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Home > Destinations > British Virgin Islands > Trip Reports > Trip Report

British Virgin Islands - Trip Reports

Bareboat Charter in the BVIs Part 2 - We Came Back!

Well, we liked it so much, we did it again! Once again, we chartered a 35-foot trawler through NorthSouth Yacht Charters (www.nsyv.com) in Nanny Cay, Tortola. This time, they actually had a 35-footer available, so no free upgrade to the 42 this year. Darn the luck again.

2/7/02 - Flew from Hartford CT to San Juan PR nonstop. The airport security was not as intimidating as we expected, but there was a thorough check of us and our baggage at every opportunity. Keep your ID/Passport handy, you have to show it several times between the counter and the boarding gate. We wore our 'summer clothes' underneath jeans or sweatpants, and when we got to the airport we shed our winter garments and packed them in the check-in baggage before leaving Hartford. Transferred to smaller plane in San Juan for the flight to Tortola. Upon arrival, the customs check at Beef Island airport was quick and easy. NorthSouth had a cabby waiting for us, and we were on the way to Nanny Cay in no time. We dropped our luggage at the charter office, checked in with Chandi Singh, the manager, and went back into town to provision. Once again, we chartered completely bareboat, so we were on our own for everything from paper towels to charcoal for the grille to beer. We used the 'big' Riteway market for provisions. We had learned fromt he last trip to NOT overstock. We'd have a chance a the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor, where prices were generally comparable. The boat only had 12-volt power, so I had brought along a 700-watt inverter and 4-gauge cables to clip onto one of the auxiliary batteries. It worked well, and we were able to run the all-important drinks blender, and recharge video camera batteries, etc. We finished all charter paperwork and obtain our walkdown and briefings late that afternoon, which would make us ready to get underway early the next morning. We spent the night on the boat at the docks after a great conch fritter dinner at Peg Leg's Landing. These are still the best fritters in the islands.

2/8/02 - We wanted to get underway around 0800, but found a few minor problems that required maintenance. The latch to the swim platform gate needed replaced, and we found a loose stanchion that supported the aft deck hardtop. The stanchion required removal and re-weld, so we finally got underway at about 1300. If we do this again, we'll have a more thorough walkdown upon arrival. From Nanny Cay, we headed west around Tortola, and set course for Cane Garden Bay. Our planned day stop at West End was cancelled due to the late departure. We picked up a mooring at Cane Garden Bay, and dinghied to shore for the day. Tried to pay the $20 mooring fee at Quito's, but the woman didn't know what we were talking about, so we didn't argue! The surf was up on the north end of the bay, very impressive curls, but they broke and calmed before being a nuisance to the boats. Spent the afternoon on the beach, at the Elm Beach Bar (all bottle beer $2.00). I was wearing a tee-shirt from Liar's Saloon in Montauk, Long Island, and happened to meet the bar's owner sunning on the beach in front of us. Hello Vinny! Small world! Stayed at the Elm Beach Bar for dinner (Bar-B-Q, what else?) and steel drum band. Lots of people, not much dancing until late in the evening, when the band was ready to quit. We met the owner of the Elm, Elvet Meyers. Elvet is a yacht racer who competed in the 1984 Summer Olympics. His Olympics Certificate hangs at the bar. A very conversational and interesting guy, and a good dancer by the judge of the ladies.

2/9/02 - Left Cane Garden Bay for Jost Van Dyke. Decided to spend a quiet day in Little Harbor vice the more raucous Great Harbour (we were at Foxy's for New Years Eve last year). We got there early, got a good mooring way in back, and spent the day dinghying about between Abe's (to get ice and drinking water) and Sydney's Peace and Love (for tee-shirts, cocktails and dinner). Sydney is still there, and his lovely daughter Rena was waiting for us at the dock. We did some snorkeling along the east shore of the harbor.. saw some barracuda and an eagle ray. The water was a bit cloudy from a recent low pressure front. Of course, we had the Bar-B-Q for dinner at Sydney's that night . Overnight, the winds picked up, and the narrow harbor with its high hilly sides seemed like a wind tunnel. Lots of wave-slapping prevented a solid night's sleep.

2/10/02 - The wind was still kicking up this morning. We had wanted to make a go for Anegada today, but decided to head to Virgin Gorda instead. We crossed over to the north shore of Tortola, and stayed about ½ to 1 mile offshore for the transit. We were head in to 20-knot winds and 5-foot seas. A few good wave crashes over the bow, and we realized the salon windshield was open down below. The forward stateroom had a wet mattress which dried out quickly later on. We made the cut between Tortola and Guana Island, going between Marina Cay and Trellis Bay. We were surprised by the cardinal buoys (yellow/black) marking the reef hazards off Beef Island. By the way, both buoys are 'Go North' markers. All other buoys around all the other islands were the good old lateral system (red/green). We radioed ahead to the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor for dockage. We were assigned slip C-58. This was a very difficult maneuver, because our 8-ton, 4-foot draft single-engine inboard trawler had a very undersized rudder. Slip C-58 (rated 20 - 35 foot) required a 180-degree turn at the end of a T-dock into a narrow slip, and we had 20-knot crosswinds. After three attempts, and having to fend off the bowsprit of an adjacent sailboat that poked under our starboard rail, the dockmaster gave us a 35 - 50 foot slip. This only took one attempt to dock. I was very disappointed that nobody on the docks (dock hands, other guests, etc.) would lend a hand with our lines as we approached. Even in the high winds, they were content to watch us struggle by ourselves. We later relaized this is standard throughout the islands, You're essentially on your own unless someone is nice enough to lend a hand. The Virgin Gorda Yacht Club had nice transient facilities. Large, clean marble-tiled showers, free trash disposal, well landscaped grounds, nice shopping in a little mall. All for $40/night for a bare slip. Warning: the hot water doesn't last long during 'shower hour', aroung 5 - 6 pm. We hired a cabby (actually, he latched onto us, as is the usu! al practice), and went to snorkel The Baths for the afternoon. Spent about 3 hours there, and returned for cleanup and dinner. The cabby recommended The Rock Cafe for dinner, and we complied. It's a very scenic restaurant, with outdoor tables nestled into niches in the boulders. We all had seafood of one sort or another. My wife returned her swordfish, as it was overcooked and didn't come with the sauce described in the menu. She was very happy with the red snapper that replaced it. The bill was a bit higher than we expected... the entrees ran about $28 each, then there were drinks, ala carte veggies, etc. At least we had an excellent night's sleep in the well-protected harbor.

2/11/02 - The weather report still indicated high winds for the day, so we made a short trip from the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor to North Sound, and moored at the Bitter End Yacht Club. The route took us around Mosquito Island, as we didn't want to attempt the cut between Moquito and Virgin Gorda. The entry to North Sound isn't eyeball navigation. It's not tricky, but you need to make a dogleg to the southwest (away from your destination) after clearing the dry reef to your starboard. You wait until you see the Seal Dogs through the Mosquito Island cut, then turn east towards the yacht club. The helmsman initially didn't see why, as the water looked fine from the surface. The charts would show that there's more shallows off of Prickly Pear island, on the port side, that you can't see by color change. We had a lazy day at the Bitter End Yacht Club. Spent some time snoozing on a chaise at the end of a sandy spit that stuck out into the water, went for a swim at the south end where there's a floating swim platform, stopped for a Lemon Crush at the pub (frozen lemonade with rum and chunks of whole lemon. Very refreshing.) Bought a handful of real Sancho Panza cigars (Havana-made). We had dinner at Saba Rock. Took the Saba Rock water shuttle, all-you-can-eat buffet, and listened to some more steel drum music. After dinner, the customers seemed to transition to a younger singles crowd, gathered at the bar, so us married folk got back on the water shuttle and headed to the boat for the night.

2/12/02 - We awoke to the best weather day so far. Light winds from the northeast, calm seas. We headed for Anegada. The transit only took about 2 ½ hours to Setting Point. It looked like a regatta out there. Apparently a lot of boats had waited for a smooth crossing day. By the way, last year there were three red and two green buoys marking the channel. This year the first green one was missing. There are 10 mooring balls in the outer harbor at Setting Point. We were the eleventh boat. After one unsuccessful attempt at anchoring in the outer harbor, we moved to the inner harbor and the danforth took good hold on the first drop. I think we would have had success in the outer harbor if we'd used the plow anchor. Within an hour of our arrival, there were about 40 boats on anchor. After making sure we were holding, we decided to dinghy over to Pomato Point. It was about a 20-minute ride around the reef that juts out from the point. We beached the dinghy, because there's no docks or pier. We had gone there to see the Anegada Shipwreck Museum at the Pomato Point Restaurant. Upon inquiring at the restaurant, we were told that the museum had become a storeroom and wasn't open anymore. That's the islands for you! So, we settled down to a few cold cocktails with the barkeep. She suggested we hire a cab and take a tour of the island. We agreed, and about 20 minutes later Mitch arrived. Mitch is a cabby, he's also the only lineman for the electric company on Anegada, and he appears to be the general messenger service and all-around go-to guy. He grew up here. During our 2-hour tour of the island, we stopped to make several pickups and deliveries, including mail, a dinghy full of groceries from Tortola, and several people who hopped a ride in the front seat of the van. Mitch took us to the local pier where the island's conch harvest is processed. It's essentially a low concrete finger pier into a lagoon, with a covered fish cleaning table at the far end. The emptied conch shells are piled by the thousands in the wa! ter around the end of the pier. There are several small islands about ¼ mile offshore that are made entirely of tens of thousands of dumped conch shells. The mangroves have taken hold and made them permanent. It was a very interesting sight. Mitch also took us to the island's Iguana Repopulation project. It's a small array of framed screen cages holding breeding iguanas and juveniles waiting to be released. Apparently the island's native iguanas are easy prey for feral cats, and aren't reproducing sufficiently. The project is in the side yard of the most impressive building on Anegada... the Police Station. After Mitch had showed us every inch of every bumpy road on the island, he returned us to Pomato Point, where we found our dinghy had swamped in the surf as the tide rose. It was completely filled, the fuel tank was floating alongside, and there was seaweed and coral sand piled up all around. It took about 30 minutes to empty the dinghy, and fortunately the motor started on the first pull. Lesson learned - take a cab to Pomato Point, it's only 5 minutes by road from the Anegada Reef Hotel where we anchored. We had radioed Neptune's Treasure restaurant for dinner reservations when we first dropped anchor. Good thing, because the place was booked solid that evening. The tuna and swordfish steaks were huge and done just right. There was only one person running the entire front half of the business, including the bar. I recalled this from last year, so we were prepared for a leisurely wait for our meal. We had reservations for 1900, and got our entrees at 2045. Went back to the boat for a good nights sleep. The harbor was calm with low winds, but still had some wave slap on the bow chines.

2/13/02 - Second day at Anegada. We went to the Anegada Reef Hotel for the full english breakfast at 0800. A very ample meal for under $9.00, included fruits, coffee, eggs, bacon/sausage/ham, toast, and juice. We had arranged for Mitch to pick us up at 0930 for a trip to Loblolly Bay. We went to the beach at The Big Bamboo. The weather on the windward side was still a little rough, so the snorkeling was not as good as anticipated. Cloudy water made the colors wash out a bit, and the surge made it difficult to float over the shallow spots. We still spent several hours in the water, and managed to swim with a sea turtle for quite a while. Had lunch at the Big Bamboo around 1400. We waited for a day trip from the Bitter End Yacht Club to have their lunch (60+ people), then settled in to coconut shrimp and conch stew, which were all very good. Mitch picked us up around 1700 to shuttle us back across the island. On the way, of course, he had to run a few errands, so we got to re-visit some of yesterday's tour attractions. We met Charlie the Goat at the Anegada Reef Hotel's small general store. He's a wethered nubian buck. And he does know how to buck! You can pet him, but don't turn your back on him. We dinghied back to the boat, and had dinner onboard that night. Grilled english bangers and baked Tater Tots, with banana ketchup and tropical chutney, plus some pina coladas. Slept well that night.

2/14/02 - Underway early today. We had to be at Peter Island for Valentines Dinner tonight. Unfortunately, the weather had gone down overnight, and it was not a good transit. Seas were 4 - 6 feet out of the southeast on top of 3 - 4 foot groundswells out of the northeast, and 20+ knot winds out of the east. Since we had to head almost dead south, we had to make a broad tack.The boat took hard rolls at every beat due to the short wave cycles. Drawers and cabinets popped down below, and a bottle of perfume broke in the forward stateroom. The expected 2 ½ hour crossing took almost 4 hours. One of the crew wondered aloud why we were the only boat in sight. I think it was a statement of the obvious, not an inquiry. Once we got well inside Sir Frances Drake channel, the ground swells died off, but we still couldn't steer a straight course. We had originally intended to make a day stop in Road Harbour, Tortola, to do some shopping, but the trip from Anegada wore us out. We headed straight for Peter Island. This is the island where Robert Louis Stevenson lived while writing 'Treasure Island'. Theory is that Norman Island (the next one south) is the model for Treasure Island. Adjacent to Peter Island is Dead Man's Island, and Deadman's Bay. This is supposedly where Blackbeard dumped his sixteen mutineers with a coffin, a goat and a bottle of rum (yo, ho, ho and a ....). The entry channel to the Peter Island Resort caught us off guard. We actually passed the channel, and had to double back. We had thought the sea wall was all the way across the channel, and that we were looking through a low point on the shore. Actually, the entry is at the right end of the sea wall. If you're more than a mile offshore, you won't see it clearly. There are only 5 or 6 moorings in Peter Island's harbor, and they were all taken, so we requested dockage. It took a while to get a radio response... the dock master was away to lunch, and we were already doing circles in the harbor while we waited. We got a nice slip not too close to the shore! e traffic. The dock fee here is $65/night, and the moorings are $35/night. It was nice not to have to rig the dinghy for use. We were totally awestruck by Peter Island Resort. It was by far the most well-appointed, comfortable and scenic place we'd been. The staff treated the boaters as well as they treated the guests who pay as much as $7,000/night (yes, per night) to stay in the villas which overlook the channel from a mountain ridge. We two couples split up for the day to explore the island. My wife and I took a shuttle cross-island to White Bay for some snorkeling. White Bay is on the leeward side and offered excellent visibility with no surf. We swam with eagle rays, squid, and barracuda. Many good underwater photos. We were able to call for a return ride using the resort's radiotelephone system. There's a phone installed at the beach head. That night (Valentines Day) we had dinner in the wine room at the resort's Tradewinds Restaurant. The resort has a dress code for dinner. Collared shirts and long trousers for men, dresses or similar for women. We had made reservations several months in advance for the wine-matching dinner, because they only accept 12 people every Thursday night. We were seated around a huge mahogany banquet table, separated from the rest of the restaurant by glass walls. The resort's wine racks are installed in glass-front cabines to the side of the room. Each dinner course is served with a wine selected to accompany it. This night, there was a vineyard representative from California who presented the wines for each course. The meal, the wines, and the company were excellent. The entire dinner lasted almost 3 hours. We had a very good night's sleep at the dock that night.

2/15/02 - We had originally planned to make a short hop south to Norman Island, and revel our last night at Billy Bones. Instead, we decided to stay and enjoy the luxuries of Peter Island for an extra day. Once again, the couples split up and did their own thing for the day. In the resort boutique, a jeweler from Tortola had a display case of Brazilian gemstone jewelery. The prices were very reasonable. We returned to White Bay for more snorkeling. We found that the left side of the bay (looking out from the beach) was much more interesting than the right side. The water was clearer on the left, and seemed more exposed to the open sea, which produced more sea life. After several hours of snorkeling, and laying about on chaises in the sand, we again radioed for a shuttle to return us. We had our final vacation dinner at Deadman's Grille on the beach at Deadman's Bay. Nice, informal outdoor dining on the beach. Hopped a shuttle back to the boat for our last night aboard.

2/16/02 - We left the Peter Island dock at around 0845 to make the crossing to Nanny Cay. The boat had to be returned by 1000 so it could be readied for the next charter that afternoon. At about 0920 we were waiting our turn at the fuel dock at the Nanny Cay Marina. We only used 51 gallons of diesel for the entire trip! Fuel was $2.60/gallon. We weren't required to top off the water tanks. We radioed ahead to NorthSouth Charters to see which slip they wanted us to return to, and they sent someone from their staff to the fuel dock to bring the boat in. This was a nice touch, as it gave us a few extra minutes to finish packing and tidying up the boat. Upon tying up at the charter docks, we offloaded our belongings, checked out with the staff, and made plans for the rest of the day. We took our luggage to the taxi stand downtown, where it was stored for us so we could do some shopping. We explored the 'old' Main Street , stopped for fish and chips, chicken curry and a Newcastle draught at Pusser's, then made one last stop at the Colombian Emerald Outlet in town. My wife ended up with several late Valentines Day presents. We walked back to the taxi stand, and hopped our ride to the airport. The lines were not long, and we remembered to pay our $10/person departure tax. What if you don't pay? You're forced to live there? What a shame. We sat waiting for our plane as chickens ran aimlessly about through the airport. When asked, one of the airport security people said they allow the chickens 'because they live here'. The return flights were uneventful, considering we had to offload baggage and clear customs in San Juan.

We decided that if we return to the BVIs for another vacation, we'll forego the boat charter and stay at a resort (Peter Island?). The water taxi system, and organized resort tours, can get us anywhere else we'd want to visit. Are we getting spoiled in our middle age? You Bet!

Thanks to Richard for this trip report ...
March 2002

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