free samples of sugar cane. We hiked around the plantation and enjoyed the beautiful vista overlooking the sound. While exploring the plantation we could only imagine what it was like to work there. We were sweating profusely just walking around the grounds.

 

View from Annaberg Plantation
View from Annaberg Plantation

 

Peter Island

We had to check into BVI so we sailed to Sopers Hole on Frenchman’s Cay and Shane took our passports to the immigration office to check us in. We went to Pusser’s Landing. Karen had her first Pain Killer. She liked it. We also picked up our tanks for diving from Blue Water Divers.

 

Pussers Landing
Pussers Landing
Pain Killer
Pain Killer

 

Our next stop was Great Harbor on Peter Island. We anchored there for the evening. After breakfast the following morning we went ashore and explored the island. We walked around Peter Island Resort. It is a nice resort.

At this point in the vacation I became anchor boy. I love to snorkel so I told Shane that I would check the anchor every time we dropped it. I would grab my mask, fins, and snorkel and swim out and make sure that the anchor was securely dug into the sand. I would spend the next fifteen or twenty minutes checking out the starfish, needle fish and other sea life that gathered around the boat.

 

Pete and Starfish
Pete and Starfish

 

 

Cooper

The next day we sailed to Cooper Island and anchored at Haulover Bay. The wind had picked up and we got to experience what it is like to sail in 35 knot winds. This is where the saying that “one hand for you and one hand for the boat” comes into play. With the waves and the high wind we had to make sure that we held onto something whenever we moved around. I had to go into our berth during the crossing and I made it a quick trip. I started to feel seasick when I made it to the bottom of the rocking stairs.

The following day we anchored at Cistern Point on Cooper Island for our first dive of the trip. There was a lot of current but the visibility was decent. We saw a large lobster and many smaller fish.

 

Karen Pete and Shane Returning from a Dive
Karen Pete and Shane Returning from a Dive

 

Marina Key

After the dive a Cistern Point we pulled anchor and sailed to Marina Cay. I got a chance to refill the tanks during the sail using Shane's compressor.

We pulled into Marina Cay and dropped anchor. While we were motoring through the marina Karen had noticed a woman showering naked on the stern of her boat. Shane mentioned that is a regular site in St Martin but not so much in BVI.

 

Finishing the dive
Finishing the dive

 

The second dive was at Marina Cay. It was a really nice dive. We saw a lot of sea life. We saw turtles, puffers, trumpet fish and much more. We had to be careful not to scuba to close to the narrows between Scrub Island and Great Camanoe. The current picks up at that point and we could be carried to the other side of the strait with no way to get back.

 

Turtle
Turtle

 

I was proud of myself. This was the first time that I had to keep track of where we were underwater. It was a simple out and back but we surfaced close to where we went in.

 

Trellis Bay on Beef Island

 

It was a full moon and every full moon the businesses at Trellis by have a full moon party. After sunset the four of us hopped in the little dingy and motored to Trellis Bay.

The motor over is where I figured out how fearless Shane is. The dingy is just large enough to hold four people. Shane had been having trouble with the engine, it would lose prime and die. It always restarted but only after pumping the prime ball to pressurize the fuel line again and six or eight pulls on the starter rope.

It was dark when we started our boat ride over to Trellis Bay for the full moon party. Our little dinghy putted through the anchored boats at Marina Cay, through a stretch of open water, around the boats that were anchored in Trellis Bay and finally to the dingy dock.

The engine killed once on our trek over so we were left bobbing in the water while Shane primed the fuel line and pulled on the starter rope many times to get it to start. We kept an eye out to make sure that we weren’t run over by any speed boats while Shane was starting the motor.

It was windy so there were some swells while we were crossing the open water. There were also swells from the larger boats that were speeding through the area. Sara was at the front of the boat with a flashlight and had a flashlight pointed off the stern of the boat to warn any boats in the area of our position.  I’ve done night dives in Mexico where they tied a flashlight to the bow of the small dive boat so other boats could see us. Having Sara and I hold flashlights to let other boats know where we were was no big deal.

When we arrived at the dock, Sara was on the bow with rope in hand ready to tie off the dingy. Shane as at the rear of the boat ready to grab the dock and steady the boat so we could safely climb onto the dock. A group of people

A group of people were boarding a dinghy a short distance down the dock from us. They were talking loud and making a lot of noise so we all paused to see what the commotion was. All of us paused except for Karen, for some reason she decided to climb from the dinghy to the dock. Neither Shane nor Sara had grabbed the dock yet to steady the boat. While our attention was focused on the noisy boaters, we heard a splash and saw that Karen was gone. She surfaced moments later. It wasn’t that deep, she was able to stand up and wade to shore.

The air temperature was in the seventies and there were gusts up to thirty miles per hour. That made for cool conditions if you were dripping wet. Shane offered to bring Karen back to the boat so she could change clothes but she decided to tuff it out. As part of the full moon party they had fires burning in metal containers both over the water and on shore so we stood by one of the fires to let Karen dry off and warm up.

Fire at Full Moon Party
Fire at Full Moon Party

We wondered around the shops, drank a couple of beers and watched the ceremonial lighting of three wooden filled metal sculptures that were sitting in waist deep water. The wood had to be soaked in gasoline to get it to ignite and it still didn’t want to stay lit. Once the wood finally caught fire it quickly erupted into flames.

 

Shane Sara Karen Pete at Full Moon Party
Shane Sara Karen Pete at Full Moon Party

 

The dinghy ride back to the boat was slightly more harrowing than the ride to Beef Island. There were more speed boats in the area and they were driving faster and seemed to pay less attention to our little dinghy. I had to shine the flashlight directly at several boats to make sure they saw us.

 

 The Baths

 

The Baths BVI
The Baths BVI

 

The baths are beautiful. They are giant, round boulders that are stacked together on the southwest side of Virgin Gorda, which interestingly translates to fat virgin.

You can’t land the dinghy at the baths. You have to tie it off to the buoy that marks the swimming area and swim to shore. It isn’t a very long swim but we wanted dry clothes, sandals for our feet, a camera   and something to eat and drink on shore, so I swam with my sandals on while holding a dry bag over my head. It’s a lot harder than you think.

 

Shane Sara Karen at the Baths
Shane Sara Karen at the Baths

 

We hiked the paths through and around The Baths. There are ropes and wooden ladders to help you climb and descend the boulders. Some of the trails aren’t marked very well so after you stooped to do a duck walk through a very slim gap between two house sized boulders you’ll discover that you can’t get any further and you have to duck walk back from where you came. It’s all part of the experience.

 

Anegada

 

Beach at Loplolly
Beach at Loplolly on Anegada

 

After completely exploring the Baths we swam back to the dinghy, pulled anchor and sailed for Anegada.

The bay that we anchored in is probably my favorite name from the entire trip. It is called Loblolly Bay. What the heck does that mean?

Anegada was my favorite island that we visited. The rest of the Virgin Islands are mountainous which make them beautiful green spires rising out of the ocean. Anegada is a flat sandy island like you would find in the Bahamas or Turks and Caicos. It has miles of beautiful white sand beach and world class snorkeling.

Potter's by the Sea
Potter's by the Sea

 

The sail to Anagada was flat and fast. After we dropped anchor we motored to shore and made reservations at The Lobster Trap for dinner.

 The most of the restaurants on the smaller islands do not take walk ins. You have to either call ahead on the radio or stop in and make reservations like we did.

We explored the beach for several hours then returned to the boat to change and get ready for dinner.  Karen and I had amazing lobster when were in the BVI fifteen years ago for our honeymoon.  The one thing we wanted to do this trip was to have lobster dinner again.  Can you go wrong ordering a lobster at a restaurant called The Lobster Trap?

We tied up the dinghy at the pier for The Lobster Trap when we came ashore. When we were going back to the boat we walked past the pen that held the lobster for our meal later that evening. One of the people from the restaurant was butchering the lobsters so we were sure we’d have fresh lobster for dinner. Or so we thought.

We showered and then motored back to the restaurant for dinner. We checked in but they did not have our reservation.  They had lost our reservation or given it so another boat. They sat us anyway.

We all ordered lobster. It wasn’t very good. It was mealy so I am guessing it was frozen. They must keep some lobsters in the freezer for situations like ours.

The following day we went ashore to explore the island. Shane wanted to rent scooters. I think scooters are little suicide machines especially since some of the roads on the island are sand. We all decided to take the local taxi rather than risk a scooter crash.

 

Loplolly Beach
Loplolly Beach

On the taxi ride to the beach, and by taxi I mean benches in the back of a pickup truck, the taxi driver had to honk twice because people were driving on the wrong side of the road. Another good reason not to rent scooters.

 

Boat at Loplolly
Boat at Loplolly

 

The taxi dropped us at Loblolly Beach. The beach was beautiful; white sand, turquoise water and not many people. The reef was about five hundred yards out so the water was perfectly flat and perfect for snorkeling.

 

Sara, Shane and Karen at Loplolly
Sara, Shane and Karen at Loplolly

I actually found an octopus when we were snorkeling. This is only the third time in sixteen years that I’ve seen an octopus snorkeling or diving. You can see from the video that I harassed the poor animal more than I should have with my GoPro.

 

 

We hung out at the beach all day, snorkeling, relaxing and drinking a beer or two. It was a really enjoyable day. At the end we grabbed a cab back to The Lobster Trap and dingyed back to the boat. We pulled anchor and sailed for Eustacia sound.

 

Shane, Sara and Karen at Loplolly
Shane, Sara and Karen at Loplolly

 

I’ve thought that when I retire I will spend some time here. It will probably take a day or two just to get to the island. I’m not sure if flying in would be better or I think they have a ferry. It would be a laid back island to relax on.

 

Waiting for the taxi at Loplolly
Waiting for the taxi at Loplolly

 

I like the restrooms at Loplolly beach. I'm nnot sure what the Adam and Eve restroom is.

 

Rest Rooms at Loplolly
Rest Rooms at Loplolly

 

Eustacia Sound

On the sail to Eustacia Sound we noticed that a slightly larger catamaran was trying to catch us. Shane used his sailing skill and we stayed ahead of them all of the way to the sound.

We dropped anchor and I got a chance to snorkel and check out the anchor. There were dozens of starfish scattered across the ocean floor.

 

Karen Pete and starfish
Karen Pete and starfish

 

We could see Richard Branson’s house on Necker Island from our anchorage. There is a small sand spit near the island. You could see a tall palm tree on the spit. Shane said it was fake. They couldn’t get a real palm to grow on the small spit because there is not fresh water.

 

Necker Island
Necker Island

Friends of Shane and Sara dropped anchor a short distance away and motored over. We agreed to meet at Saba Rock for happy hour.

Saba Rock is a tiny island with a bar/hotel/restaurant that takes up the entire island. We motored over for drinks and hors d’oueuvres.

 

Happy hour at Saba Rock
Happy hour at Saba Rock

We were just in time for the show. They feed the tarpon daily. They bring out fish scraps and let the kids hold the scraps over the water. The tarpon leap out of the water and take the scraps from the children’s hands. The tarpon are about five feet long and weigh about a hundred pounds.

Tarpon at Saba Rock
Tarpon at Saba Rock

After happy hour we went back to the boat. We had agreed to meet for a dive the following day.

After breakfast the following morning Todd and his girlfriend motored over and we planned our dive.  There is an amazing dive just off Necker Island, it’s called The Pinnacles. It is a spire shooting up from the deep. When Shane and Sara dived it last they took the dingy and tied it off at the small marker buoy.

We opted for a simpler dive. We swan from our boat and Todd and his girlfriend swam from theirs and we met under water half way between the boats.

 

Getting ready for the dive
Getting ready for the dive

Obviously we didn’t have a dive master with us so had to keep track of where we were going. Todd had the most experience so he led. I was trying to keep track too, just for practice. I saw that Todd was leading us in a large rectangle.

It was a shallow dive, about thirty to forty feet. It was a good dive, we saw a fair amount of sea life. Todd navigated us back to their boat without having to surface to get his bearings. We were able to find our way back to our boat from there.

After our dive we hoisted the anchor and sailed to Benures Bay on Norman Island. The following day we dived the Indians.  The Indians are four spires that rise about twenty feet out of the water.  The Indians and the Wreck of the Rhone are the two most popular dive sites in the BVI.

The Indians
The Indians

 

Karen and I were in the BVI for our honeymoon in February of 2000 and we dived the Indians so it was interesting to do the same dive all these years later.

 

I didn’t care for the dive back then. The dive profile is kind of erratic. Ideally you are supposed to descend to your deepest depth and stay there or slowly ascend.  This isn’t possible with the Indians, because of the underwater terrain, you are constantly ascending and descending but you don’t go much below 40 feet so it doesn’t matter. I have much more experience now so trivial thing like this don’t affect me. Back then I was also interested in seeing large animals, turtles etc when diving. I’ve learned over the years that some of the coolest things are small.

We pulled anchor early and sailed to the Indians. There is only a hand full of anchor balls so we had to get there early.  Shane has much more experience navigating underwater so he led the dive.

 

The Indians
The Indians

We giant stepped off the back of the boat and swam towards The Indians. Shane swam into a cave. It looked small so we didn’t follow him in. Shane seemed to take a long time to come out, so I started to go in the cave just as he reappeared. We continued the swim around The Indians.

It was a really nice dive filled with much sea life.  I don’t know why we didn’t like it fifteen years ago.  My favorite critter that we spotted during the dive was a gold trumpet fish. Trumpet fish are thin and have a pushed up snout that vaguely resembles a trumpet.

 

The Indians
Apres Dive Drink

Shane directed led us back to the boat. He surfaced at the rear of a catamaran, then signaled to us that we were off by one boat and we had to swim to the boat in front of where he was at. It was still pretty good underwater navigation. Of course we finished our dives with a after dive cocktail.

 

Little Jost and Jost Van Dyke

We sailed to Little Jost to anchor for the evening. We went for a hike once we dropped anchor.  There are some interesting trees on the island. They drip acid when it rains. There are signs warning not to stand under the trees when it rains.

We hiked to the bubbly pool. This is a well know feature of the island. When the tide is in the waves surge through holes in the rock and create a natural Jacuzzi.

We also went to Foxy's. Of course the wives couldn't help but pose in front to the Foxy's sign.

 

Foxys
Foxys

 

Just like Shane had to pose in front to the No Speedos sign.

 

No Speedos
No Speedos

 

Red Hook

The following morning we sailed to Red Hook. It was a tough sail. During our time on the boat with Shane he explained how the weather conditions will determine when they decide to sail to a certain location. For example they sailed to pick up a friend in St Martin several weeks before. They left from Anegada at midnight because that was when the conditions were favorable.

We sailed to Red Hook in bad conditions.  We were into the wind so we were sailing into six foot waves the entire way. It was a little tough on us and the boat.

We anchored in the harbor at Red Hook. The four of us plus our huge suitcases (don’t forget our dive equipment) were crammed into the tiny dingy for the motor to the pier.

We had lunch at Molly Malone’s. We watched the iguanas chase each other around while we waited for our food. After lunch the waitress called us a cab to the airport. It was a twisty-turny drive back to the airport. Just like on the way over.

I was a little confused by the fact that we had to show our passports at the airport. St Thomas is a US territory so passports should not be needed. We had our passports because we went to the BVI otherwise I’m not sure what we would have done.

 

Recap

You are a lucky person if you have friends that own a boat and want to share the experience with you. A boat is freedom, we went to islands, anchorages and dive sites might be inaccessible without a boat. A boat is also work. Shane and Sara are gracious hosts and didn't make us work that hard but they work hard every day.

All of the islands are beautiful. My favorite was Anegada because of the amazing beaches and snorkeling. 

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