Tag Archives: tortola

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


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

Captain Frank and Lisa’s Excellent BVI Adventure Pt 2 of 6

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Frank and Lisa's Excellent BVI Adventure

Tuesday morning we set off for what we hoped would be a great day of sailing aboard the Chew’s yacht “Nimble”, a Catana 47 catamaran, and it was! Tacking was the order of the day and with each one we refined our techniques and timing.

Proper Tacking

On a boat with this big a mainsail it is crucial of ease the main A LOT to allow the bows to come through the wind and not push the boat back into irons. It took several attempts to get that timing just right. Ease the main to early and the boat runs out of power. Ease to late and the bows come back up into the wind and the boat nearly stops before getting underway again. Get it just right and the boat comes through the wind and starts speeding up on her new tack. That’s what we want, the last option, and so practice we did until we could consistently tack the boat without any significant loss of steerage or speed.

Saba Rock Virgin Gorda

The excellent adventure continues

We sailed from Nanny Cay, located about half way down the island of Tortola on the south shore, directly upwind and against the current of Sir Francis Drake Channel to Saba Rock on Virgin Gorda. Virgin Gorda is pretty much the eastern extent of the BVI, only Anegada is further east, and the very eastern end of Virgin Gorda is home to The Bitter End Yacht Club and Saba Rock. Saba Rock is a great bar that is sitting in the middle of a pass to the ocean on….Saba Rock. While we didn’t go to the bar on this trip we did sit on the boat and enjoy the music and atmosphere.

The distance traveled through all of the tacks was about 45 n.m. We did this in about 6 hours. Yes, I did say we were on a catamaran and yes I did say close hauled the whole way but what I may not of said yet was this boat is freakin fantabulous!!! Dagger-boards, a big genoa and a mainsail that could cover the state of Maine make this girl really dance. (I’ll write much more on this in a later article) The purpose of our journey to the Bitter End was to have a good launching point for our ultimate destination of St Kitts, and St Martin.

Engine problems and change of plans

Unfortunately, when the starboard engine was started that morning the key stuck in the start position leaving the starter engaged and we all know what that means. Yep, no more starter. So while we could make the trip to St Kitts with only one engine to use, it is a “blue water” trip and the prudent thing to do is hold off on going till we get it fixed. We got lots to do anyway, with rescues of Harold high on my list. St Kitts, we long for you but will you wait for us? Thank you.

Are we in Disneyland?

People have often heard me say that sailing in the Virgin Islands is like sailing in Disneyland. In addition to being a perfect sailing venue, the scenery is just amazing. Dramatic mountains cascade down into the waters. Picturesque homes painted every color in the rainbow dot the mountains boasting of their dramatic views of us from above.

I always find it amazing that you can see the house on the mountains, often at the very peak of the mountains, yet you never see the roads leading up to them. How in the world did they get a concrete truck up there let alone how do the people get to their homes? With the exception of the towns, most of which look like they leapt off of a jigsaw puzzle you see very little infra-structure. It’s as if each home has been there forever and needs no support from the surrounding community.

Thoughts about the local homes of the islands

About those homes, one striking thing came to my mind. Most are complete. While many of us from the US, myself included, speak about the islands as if all tropical places are the same, they are not. The homes are just one such example.

We are used to seeing homes being built and then finished. In other places, like the Bahamas, that I have sailed many of the homes seem to just never get completed. It is not unusual to see a home being lived in with rebar sticking out the top of the walls. Often you will see walls of a second story with no roof on them. Many of these homes look like they have not been worked on in a long time and in fact many have not.

A local Bohemian told me that when they build their homes the banks don’t lend them money. They save up enough to build a simple structure and move in to it as soon as they can. They then save some more and when they can buy 100 concrete blocks they do so and build a few more walls. Then they wait again. It may take years or even generations to complete their homes and in truth many of them never get their homes completed.

All in all it leads to a disheveled first impression and an overall sense of sloppiness. This is not the case in the BVI. Of course there are homes under construction, and there are homes where construction has stopped (a result of the fallen economy in the US I’m sure) but by and large the homes are completed, neat, and orderly. It presents a much more inviting atmosphere to us, the visitors.

Stay tuned for the next excellent adventure installment. Till next we meet be sure to get On the Water…With Captain Frank