First Week of Caribbean Cruising

We’ve been in the Caribbean for almost 2 weeks now and are just starting to get into the groove.

Most of the first week was spent at Nanny Cay marina recovering from the 1500, cleaning up and repairing the boat, and of course taking part in nightly cocktail parties and dinners.  After the awards dinner on Friday the 13th, we left Nanny Cay to begin cruising in earnest.

We left Nanny Cay at around noon on Saturday and motored over to Norman Island, stopping en route at the Indians – an underwater cave / reef – for our first BVI snorkelling.  Then it was on to the Bight at Norman Island.  We anchored up close to shore in about 20 feet of water and were soon joined by One World, a schooner that had come down with us on the 1500.  We spent the afternoon snorkelling on a delightful little reef close to the boat and then swinging into the water on the rope swing that One World had rigged from one of its yards.  (Schooners, when not sailing, appear to be floating playgrounds with ratlines, yards, and all kinds of other rigging to climb on or jump from)

The next day, Peter from Stolen Hour and I went snorkelling in the Treasure Island caves on the west side of Norman Island (Norman Island supposedly provides the locale for the novel Treasure Island).  It was quite cool, and you could easily envision how pirates would use such caves for hiding – either themselves or their wares.

We then motored over to Trellis Bay which, near as I can tell, exists principally as an anchorage so that people who need to drop or pick up crew at the airport can do so without need of a cab.   You can literally dinghy to shore and then walk a minute or so to the airport.  Since Ian was flying out the following morning, Trellis Bay was a required Sunday night stop for us.  To send Ian off in style, he and I, as well as Peter from Ohana (lots of Peters around here) went ashore for dinner and some drinks at the Loose Mongoose.

The next morning, we said goodbye to Ian and then, for the first time in a few weeks, had only Kilgours on board.  The first order of business was to deal with an outboard motor that had ceased functioning.  One hypothesis was that we had water in the gas, so I borrowed Ohana’s dinghy and zipped over to Marina Cay a mile away and picked up some new gas.  Unfortunately, new gas didn’t solve anything, but on the upside, the fuel dock was right beside a Pussers’ store and I managed to pick up some rum and a couple of bottles of Painkiller mix.

We then motored around the east end of Tortola and headed west to Jost van Dyke where we picked up a mooring between Jost and Little Jost.  Going ashore, we met Dwight (our crew), Patti (his wife), Sandy (her sister) and Gerry (husband) who had chartered their own boat for the week.  Dwight led us down a ‘pirate trail’ through the mangroves where we saw wild goats, beautiful cacti, and huge aloe vera plants.  At the end of trail, we were greeted by a ‘bubbly pool’, which was a small sandy area which circled a small pool water.  At the sea end of the pool were large rocks that separated the pool from the sea, but for a small 2-3 foot wide channel that led out to the sea.  Waves from the sea would then funnel up the channel and then explode into the bubbly pool, turning it into a giant, natural hot tub.  We swam and bounced around for a while and then made our way back to Bojangles.   We motored over to White Bay, picked up a mooring while the kids spotted their first sea turtle, then taxied over to Little Harbour for a lovely dinner at a beachside restaurant with Dwight and his crew.

The next day, Dwight headed back to Tortola to complete his charter and we moved over to the other side of the bay where we could anchor and avoid the $25 a day fee for a mooring ball.  We anchored just off the famous Soggy Dollar bar (home of the Painkiller) and beside a mega-motor yacht called Hooter Patrol.  As you might have surmised, the vessel in question and its crew of pneumatically enhanced young women was on location at the Soggy Dollar for a photo shoot for the Hooters Calendar.  We offered up Bojangles as a prop for the calendar, but they declined our offer.

Whilst we were now starting to get into the cruising groove, we heard on the radio that our friends Kirk and Elizabeth (also from Toronto) on Discovery had just learned that their engine was in need of a serious rebuild and that their cruising plans would be delayed at least a few more weeks.  We offered to take their kids for a few days so that the kids could escape the marina and so that they wouldn’t be underfoot while the engine was being pulled from the boat.  As Claire, their daughter, was a bit under the weather, we arranged to swing into Nanny Cay and pick up Wesley for a few days.

Our first stop with Wesley was Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda which, for us, was simply a place to park the boat for the night and then zip over to the Baths first thing in the morning.  At Spanish Town, we also caught up with our friends on Stolen Hour and Ohana who had similar plans.

Exploring the Baths was quite neat.  It’s a collection of boulders and caves on the water’s edge that you can walk and swim through, and then you can snorkel off the beach in some very nice reefs.  (I can’t do the Baths justice.  If you want to learn more – google Baths Virgin Gorda)

From there, we zipped around to the South East side of Virgin Gorda with Ohana and Stolen Hour and found a beautiful anchorage in the South Sound.  The entrance was a little tricky due to the preponderance of reefs and isolated coral heads, but once inside the reef we had the perfect combination of calm waters but good winds to keep the boat cool.  We snorkelled around a bit, saw a ton of conch, and had a great night in a very pretty anchorage.   Unfortunately we later learned that South Sound is a national park and that all mooring is prohibited there.  We promptly apologized to Mother Nature and then pulled anchor.

Leaving South Sound, we sailed around the east side of Virgin Gorda and said goodbye to Stolen Hour who was sailing north to Anegada for a couple of days.  Rounding the eastern tip of Virgin Gorda, we sailed (actually motored due to the need to charge batteries) into the North Sound and anchored just off the shore of Prickly Pear Island and about 1 mile west of the Bitter End Yacht Club resort.

This was a great anchoring spot with good access to beaches, snorkeling, and the Bitter End’s facilities – which include and outdoor movie theatre and a free double feature every night.  We spent about 5 or 6 days anchored here.  The kids particularly enjoyed collecting hermit crabs on the beach and creating a ‘Habitrail’ for them.  At its peak, the Habitrail – a maze of sand trails – housed around 60 crabs, each about as large as your fist.  It was quite a sight to see them scurry around and try to get back to the forest whence they were plucked.

One day, we picked up a mooring at Leverick Bay – on the other side of the Sound – and took part in a fundraising Pirate Party at Jumbies, the marina’s bar.  A good time was had by all as kids and adults alike spent the evening dancing under the stars.  Additionally, I got a second chance to wear my Wal-Mart purchased pirate costume, the first being a few weeks ago on Halloween in Hampton.  Unfortunately, I did not win the ‘best dressed’ award and the accompanying bottle of Pussers.

Our last day in Gorda Sound was US Thanksgiving.  What started as a gathering of three ‘kid boats’ (Bojangles, Stolen Hour, and Ohana) mushroomed into a fairly large gathering of Carib1500 boats and a massive potluck Thanksgiving dinner on the beach.  At last count, there were something like 14 or 15 boats represented and about 30 adults and 15 kids for Thanksgiving.  Folks started gathering on the beach around 1:00pm for swimming, beach volleyball, and ‘painkilling’ (the act of drinking Painkillers) and then around 3:00pm we gathered to give thanks for our blessings, which is an easy thing to do when you’re anchored in November on a beautiful beach with lots of friends and a veritable feast in front of you.   We then tucked into a great turkey dinner and had a delightful evening.

After that, we said goodbye to Virgin Gorda and traveled back to Nanny Cay – with the Discovery crew onboard (they have the broken engine, but hitched a ride over to Gorda Sound for the party).  Back at Nanny Cay, it was Claire and Wesley’s 11th birthday (twins) and the kids enjoyed a pool party at the marina and then we all headed to Mulligan’s for beer, burgers, wings, ribs, and fries… Another nice day…

The day after the birthday party, Nov 28, in a way marks the start of a new period for us.  The last week and a half have really been about getting into the cruising groove after two months of boat projects and constant travelling to get to the Caribbean.  Now, we’re here.  There are still boat projects, but no major ones.  We have begun cruising and explored the BVI’s.  And now, it’s time to think independent from the group we’ve been traveling with (even though they’re a great group) and start to make our own plans and go our own way.  We’ll of course meet up with all these boats again, but for now, the time is right for us to strike out on our own a little.

That said, we came over to the south side of Peter Island tonight in hopes of finding a quiet anchorage in White Bay (different from the White Bay on Jost van Dyke).  When we came into White Bay – a beautiful ¼  mile long horseshoe shaped beach surrounded by steep, tree covered mountainside – there was only one other boat anchored and not a soul on the beach.  We quickly anchored and swam ashore to have the beach to ourselves and enjoy the late afternoon sun.  Then the folks from the mega-yacht (the other boat anchored) came ashore as well and we no longer were the only ones there.   However we kept to ourselves and they respected our privacy, which we appreciated.  (And while we haven’t confirmed this, Kathleen’s binoculars have provided a 95% certainty that the ‘dad’ on the mega-yacht has a name that rhymes with Com Trooze and his wife’s with Hatey Combs.)  They only stayed the one night and then weighed anchor in the morning.  We, on the other hand, stayed one more day and got to be good friends with Bill – a 54″ Barracuda who spent about 24 hours hanging out beneath our boat.

That’s all for now…

Cheers,

Colin

3 Responses to “First Week of Caribbean Cruising”

  1. Great blog Colin (and I’m not just saying that because you mentioned my name). Can’t wait to go to the great places you write about. No doubt Tom was looking for me…he stalks me you know…what a pest. Glad you guys are enjoying life on the hook. We hope to see you soon, perhaps at Trellis on Wed. night (I think that’s the full moon party).

    Fair Winds,

    Eizabeth

  2. Dwight says:

    Did you get the photo albums I send you. Great blog keep it up.

    DHH

  3. Ethel and Bob Thayer says:

    Great reading about all your adventures, sounds exciting. Looking forward to the next entries on the blog.

    Cheers,

    Ethel and Bob

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