RYC's Burgee Travels to the BVI's

Mark and Mary Jo Rode and their boys, along with Dave and Sue Hill and their girls spent Thanksgiving in the British Virgin Islands: thatąs 40 islands and miles of beaches, coral reefs and several underwater parks. Glorious sun-filled days make this the sailing capitol of the Caribbean.

The yacht Jeannius, was home for 10 days in the BVI. She was a 43 ft. catamaran. a beautiful blonde wood interior, with four staterooms, each with full-sized beds and comfortable mattresses and head. Two spacious saloons indoor and bimini covered outdoor, and galley all on the same level.

The yacht Jeannius, pronuced genius, was our home for 10 days in the BVI. She was a 43 ft. catamaran built by Privilege Yachts. She had a beautiful blonde wood interior, with 4 staterooms complete with full size beds, comfortable mattresses on wooded frames. Each cabin had plenty of storage and numerous hanging lockers. Each stateroom had a large private head with shower. The galley and indoor saloon would seat 10 around the fold down table. The galley was small with limited galley storage. We liked the large reach-in fridge and a reach in deep freeze. Limited storage in the galley; however there was ample storage a few steps down for supplies. There was no traditional companion way, no steps to travel up and down unless you were going to the cabins. The exterior saloon covered by a bimini, had seating around a table and a large open space with seating all around. The yacht was very spacious for the party of 8. The foredeck could accommodate a large party for dancing under the stars. Be careful of the open hatches. On arrival we had one watch for the eight of us. We attached it to a grab hold, it was necessary to time coffee etc. Otherwise the time was either morning, afternoon or night.

We left Chicago the afternoon of November 17 on a four and one half hour flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico with an overnight at the airport Hampton Inn. Our departure the next morning at 0900 got us in to Tortola by 1000. The flight has spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea. We were thru customs and in our open air taxi in a flash. On arrival at Road Reef Marina we were directed to or yacht to stow gear and familiarize ourselves with the boat. After a lengthy boat briefing, charter briefing and short shake down sail we were off and on our way by 1530. Sue and Mary Jo had made a shopping trip by taxi to the Rite-way grocery store were we purchases meat and fresh vegetables. This was a supermarket with roasted chickens, prepared food and fresh meat and produce section. Most of our dry provisions and water, liquor and soda were delivered to the boat from the Ample Hamper. They have a great online provisioning service and two upscale groceries located on Tortola. We had them deliver 18 gal. of drinking water, all the soda, beer, liquor and dry goods. That limits our store trip to fresh items and last minute supplies. We headed south to Peter Island, White bay for a quiet anchorage. We arrived at near dusk, after 3 tries we got the anchor to hold. We started dinner of marinated flank steak. Took out the BBQ grill and fired it up. Traveling during November the days are short, we had finished dinner and dishes and were ready for bed. We decided on a night cap of B & B which we had purchased at the Duty Free Airport Shops and saw a huge water spout to the south. It grew and grew, we followed it for an hour. No rain for us, yet. We told stories and drank till 11pm, started to rain a bit then called it a night. Shortly there after the heavens opened up. We had wet bunks but slept anyway. MJ set up the coffee pot the night before so it was ready for the earliest riser to fire up.

We had some refrigerator/battery and leaky hatch issues so we took the short trip back to TMM for some minor repairs. While there, we took fresh water on and some showers too. We got more towel, sheets and ice TMM handled us efficiently and quickly sent us on our way. The next destination was Salt Island to snorkel the wreck of the TMS Rhone a 310 ft. British Ship that sunk in 1867 in an extremely violent hurricane. Some of the Rhone wreckage is in 20 ft., deepest is 85ft. Much of her rigging, decking, steam engine and propeller are visible. We were able to grab a mooring ball right over the boiler area of the wreck. After a little snorkeling we headed to Cooper Island, Machioneel Bay. The four kids went to shore to explore the one store, one bar and one beach. Spencer came back with prized coconut in hand. Mark and Dave took off to explore the bar, they returned shortly to open the coconut for a pre-dinner snack. That night is was burgers and potatoes. We listened to oldies on the I pod and called it a night.

0800 after a breakfast of several baguette and sausage sandwiches we left for the Baths on Virgin Gorda. The “Fat Virgin” as Columbus called it because it resembled a fat women lying on her back. The Baths are an interesting group of granite boulder formations. The sea washes in creating caves and paths to explore. They also have a very white sand beach. Dave and kids went to shore to explore the caves and snorkel. After speaking with the locals, the baths had been off limits the previous week due to a beached whale bringing lots of tiger sharks to the area. Mark, Sue and Mary Jo stayed aboard and enjoyed the boat. We pulled out at 1130am and were off the Gorda Sound, Saba Rock and the Bitter End Yacht Club. The wind was 20-25mph and we saw our boat speed reach 9.2. The catamaran stayed flat. No spilled drinks! The cat is a great ride, comfortable and spacious. However there were a few swells to navigate. One of our two charts was sacrificed to the wind on our sail. We were glad to have two or we would have to navigate by place mats. We arrived Saba at 1430 and took a mooring ball. They are very accommodating at Saba, for $25 mooring fee, you get free water, bag of ice and garbage. They have a pond with large lobsters and two moray eels. At night they light under the dock area and there are several large tarpon in plain view, 3 ft. glowing silvery fish. Saba has a fun gift shop, a good place foe the kids to find pirate treasure or two. In Gorda Sound you can dinghy to Bitter End, Biras Creek and Saba Rock. Saba Rock is a tiny island with a hotel, restaurant shops and marine services. The Sun was hot and we used a sheet to make a sun shade on the stern of the boat for relief from the sun which we affectionately call “the beast”. After we put up our shade several boats followed our lead and put up there sun shade too. We prepared spaghetti for the kids and the adults went ashore to enjoy dinner at Saba Rock. They make great drinks, the staff is excellent. Three of us had the buffet dinner which left something to be desired, the salad bar was great and Dave’s conch was out of this world. Next time we will all order off the menu. In the morning we all took showers, washed clothes in fresh water and then filled up with that free water.

We had hoped to go to Anedaga on Tuesday but with the Northerly winds we decided to go south to Trellis Bay. We had never gone to Trellis bay previously because it was close to the Tortola airport and we were concerned about airport traffic. It was a new destination for us and a pleasant surprise. It’s an artist community with galleries, live working demonstrations and coffee shops and restaurants, a well stocked grocery store, internet café. We had Lunch at “Da Loose Mongoose” The best conch fritters in all of the islands and a great lunch too. We sampled conch fritters all over the BVI and there was no comparison, light dough and full of conch. We all had a trip ashore and enjoyed it. After returning to the boat Mark and Dave went on a recon mission the Last Resort. The Last Resort is an Island with a building that looks like a prison. The bar/restaurant has a singing dog, a donkey several cats. Mark and Dave were there at 1630 they don’t open till 1830. They have Karaoke “Laurie Hennig Style” a free shot for every song each night. We opted for dinner on the yacht, Pork chops, Dave’s potatoes and a great salad. After dinner the Mark and kids went ashore to scrounge for ice cream, the store was closed, too sad! But the next morning a quick trip was med to shore for more baguettes, olive oil and Ben & Jerry’s vanilla and chunky monkey ice cream. Having a deep freeze was certainly luxury.

Wednesday we made our long trek about 18 miles north to Anegada. Anegada is 28 ft. above sea level, 13 miles long and 2 miles at the widest point. It is surrounded by reef and white sand beaches. It’s flat and scrubby with one main road on each side. Our last trip to Anegada was for snorkeling, it’s also the lobster capitol of the BVI’s. We had arrived 3 years ago only to find that the northerly swells made snorkeling undesirable.

We had heard that this was the best snorkeling in the BVI’s. This time we wanted to see the reef that extends 13 miles along the north end of the island. On arrival at Anegada we grabbed one of the last mooring balls of the Anegada Reef Hotel at 1130. There was taxi service to Loblolly bay for $8 per person. We had talked to fellow RYC members Dreyer Juette and Greg Kurtock they had rented a jeep. The cruising guide book “BVI Bible” had reported we could rent an auto for $75 and up. At the price of the taxi we rented a Nissan pick up truck with bench seats in the bed. What a ride! We toured the entire island, bouncing on washboard roads. There were several cows, goat, chickens and dogs on roads so be careful. We drove down road to the sand and deserted beach. We went to Loblolly and snorkeled for several hours. Lots of coral formations in 10 – 15 ft of water. The reef started 20 ft. off shore and extended out to 150 ft. off shore. The coral was not alive but several fish and with an easy beach access. Loblolly hosts, thatched cabanas, flush toilets and the Big Bamboo Beach Bar and Restaurant. It’s a welcome relief after a day under the cabana at the beach. From there we hopped in our Nissan and traveled to Cow’s Wreck Beach. The water was calmer but the reef was further from the beach. They were preparing for a lobster cookout; we wish we could have stayed. The Cow’s Wreck had a quaint bar, spacey bartender, games of volleyball, soccer, ring toss and darts all outside along with a few villas. Next time. The Anegada Reef Hotel was out of lobster reservations for dinner on arrival so we opted to cook on the boat. After dinner we made a trip to shore to get t-shirt and a fishing lure for Spencer. We had found some fishing line on the boat and wanted to give it a try. Anegada approach is tricky, but not the daunting dangerous trip the charter companies make it out to be. Ideally you want to approach in overhead bright sun as the reefs are visible to the eye against the white sand bottom. The island is surrounded by reef with a narrow passage to be approached by the southwest.

Thanksgiving we took off at 0800 to one of our favorite spots, Cane Garden Bay.

Spencer put out his fishing line on the stern wrapped it around the boat brush and sat to fish, we were traveling at about 6knts. The lure was a 6in. yellow octopus with feathers and 40lb. line. An hour later he had a strike. He caught a 30 in Bonita Tuna. Lot of excitement. Cane Garden Bay is a spectacular harbor dotted with beach bars and restaurants. We arrive about 1130 to find the beach loaded with beach chairs and cruise ship passengers. The beach was wall to wall people, not at all as I remembered it. We stopped at Rhymer’s to pay our mooring fee and had lunch. More conch fritters, good, we were on a mission to find the best. Rhymer’s did have the best Rum Punch in the BVI, we had a few. We were in search of the best rum punch too. Water was cloudy for snorkeling. We did see some turtles, tarpon, bait fish and pelicans. We had a great Thanksgiving dinner at Myett’s. They did offer the traditional turkey dinner, we opted for the upscale island fare. Myett’s has excellent food and service, complete with entertainment. The restaurant was bustling, they take you to the outdoor cooking station to view their dinner selection for the night. The dinner was scrumptious and we were too full for dessert. We had conch fritters, conch stew, mahi mahi, ribs, chicken. On the way back to the dinghy we took a walk ion the deserted beach, like the line in the Jimmy Buffet song “all the tourists were gone”. The next day Cane Garden was like we remembered, the cruise ships had departed.

You can get the cruise ship schedule from the charter company before you leave the dock. Next time we will. We made a trip to shore, again looking for baguettes and to buy another bottle of rum, the rum supply was low. When we arrived at the dock it started to pour. It rained very hard for a half hour; we ducked under an awning and waited it out.

We always seem to be searching for fresh baguettes; every one of us loves them for breakfast, lunch and with dinner. We went to the bakery, no baguettes; we came away with coconut bread and ginger muffins. Good island fare. We walked to the other end of the beach for rum and a few more provisions. Cane Garden host the Callaway Rum Distillery, a broken down set of buildings, it appears to be no longer producing rum. On the way back to the boat we stopped and had coffee and a croissant breakfast at the beach. It was perfectly delightful, idyllic beach, turquoise water and few tourists.

From Cane Garden we had a late departure to Jost Van Dyke, White Bay and the Soggy Dollar Bar, home of the “Painkiller” The famous drink is rum, pineapple and coconut, not too sweet. Fresh nutmeg is grated over the top. White Bays has no dock for dinghies and no overnight anchorage. The Soggy Dollars is aptly named because many customers swim from their yachts to the beach. They have hammocks and a ring toss game. We had the $10 beach BBQ, with choice of flying fish, burgers or chicken, nice side salads and we were ready to go. In 20 minutes we reached Great Harbor by motor, home of Foxy’s.

Moms, credit cards and kids went ashore to the Foxy’s store, some of the best selection island clothing, accessories and souvenirs. The store was packed; we waited in line to make our purchases. Outside the store was Foxy himself, posing for photo’s, holding babies and being a good host. He was recovering from a recent hospitalization. We headed back to the boat with our purchases just in time for cocktail hour and a swim.

We prepared dinner for the kids and went back to Foxy’s for Dinner. They had a DJ and a delicious buffet style dinner. The restaurant was full of sailors from their yachts. Drank Rum told stories. We encountered a group 10 of sailors from England playing a drinking game. There table was loaded with Red Stripe bottles. They would pass the bottles, pat there heads, make animal and motor noises, shake their booties. It was a riot to watch and listen. Thankfully they didn’t ask us to play. The bar and restaurant cleared out but for a few tables of die hards. Even the Englishmen were gone, when the clientele started to change. Ladies in jeweled clothing with matching handbags, some Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton look a likes, snakeskin pants and men with white belts and open shirts and gold chains arrive about 20 at a time. The cruise ship was bringing their passengers over by ferry. We watched the parade and decided it was time to go. Mark jumped in the dinghy and pulled the engine cord while sitting down all at one time. The dinghy got the best of him and bounced him out. Feet sticking out of the water, butt on the sand bottom and drink in hand. He had to sacrifice the drink some salt water had leeched in. Unhurt but wet we motored back to Jeannius and had a little of the ice cream we had purchased earlier in the week. Can you believe ice cream on a boat in the Caribbean? We were very spoiled.

It was Friday and our trip was winding down. We headed to Soper’s Hole Dock to refuel and take on water. The kids ran ashore to check things out. We took on 36gal of fuel at $4.10 per gallon. The total bill with fuel and water at 15 cents per gallon was $168. We were required to pay for fuel with our charter because we had a generator aboard. We sailed when possible but had used the motor and generator daily. We had no idea what we would be spending on this part of our vacation budget. All in all it was well within reason. We figured we used less than 30 gallons for all 8 of us to shower. That’s probably what each shower we take at home uses. From Soper’s Hole we motored down the Sir Francis Drake Channel with MJ at the helm. We reached Norman Island midday and chose a mooring near the shoreline. At Pirates Bight. Mark, Mary Jo and Alex had a dingy ride in to grab a G&T and coke any pay the mooring fee. Pirate Bight could have been called “Bikini Beach that day. Have you ever seen someone snorkel in a thong? Very interesting. We had a great mooring location for snorkeling. Just 25 ft. from the boat was live coral and many schools and species of fish. A long expanse of shoreline offered us hours of spectacular snorkeling; we were all in and out of the water several times that afternoon. We dinghied over to the Willy T. for an early dinner, we all had Wahoo which was very good. The Willy T. was low key that early in the evening but
did end up rocking into the night.

The next morning it was up early to pack and ready the yacht for check in. The collection of personal items were deposited on the galley table and sorted by family. We reached our destination on time, around 10am. We removed garbage and linens, cleaned out the icebox.