Frank and Lisa’s Excellent BVI Adventure Pt 3 of 6 or 7

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Frank and Lisa's Excellent BVI Adventure

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After a good night sleep, we were still catching up from traveling to paradise, we woke to beautiful breezes and lots of sunshine. You could see the scattered rain-squalls off in the distance but they only teased us and dry we remained. The question to ask was, “Where to today?” After contacting the marine mechanic back on Tortola, and learning that the new starter would not be available to us until Thursday evening we set sail to the other end of the Virgin to explore the Baths.

The Baths are an enchanting area with boulders the size of houses tossed and stacked on the beach as if God had been playing and his mother told him to clean up for supper. So in a temper tantrum he through his toys down willy nilly.

There are great tide pools hidden under temples of rocks. You can follow the kind of marked trails or if you’re adventurous try and find your own path through the maze. Often I’d set out ducking, climbing and swimming only to find myself back in the same spot fifteen minutes later. These paths whiskel their way to and fro so much that I often thought I’d never find my way out. The ultimate goal of traveling through the baths is to come out upon Devil’s Bay.

Funny I always thought that the devil was bad, but he sure has one nice bay. It is hard to find words that adequately describe the beauty of this tiny spot on earth. Water the color of a goddess’s green eyes, rock outcroppings to protect the bay from the normal 15-20 knot trade winds, little rock nooks and crannies that fish and wildlife call their home, the view is westward down Sir Francis Drake Channel with Tortola, Salt and Ginger Cay not so far away. It is simply breathtaking. But alas Lisa and I have to find our way back, regroup with the Chews, and make plans for what’s next.

What’s next is a sail between Beef Island and Great Camanoe Island, past Marina Cay and the Last Resort (both of which are bar/restaurants on rocks) and headed west. The obvious choice now is to continue to sail on between Tortola and Little Camanoe Cay but sometimes obvious isn’t right. So, we turned north through the narrow patch of water lined with reefs and shoals between Great and Little Camanoe Island. Then turning back to the west and crossing the small sound, we rounded Monkey Point, on the southwest corner Guana Island, to starboard and kept Tortola on our port side.

This was the first time the Chew’s had sailed in the Atlantic Ocean and she was in a good mood this day. She permitted us to proceed directly downwind, sailing a majestic wing-on-wing to the eastern shore of Jost Van Dyke. There we turned to the southwest enroute to Little Harbor.

Little Harbor is the home of Abe’s restaurant and the more famous (and more fun) Sydney’s Peace and Love. If you plan to eat at either of these places (and many other places in the BVI) you must call them by 4 on the VHF radio to let them know. They will ask you what size you want. Huh? Size? Size of what?

See, there is no menu at Sydney’s. There is lobster, small, medium or large (hence the question) or chicken. Period. When you order your meal they will tell you what time dinner will be served and then go catch your supper (I think any of the options). Period.

The most unique part of your experience at Sydney’s is that there is no bartender. You want a drink? Go make it and write it down in the book. Pretty cool. They have a wonderful selection of bright colored tees and clothing for sale. I love and always buy the “Sail Fast…Live Slow” shirts. Anyhow, down for the night for an early start the next day. Did I mention that the Chew’s have a tremendous amount of energy?

I’m beat, it’s been a great day! See ya tomorrow On the Water…With Captain Frank

Frank and Lisa’s Excellent BVI Adventure Pt 4 of 6 or 7

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Frank and Lisa's Excellent BVI Adventure

Day three of sailing starts with more conversations with the mechanic about final arrangements for the starter installation. One of the challenges that has to dealt with is that the boat does not have a permanent slip. See, the Chews are from Colorado and the boat purchase is relatively recent so each time they come to the BVI the boat is put back in the water and off they sail. So coming back to Nanny Cay means securing a slip so the work can be done. At any rate, final arrangements are for the boat to arrive in Nanny Cay on Friday at one pm.

sand cay

Off to Sand Cay! Sand Cay is a wonderful little island that lies between Tortola and Jost Van Dyke. When approached from the east is look very angry, with the ocean swell pounding on to craggy rocks and small cliffs. It certainly gives off a foreboding air. But, as you round the little island it turns into a tropical paradise.

A magnificent sandy beach is lined by picturesque coconut palm trees that twist and turn amongst themselves as if they were giraffes necking in the jungle. There is a nice long hiking trail around the island but if you are planning on hiking it be sure to bring shoes and bug spray, the no-see-ems, teeth with wings, can be intense.

One great thing about the beach at Sand Cay is that you can anchor your boat about 150 feet from shore in a nice sandy bottom with great holding. Since my last visit the BVI has added several mooring balls for boaters to enjoy (to bad, it’s more visited now than it used to be).

We’re done let’s go! Ed, Nicki and I are now inside refining some navigation skills and exploring some new techniques that will be used in the coming days while Scott, Indy and Greg are sailing us west with a plan of rounding Thatch Island and heading up Sir Francis Drake Channel through the narrows. They are sailing at nine to ten knots, we are planning at about four knots.

By the time Nicki walks into the cockpit to get a fix on our position Scott has sailed us off the charts and into Pillsbury Sound. Pillsbury Sound is the body of water that lies between St Thomas and St John. So on the fly we decide to sail out of the Sound and into the Atlantic on the south side of St John and up to Norman Island and Privateer’s Bay.

This ain’t your momma’s protected water! With an ebb current and an east wind the big cat was powering thru the rough stuff at about 71/2 knots at 35-40 degrees off the mid 20 knot apparent wind. As we proceeded the seas got less confused but the waves settled in around 4 feet. Scott was doing an admirable job of keep the boat on course, especially since this was his first experience in significant ocean swells. But he was certainly getting a workout!

One reef in would have been nice. About ten miles out we made our tack with Nicki calling it after having taken a bearing on the mid point of the passage between St John and Norman Island. In the end we missed clearing a little shoal by about 75 yards. Great job Nicki!

As we made the necessary tack to clear the shoal Scott got wiped out by one side of the mainsheet that slipped off the winch (my bad and lesson learned by all). Initially we thought he may have been seriously injured but this is one tough guy. After a few minutes he was back in the thick of it and the next morning while sore, he said he was fine.

One more tack and we are sailing at Pelican Island waiting for the precious layline to Privateer’s Bay moorings to appear. Bam boom the tack is done and we start lifting dagger boards and putting away sails. Wow, what a day of sailing, and what a perfect place to spend the night.

With boat on mooring and life settling down it strikes me that this would be a perfect time to slip my sweetheart away from the group for a little down time. Since Privateer’s Bay is just east of the Caves, a perfect snorkel spot and where buried treasure was found in the earliest years of the twentieth century, and since the Bight on Norman Island is just around the corner from the Caves, and since one of my favorite island restaurants, Pirate’s Bight, is in the Bight I thought it would be the perfect place to go. So we did. Down goes the dink, my love and I clamber in, and we’re off.

What a surprise we had when we came to the dingy dock at Pirate’s Bight. It was beautiful, not at all like I remembered it. It was always fun, the food was always excellent, and the private corner of the Bight with it’s pristine sand beach was the perfect location, but plastic chairs and picnic tables set the stage for a loose atmosphere and a place to party.

As it turns out there had been a fire that leveled the place about a year ago and they have since rebuilt. And rebuild is what they did!

A wonderful ambiance of island/beach refined now accompanies all the good stuff of old. On order were ribs for me and seared tuna salad with more salad for Lisa, she’s got to get her veggies. We were stuffed, but not so stuffed that I was afraid to ask for the dessert menu. Our server told us they had almond cream cake and Dove bars for desert. I’m not a big fan of almonds so bring me the Dove bar.

We wondered how they would present that since it’s just a Dove bar after all. Would it come with a napkin wrapped around the stick? Would it simply be in its wrapper the way I would have gotten it 50 years ago from the neighborhood ice cream truck? No, they dressed that little bar up just fine. Served on a bed of whipped cream with a schmeer of strawberry and mint sauce and the best part, a drizzle of caramel, it looked and tasted AWESOME!

Well, dinner is done and it’s back to the boat. Oh yea, the boat is about 2 miles away and its dark, really dark! A slow putt-putt back and a little searching and we are back from our date night, stuffed and revitalized. Good night.

The next morning brings new adventure for the Chew family as they get up and in a bluster pile into the dink and head off to the Caves for snorkeling and exploration. We all realize that this day has a tight timetable with a 1:00 pm deadline back at Nanny Cay for the much awaited starter and ignition switch install and still to come is the mandatory work out of man-overboard drills, hove to, and reefing. Sometimes I just wish Harold, my resident boat drunk MOB assistant, would just stay home! Several successful recoveries later we find once again we are out of time and we charge off across Sir Francis Drake Channel for Nanny Cay.

Arriving at Nanny Cay, Scott faced his first real close quarters maneuvering challenge as he was charged with placing the twenty-five foot beam beast along side the dock with only one engine. We had planned for a starboard-to tie, which would have allowed him to utilize the significant starboard prop-walk to bring the stern into its final resting place.

It has been said that making a plan will lead you to the conclusion that the plan is useless. That was certainly true for us. Another large cat had taken our spot leaving us no alternative but to switch our landing gear to the port side and prepare for a port side to.

Down the narrowing fairway we traveled to find enough space to turn the crippled boat and make our approach. The first approach didn’t look good so at the last second we pulled back and escaped what would have been an ugly landing. Remember, you don’t look like a jerk (not my choice of words) until you hit the dock. Attempt number two went flawlessly and we tied up in no time.

The work on a boat is never quite done and this proved itself once again. Fifteen minutes after our landing there were tanks being filled, decks being washed, trash taken ashore, mechanics in the engine room, salons being swept and a myriad of other activities.

The refit guys that have coordinated all the work on “Nimble” were spectacular. They not only found a replacement starter and ignition switch, but found bad wiring and a bad battery to boot. All was repaired in short order with nothing but smiles from the guys. Thanks Miles Poor and Tim from MRP Refit. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Hot showers were the order of the hour and hot showers needed no orders to be given. They were just like twenty minutes in heaven. A plan was made to meet at 6:15 for dinner at the café called Genakers. Initially we were disappointed when we heard they were going to be closed for the evening but that was short lived when we were told that they, Genakers, were doing a barbecue on the beach just 100 ft from the boat.

Did I mention that Nanny Cay in addition to all the facilities I listed earlier also has a beautiful beachfront pool and obviously a wonderful beach? And, what beachfront pool and beach would be complete without an awesome beachfront Tiki Bar? They got that too!

The food was stupendous and the atmosphere was beach party festive. I’m not usually a big fan of eating outdoors. Bugs, heat, cold and wind can make the dinning experience less than ideal as far as I’m concerned, but on this occasion it could not have been any better no matter how hard I think about it. No bugs, light tropical breeze, high 70’s temps and the gentle lapping of the light surf was just storybook. On the menu was your choice of fish, pork, ribs, chicken, and even hamburgers along with pasta, coleslaw, baked beans, vegetables, and rice and beans for sides. All of it expertly prepared and lip smackingly good.

Later that night big plans were in the making!   As if there could be anything to be sad about on this trip, the fact that we found something indicates just how spoiled we are. But spoiled or not we were in fact a little sad at having to nix the St Kitts and St Martin trip. The Chew gang really wanted to get the experience of night sailing and spending a significant amount of time on the water without the boat stopping along the way.

So we are now planning for a 15 +/- hour trip circumnavigating the BVI. Weather looks less than awesome, not scary, but not good and the Chew’s want to see that stuff for the first time with me aboard, so go we will. Plans include a late morning departure for the Rhone wreck to snorkel and then rest. We will depart the Rhone at 1500 (3 pm) and will sail down Sir Francis Drake Channel, across Pillsbury Sound and depart the protected water west of Tobago into the Atlantic.

From there a beat, they call it that for a reason, of 34 miles to the northeast to a point 4 miles north and 4 miles west of Anegada. We will turn to starboard nearly due east for 10 miles to clear the island and finally we will turn off the wind toward the south. Anegada is surrounded by shoal waters and to the south lays Horseshoe Reef. This long reef and shoal water area has claimed ownership of many yachts and ships over the course of history and Scott asked that his baby not be one of them. I have agreed to comply with his wishes.

Staying ten miles off Horseshoe Reef we will eventually sail with Virgin Gorda on our starboard side. Having done that we will turn west and pass, Ginger, Salt, Dead man’s Chest, Cooper, Peter, and Norman Islands. Our initial plan is to come back into the protected water between Norman Island and St John just as we did a few days ago but if we are too fast we will continue south of St John and enter Pillsbury Sound there. Heck, if we all feel good maybe even St Thomas and return back between St Thomas and Tobago. Phew! They asked for it, they will get it. Nicki and Ed, get to work you got lots of figurin’ to do yet tonight. I’ll see you in the morning!

And, I’ll see you later On the Water…With Captain Frank