BVI Sailing Trip


Friday - March 15

We got up early, threw our bags in the car, and hightailed it up to Bradley Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.  We planned to meet our friends, Carol and Barry Sachs there to start our trip.  And, miracle of miracles, we didn't have to wait until the airport to meet Carol and Barry; we met them on the highway on the way to the airport.  We couldn't have planned it if we tried.  The lines at the airport were pretty long, as they have been since 9/11, but they moved quickly, and we were on board the plane with time to spare as we left Bradley at 9 AM for San Juan.


Much to my surprise, there is a one hour time difference between home and San Juan.  I was wearing an inexpensive digital watch, and couldn't figure out how to change the time by an hour.  I tried for a while and Shelley tried for a luck.  There was a UCONN student sitting next to us, and I figured that he would surely be able to handle the challenge, but to no avail.  Finally, Barry was able to get it done.


We arrived at San Juan at around 2 PM local time (after about a 4 hour trip) and had about one hour before our flight to Beef Island.  We were all hungry.  Shelley saw a Domino's pizza stand outside and Barry and I went to get some pizza.  After I went through the doors and got outside, I turned around and Barry was gone.  I didn't think much of it, and went to order some pizza for the hungry group.  Two surprises followed.  First I was told that the pizza was for airline employees only.  Second I was told that I couldn't get back into the terminal; admittance was only for airport staff with a swipe card.  Suddenly, I imagined Shelley, Carol and Barry taking off and going sailing without me, while I was stuck in never-never land between the pizza stand and the airport.  But cooler heads prevailed, and I was able to talk my way back inside.  And one of the people behind the pizza stand felt sorry for me and even gave me two slices of pizza.  Much better than Blue Bunny Ice Cream [Note: An inside joke – Barry loves Blue Bunny ice cream, which is sold in the Carribbean.]


The flight to Beef Island was uneventful, but I was amazed at the number of large sailboats that seemed to be everywhere....and at how small the islands appeared be from the air.  The water was an incredible turquoise.


It was hot and humid as we emerged from the plane at Beef Island.  Chickens were wandering around everywhere.  We needed to  go through customs – they had a line called “Belongers”.  We all thought that was really cute.  Would that make us “Outsiders”?  Probably.  Our cab to the Moorings base and hotel was there and off we went.  Cars were American style (driver on the left), but you drove on the left side of the road, and this seemed mighty strange.  The ride to the hotel was about 30 minutes, and we saw goats, cows, and a bull wandering loose along the road.  The flowers were really lush and beautiful.  Suddenly it was summer and boating season!


When we got to the hotel, Carol, Mike and Robin, the rest of our crew, were waiting for us.  We had conch fritters, chicken wings, nachos and iced tea at the happy hour by the pool of the Moorings Hotel.  We thought we had arrived in Paradise.  Dinner later that evening was at Fat Hog Bobs, about 20 minutes from the hotel.  Cab fare was insanely high (the price is per person) , the setting was really pretty, and the food adequate at best. However, from the deck of the restaurant we saw a manta ray swimming in the water, that was pretty cool.  The wind was soft and the air was wonderful.  The light on our table had a short in it.  We had to be careful so that no one got a shock. 


The Moorings base was really awesome.  They are about 275 sailboats (from 32 feet to 50 feet) based there.  On Saturday, 65 were returning from their charter.  They had to be cleaned and prepped for the next crew, that could be leaving on the very next day.  I just can’t imagine being responsible for that.


Saturday - March 16

Barry, Carol, Shelley and I had an early breakfast, and then Barry and I went to the orientation.  Julian, (from the Moorings who gave the orientation)) remembered Barry from prior visits). While we were getting oriented and getting checked out on the boat (it was the Reverie, a Moorings 505 built by Bennetau), most of the rest of the crew took off and went to provision the boat.  Needless to say, we would be eating quite well!  We had already ordered beverages, and Alberto, who delivered them to our boat, thought that we had ordered much too much water.  (84 Liters).  But Robin convinced us to keep all 84 Liters.  We bought sandwiches at the Moorings base, and were ready to shove off at about 1:30 PM.


The winds were basically 15 knots from the east, and they stayed like that for most of the trip.  Too bad we can't arrange that for summers on long Island Sound.  We sailed around for awhile and then went to Manchioneel Bay on Cooper Island, arriving after 5 PM.  All of the moorings were taken, and we had trouble finding a suitable place to anchor.  The water depth increased rapidly from shore, and our possible swing on an anchor was very different from how the moored boats would react to a wind shift.  We tried three or four places, with all of the neighboring crews watching, until we found a satisfactory place to spend the night.  We were getting a little anxious, as it was close to dark, and there were no other anchorages near by.  We kept dropping and lifting the anchor, looking for the right spot.  One boat had a naked couple on board (from France, of course).  They got tired of watching our struggle, so they moved to the bow of their boat.  Within 5 minutes, we tried another spot….close to their bow of course.  They must have thought that we were voyeurs.   Robin was much happier with the ultimate anchoring spot.  She thought that it was much breezier than the other places.  By a unanimous vote, we decided, in the future,  to sail in the morning and get to our destination early, improving our chances of finding a mooring


Michael made a delicious pasta dish with shrimp, cilantro, salsa, and scallions.  Shelley voted it the best meal of the entire vacation.  It was wonderful.  After dinner, in the dark, we could see a glow of lights low in the sky to the south.  We decided that it was probably coming from St. Croix, roughly 40 miles away.  We also noticed that the light crescent of the moon was on the bottom, rather than on the side as we are used to seeing at home.  Barry was going to call a planetarium to check it out and get details.


Sunday - March 17

We sailed from Cooper Island to Gorda Sound.  There was a long reef across the opening into the sound, but we found our way.  Once inside, we followed the shoreline on the portside, until the Bitter End Resort and Saba Rock came into view.  Saba Rock has a bar, a restaurant, and a few rooms to rent as well as a gift shop.  They had some momentoes from the wreck of the Rhone.  A Moorings office is also located there.  The Bitter End is a top of the line resort, with per person prices varying between $700 and $1,000 per day including meals and boating toys.  Out on the water, we saw Hobies, kayaks, wind surfers and an Optimist Pram with a little kid alone in the boat.  We made a quick visit to Saba Rock for ice, and then dinghied ashore to the Bitter End.  We were on a french fry mission, looking for 7 orders of french fries to go (for dinner) that Robin had requested.  This fancy resort wasn't used to such requests, and we had the entire staff in both the restaurant and deli in a turmoil until they managed to meet our needs. We braced ourselves for the fee, but it was only $3 per portion.  We moored for $20, and it was a really pretty location, although there was a fair amount of activity, with boats everywhere.  In addition, there was a small seaplane at Bitter End, (with a pilot sitting in an open cockpit and a scarf blowing in the wind) that was used for sightseeing rides.  Reminded us of “Out of Africa” and Snoopy and the Red Baron.  The harbor was beautiful, with houses on the hillside of Virgin Gorda, the buildings on Saba Rock and the waves breaking on the reef beyond.


Dinner was hot dogs and hamburgers and Robin's french fries


Monday - March 18

We were off to Anegada, a low island hard to see.  Shelley and I had heard about it for years, and we really excited about finally getting there.  We put a waypoint into the GPS (which we never got working easily) and found that we had 12.8 miles to go at 005 degrees.  The wind was perfect, out of the east, and we did a broad reach the whole way, averaging about 5 knots.  It was crystal clear out, and from about 6 miles away, we started seeing the island (only 28 feet high at its highest point, and about 10 miles long) and some palm trees.  We were being set to the west by the current and our course kept changing until ultimately we were sailing about 020 degrees.  After about 2 ˝ hours, the beeping of the GPS told us that we had arrived at the waypoint, but it was still difficult to find the buoys marking the channel into the harbor.  Eventually we spotted them and made our way in.  The harbor was different from what we are used to; a reef marked the outside of the harbor, but to the naked eye there was not a harbor.  Once we got inside, the water was very shallow, about 5 to 7 feet on the depth finder, and all of the moorings were taken. We had a replay of the Cooper Island anchoring, with the crews of all of the moored boats watching.  We finally found a likely anchorage spot, and after we were pretty settled, we noticed someone on a nearby boat staring at us. A brief conversation revealed that he had 150 feet of rode out, and he could be swinging all over in case of a wind shift.  Our anchor came up and we tried several places until one at the end of the mooring/anchorage field satisfied Barry.  Someone in a snorkel even came over once and checked our anchor setting.  At one point, the depth finder said 4.8 feet (Reverie draws 6 feet) and we hit bottom while maneuvering for a spot.


A trip to Pam's Kitchen (sold baked goods and spices) was rewarded with a "Closed today, open Tuesday" sign.  Carol Ann was nice enough to deal with a “wet landing” and check it out.  We went to a beach bar and had a Rum Smoothie after that.


For dinner, we went to the Anegada Reef Lodge and Hotel for a lobster barbecue.  They have lobsters there with no claws, almost all tail meat. And they ranged in size from 2 to 6 pounds.  About 60 people ate at tables on the beach.  I had no shoes and sand ran through my toes during dinner. Lobster dinners seem to be the main business of this island.  About 200 people live here, they get mail 2 times a week, 35 kids in school, a generator provides power, people use cell phones.  Orders to Tortola (for food and other items) are met via the ferry.  The hotel has a Nubian goat that was deemed dangerous (because it liked to butt people), so we didn’t pet it.  We took some pictures at the hotel with the Block Island Times.  Maybe they will be published.


Tuesday - March 19

A short morning dinghy run to Pam's Kitchen for some quick purchases (the crew refused to sail before we got some breakfast) and off we went.  With the winds still 15-20 knots out of the east, we had another great sail back to Gorda Sound.  This time, we went into Leverick Bay and tied up to a mooring.  Some of us went ashore to the Lighthouse for some conch fritters, buffalo wings, and "painkillers".  We met 4 people sailing on a Morgan.  One couple had actually moved to Saint Thomas from the mid-west. Surprisingly enough, they were not retirees, but had opened a business - real estate appraisal.  They said that the cost of living was not very different than in the mid-West. 


Wednesday - March 20

Well, the constant easterly winds finally got the better of us, as our trip took us primarily down wind to Marina Cay.  This little island is not far from the airport (no big deal, since there aren't that many flights) and has a small bar/restaurant.  The setting was really beautiful with bright blue water and lots of other moored boats.  We watched a boat with a crew of three women try to anchor nearby.  Not soon after we anchored, a little boat stopped by with the menu from a nearby restaurant, Donovan's Reef.  They even had free dinghy service back and forth, so we couldn’t turn it down.  We all went for dinner, and the food, setting and ambiance were all very nice.  The portions were pretty small however.  The restaurant was on Brush Island.


Thursday - March 21

We stopped for breakfast (on the boat) at Monkey Point (off Guana Island, privately owned) and then sailed to Sandy Cay, another downwind day with tacking back and forth.  Sandy Cay is off the coast of Jost Van Dyke.  There’s a nature trail and some good snorkeling.  Unfortunately, it was very rolley there, with the wind shifting somewhat towards the north.  So off we went again, sailing to Cane Garden where we picked up a mooring.  It was sort of scary there, as periodically waves would break over a reef about 125 feet from the Reverie. We went ashore (except for Robin and Carol) and checked out the typical touristy places on the beach.  In fact, there was even a place where you could get your hair braided in corn rows. Barry was going to try it, but decided against that.  Some of us got some ice cream (just so-so) and others just wandered around.    We ordered some muffins and Danish to be picked up Friday morning for breakfast.  We had shish ka bob (Shelley and Norm had chicken) on the boat for dinner.


The night was really rolley, and nobody got much sleep


Friday - March 22

We picked up our breakfast Danish and muffins; they were wonderful.  We thought about going back to Sandy Cay, but it still seemed rolly.  Off we went to Soppers Hole, at the far western end of Tortola.  This is a busy harbor, with lots of moored boats, an immigration office, and a number of tourist trap type places.  But it was pretty tasteful, so we enjoyed being there.  We waited out a brief downpour aboard and then dinghied ashore.  We ate lunch at Pussers and made the rounds of the gift shops.  For Painkillers, they asked how badly you felt, and you got either 2, 3, or 4 ounces of rum in your Painkiller, depending on your situation,


Friday afternoon found us tacking to the Bight at Normans Island.  How could we miss stopping at a place with a name like that?  We picked up a mooring and then the three guys took the dinghy to a beach bar called Billy Bones, where we picked up some souvenirs.  Got into a conversation with a guy sitting at a table to find out that Norman Island was going private.  Someone had bought the island a number of years ago and was not renewing the lease for Billy Bones.  The island was being closed to tourists as of the end of March.  The guy was watching the bar for Val, whose family had sold the island.  No one lives there, there is no power...the bar has a generator and no phone service except for cell phones. [Note, the Internet indicated that the asking price for Norman Island was $13.5 million]


For dinner, we went to the Willy T, a big (maybe 100 foot) boat moored in the Bight.  Reasonably good food, but not great.  However, eating out on the deck made it a memorable experience.  They threw leftovers into the water, and hordes of jackfish showed up to dine. Again, we tried conch fritters.


We packed most of our stuff, anticipating the end of our cruise on Saturday.


Saturday, March 23

Got up reasonably early, and stopped at the Caves, where Shelley and Barry went snorkeling.  Then we tacked east for a while and ended up back at the Moorings at about 11:30.  Before we got everything off the Reverie, a crew from the Moorings climbed aboard to clean up and get the boat ready for the next crew to board on the next day.  And believe it or not, we all had to concede to Robin.  Very little drinking water was left aboard.


After we checked into the hotel, we unwound for a little bit (Shelley and Norm watched the UCONN women win another basketball game on their way to the national championship) and then had a party on the patio of our rooms, which were all adjoining.


We went to dinner at the C & F restaurant, recommended by someone at the Mariner Hotel.  The place looked like a local eatery, but most of the customers were clearly tourists.  Chef Clarence presided over the barbecue pit, which was at least 4 feet by 6 feet.  He cooked all of the meat, chicken and fish that was ordered, and Norm was fascinated that he remembered all of the orders and had all of the meals ordered by a given table ready at the same time.  The souvenir shop at C&F was one of the tackiest that we had seen all week.  Everyone enjoyed the meal there except for Shelley, who thought that it was just OK.


Sunday – March 24

Nothing memorable except the end of vacation.  On the trip home, we couldn’t figure out how to reset my watch.  Since it was almost time to set my watch ahead at home, we decided to just leave it…..the rest of New England would soon catch up to my watch.