Off to the BVI's 2009

On the spur of the moment Sandi Fox put together a sailing trip to the British Virgin Islands. The crew included Herb Wake from Menominee, MI who is the owner of Twister the sailboat that Joe Fox and I race the Chicago to Mackinac race on each year.
The night before leaving Herb came down from Menominee and we had a steak dinner at Joe & Sandi’s house. The next morning they picked me up at 5 A.M. and we headed for O’hare Airport. After the long flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico we boarded a turbo-prop and headed to Tortola. Just as we sat in our seats the pilot told us we would have to change planes. So we boarded another plane and off we went.
During this fiasco we met a pretty girl from Chicago who had a brother that sailed on the racing boat Denali. So we talked about sailing. We flew over some of the most beautiful water and islands in this hemisphere to get to Beef Island where the airport for Tortola is located. Our bags arrived and we got through customs without incident. While waiting for our cab, I bought five beers for the ride to Tortola (I don’t know why I bought five as there was only four of us).
We got to our boat named Rum Runner, a 39’ Beneteau, with three cabins and two heads. As soon as we got to the boat the food and booze were delivered. We changed into shorts and went to a nearby restaurant for dinner.
The next morning we went through the boat with an Englishman by the name of Stuart from Sunsail. We had chartered before so we had already made coffee and Stuart was grateful for a cup.
We then motored out of the slip and into the Drake Channel to the Indians, a group of rocks renowned for snorkeling. Soon we were tied to a mooring ball and in the water. The first thing you notice is how salty the water is and then how clear and warm it is. The fish were abundant and the coral a rainbow of colors.
We then headed for the Bight on Norman Island. After tying to another mooring ball, Sandi and I took the dinghy to the caves for some more snorkeling. Sandi had a bad shoulder so it was difficult to get her back in the dinghy. She made it, but not very gracefully.
That evening we went ashore to a beach bar called Pirates Bight for dinner. After dinner we enjoyed two pieces of delicious cheese cake split four ways. We then jumped in the dinghy and headed to the William Thorton. The Willie T is a notorious night spot on an old lumber schooner. Young ladies used to dive topless off the stern for free T-shirts. This practice was stopped when someone got hurt. We had drinks and watched the people dance.
The next morning after a breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast we motored to Salt Island and the wreck of the Rhone. The Rhone is a mail ship that sunk in a hurricane in 1867. When we got there, many boats were already there in spite of it being windy. I think it is really interesting so see this 310’ ship laying on the bottom in relatively shallow water. Sandi thinks it’s just a lot of junk on the bottom. While there Sandi and I saw a small Barracuda.
We then pointed Rum Runner northeast to Manchioneel Bay on Cooper Island. We picked up a mooring ball and I jumped in the dinghy to explore Cistern Point for snorkeling. There were no calm places to tie up the dinghy so I went back to the boat for a nap. That evening we had a dinner of homemade tacos aboard. After dinner we went ashore for drinks on the beach. While there some young Canadians came over and introduced themselves. The men were pilots for Air Canada and some of the women were dive instructors. We talked with them for some time. This was their first charter and wanted to know where to dive. They thought that Herb was Newt Gingrich as they do look somewhat alike.
The next morning we dropped the mooring and headed for the Baths on Virgin Gorda. It was way too rough to stop. They now have a series of signal flags letting people know how rough it is (as if you couldn’t tell). We continued onto the North Sound of Virgin Gorda and picked up a mooring ball at Leverick Bay. Leverick Bay is a resort with a dock, fuel, water, shops, a fresh water swimming pool, restaurants and a hotel. We went ashore in the dinghy to register the boat (moorings cost $25.00 all over the B.V.I.), get rid of our garbage, have lunch and get ice. While ashore we noted that they were having a beach barbecue with music and Jumbie dancers. We also enjoyed a swim in the fresh water pool. After lunch then went for a dinghy ride on the Sound. Docked at the Bitter End Yacht Club was a 100’ Swan boat named Red Sky that Herb had seen in a previous delivery. We went back to the boat for a nap and to get cleaned up for dinner. Our table was right on the beach and was waiting for us when we got ashore, beautiful! Dinner was excellent with chicken, fish, ribs, pork and salads. The band after dinner played Reggae music and were very good. Then out came the Jumbie Dancers. Jumbie Dancers are dancers with 6’ 2"X 4"s strapped to their legs like stilts. How they stayed upright, I do not know. They put on quite a show and at the end of their show they jumped in the pool stilts and all. Then we went out to the catamaran the Canadians from the night before had chartered; four Cabins and four heads with lots of room. There were nine of them aboard and they were celebrating the captain’s thirtieth birthday (oh to be young again!). We got back to the boat and I was trying to retie the man over board light on to the life ring when the light dropped in the water. I thought it was a flashlight I had in my pocket. Sandi saw the light and thought that I was going to dive in the water after it. I got in the dinghy and went to fetch it.
We got up the next morning with winds from the east at 17-22 knots. Before leaving we stopped at the pier for a fresh water fill up which, along with a bag of ice, was included with our mooring. We motored out of the Sound and set sail for the Dogs. The Dogs are three small islands that the cruising guide had reported that had great snorkeling. When we got there it was too rough to snorkel and there were no decent mooring balls open.
We continued on to Marina Cay at the east end of Tortola. Because of our early arrival we were able to pick up a mooring ball right in front of the dock. Sandi fixed French toast and we enjoyed a late breakfast. Herb again got stuck cleaning up the galley. We did note that there were always mooring balls available as chartering was down due to the US economy. Joe was unable to get Wi-Fi so he took me ashore to register the boat and make reservations for dinner. Herb, Sandi and I went to a reef that extends out from Marina Cay for some snorkeling. The bottom was rocky and we had a hard time getting our fins on. The snorkeling was bad but I did find a small conch shell. But when I got it ashore, a lady told me I was forbidden to take shells so I threw it back. Joe, Sandi and I dinghied across the channel to snorkel. Much better snorkeling with a large variety of fish and coral. We went back to Rum Runner for a nap and a shower before cocktail time. Dinner ashore was good but uneventful except that a couple had just gotten married and were good enough to share some of their wedding cake with us. Going back to the boat that night we almost had a head on collision with another dinghy as it was so dark.
The next morning we got up early and the wind was still blowing hard. Maybe it will calm down tomorrow. We dropped the mooring ball and headed to Monkey Point on Guana Island. We found a mooring ball and Sandi and I were soon in the water. What a disappointment! The water was cloudy from all the turbulence. We were soon out of the water and off to Cane Garden Bay. Beautiful Day, winds behind us and the water the color of turquoise. We soon were at the entrance and just as last year, as soon as we got between the buoys leading into the bay, it started to rain. It was a light rain and didn’t last long.
We all got in the dinghy and took the garbage we had accumulated and went to shore. The cruising guide spoke of a new dinghy dock. Well when we got there it was same dock with some new pieces added and some planks missing.
We had lunch ashore and went and picked up a few groceries. As soon as you get away from the water it gets hot. The grocery store was air conditioned and it felt strange. Upon getting back to the boat we took a refreshing swim and had a nap. That evening we had our first spectacular sun set. Sandi fixed a delicious spaghetti dinner. Herb was stuck doing the dishes again. Afterward, Joe feel asleep on the settee and the rest of us played poker with lots of high fictitious betting and went to bed. In the middle of the night we had a downpour. What a fire drill it was getting the hatches closed.
The next morning I made coffee and realized we would run out of coffee before our trip was over. So Joe and I jumped in the dinghy and went ashore to buy more. We stopped at the grocery store where Joe priced the rum and I got coffee. Then we walked up the road to the Callwood Rum Distillery. There are pictures of the distillery on the web under Callwood Distillery. This place was in as bad a shape as always except they had a new sign.
Joe and I went back to the boat and dropped our mooring and headed for White Bay on Jost Van Dyke. Soon after leaving Cane Garden Bay, a Porpoise surfaced on the bow and swam with us for several minutes. What a sight! We named him Jesse after our bow man on Twister.
On the way to Jost Van Dyke we stopped and ate French toast. We then motored through the reef into White Bay. Absolutely gorgeous! We then dropped an anchor as there were no mooring balls. This was the first time we had to anchor.
Sandi and I went snorkeling in clear, aquamarine, warm water with lots of fish. Joe snorkeled out to the reef but was disappointed as there wasn’t much to see.
We all got in the dinghy and went to the beach as there was no dinghy dock. We went to a place called the Soggy Dollar for Pain Killers. Pain Killers are a rum drink made with fruit juice and they are delicious. We then went back to Rum Runner and hoisted the anchor and motored to Great Harbor. When we arrived we again had to anchor and we went ashore to make reservations at the world famous Foxy’s restaurant. When we got there, Foxy himself was greeting people so I got to shake his hand. Dinner that evening was wonderful. Several crews from racing boats were at the restaurant so Joe & I spoke with them about the upcoming regatta in the B.V.I. One crew was from the Netherlands and had chartered a 51 footer for the regatta. The other boat was from Curacao and had just come from the Rolex regatta in St. Martin.
We ordered two desserts and passed them around. We dinghied back to our boat under a star filled sky.
The next morning we awoke to showers and an overcast sky. We stayed on anchor and had our breakfast of scrambled eggs, ham and toast. We weighed anchor and headed for Sandy Cay but when we got there it was still blowing and raining. We waited around as the weather in the Caribbean often changes quickly, but the weather did not clear. So we turned west and headed for Soper’s Hole on the West end of Tortola. We got into Soper’s Hole under clear skies and picked up a mooring ball. What a great crew I had. We never missed a buoy. Herb would use the boat hook to grab the pennant and Joe would tie it on. Great job! We went ashore for some shopping. We bought some deli sandwiches and took them back to the boat for our lunch. Joe had left over spaghetti, his favorite. After lunch Herb and I went back ashore for some Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. What a treat. We then went back to the boat for our traditional afternoon nap. We showered and then cocktail hour began. We were all melancholy as it was our last night abroad. We dinghied over to the Jolly Roger’s for dinner. The fish was wonderful but too much to eat. We then went back to the boat for a night cap of Bailey’s and off to bed.
The next morning Joe and I were up early. After making coffee we dropped the mooring and headed east for Road Town. After motoring along the coast of Tortola for two hours we reached Road Town and the Sunsail and Moorings facilities. We called on the VHF for docking instructions and they told us where to back the boat onto the dock. It was a calm morning so backing the boat in turned out to be no problem. We got the garbage off the boat and went through the check out procedure with Sunsail. We had very few problems with the boat. Herb and I then showered as Joe & Sandi had showered on the way to Road Town. We went aboard some catamarans to size them up for a charter for next year. Before we knew it, the driver was there to take us to the airport for our flight to San Juan and then back to Chicago.
All in all it was a wonderful trip and will remain in my memory for years to come.

Story by Joe McGauran