Hot Hot Hot goes West - British Virgin Islands 2019

Posted by Judy Lambourne on 17 April 2019

After many months of anticipation and planning, not to mention a wide variety of journeys, the last 2 arrived in Road Town Marina at 2000 on Wednesday 27th March to complete the crew of 12 HOEOCA members who had committed to the trip. Naturally, we went straight to the pub, well, not quite, to be accurate, it was the tennis club previously identified as one of the few places we were likely to be fed and watered in the vicinity of the BVI Yacht Charter base which is not in the best part of town.

Following some overnight rain everyone was up bright and early possibly due to the 4 hour time difference. The boat handover had taken place the previous afternoon but we were all invited for a chart briefing at 1030 (in a specially designated air conditioned room no less) where we were told about all the places that were out of bounds and warned about things that could do wrong including poisonous fruits and fatal fish. A second visit to the nearby Rite Way supermarket followed having realised that provisions would not be available very often.

Our boats, Jillsee and Easy Breezy (Sun Odyssey 419s) slipped about 1230 and crossed Francis Drake Channel towards the Bight on Norman Island, one of the “Channel Islands”, a distance of 11 miles. Mooring in this part of the world is mainly on buoys, for which you pay a universal $30 per night, and these were picked up successfully followed by swims and lunch. We were very excited to see our first turtles. That evening Jillsee invited Easy Breezy for drinks on board at 1830 before taking our very large dinghies (big enough to accomodate 6 and with powerful outboards that started first time) to Pirates Restaurant for dinner. At about $60 per head, this was a taste of the high cost of evening meals we were to experience, the fact that 15% service is added does not help.

Having been advised to get to our next destination, Cooper Island, in good time, we swam and breakfasted early before setting off, Jillsee to the south and Easy Breezy to the north. The 30 moorings available in Manchioneel Bay are highly sought after but we both obtained one successfully and were able to enjoy swims in the turquoise sea with a great view back to Tortola. This was to be our first experience of the Caribbean Happy Hour and both beer and a selection of rum based cocktails were half price at the nearby Cooper Island Beach Club where good Wi-Fi was also available. Jillsee then visited Easy Breezy for drinks and some very superior nibbles to compensate for their lack of crisps. Our boats were equipped with gas BBQs on the pushpits and so we ate on board that night, using a BBQ for the first time in the dark proving somewhat challenging.

Saturday was the Commodores 50th birthday, the reason (excuse?) that we were all on the trip. Easy Breezy sung to him from their berth before we left early to try to make The Baths before the hoards descended. Sadly, the red flag was flying which precluded us landing there to snorkel and to see the remarkable rock formations. Instead we continued north, past Richard Branson’s Neckar Island and newly acquired Mosquito Island, to Gorda Sound where we moored for lunch in the most beautiful tranquil bay called Biras Creek. Yet more turtles were augmented by many goats and chickens.

To make celebrating the big day easier, we opted for a night in the marina at Leverick Bay which at $80 was less expensive than we had feared. An interesting and colourful place, a spa hotel resort with a few shops, a very expensive grocery store and a pool. In the absence of the skipper, Jillsee was appropriately decked out with balloons and bunting and, following another Happy Hour at the bar, we joined together to drink fizz, eat cake and present the Commodore with some birthday gifts before eating a very good dinner at the restaurant with some excellent seafood.

Having obtained clearance to visit Anegada, we set off at 0900. Anegada is the most northerly of the BVIs and is totally different from the other islands, which are mountainess and volcanic. It is surrounded by coral and only 27’ high. Despite the caution of the charter company we found the shallow buoyed channel approach no more difficult than the Lymington River at low water and were soon secured to mooring buoys. We were visited by Barry, Sammy and George all welcoming us to the island and promoting various enterprises ashore. The nearest of these was the Lobster Trap where we much enjoyed Happy Hour whilst happily snapping away at the beautiful sunset complete with palm trees and white sand beaches. Again, this was a night to eat on board.

We had planned a day ashore on Anegada and assembled at Mr Potter’s jetty at 1030 to decide a plan of action. 2 intrepid explorers hired scooters whilst the remaining 10 of us negotiated that “Domo” would take us for a tour of the island and then leave us on a beach for some snorkelling on the north coast. Our open sided taxi tour encompassed Cow Wreck Bay, the Anegada Beach Club Hotel, a distant sighting of flamingos, a visit to an iguana sanctuary, the Settlement (the capital town) and, eventually, Loblolly Bay for the promised snorkelling followed by lunch at The Flash of Beauty Restaurant. Domo was a knowledgeable guide providing insights into the islands history and position, its flora and fauna as well as telling us how Hurricane Irma had affected life. Dinner that evening was mainly the local speciality, lobster, having come this far it had to be done.

Tuesday dawned a bit grey with some wind and a sloppy sea and so the beam reach down back towards Tortola was not as comfortable as it might have been. Jillsee picked up a lunchtime mooring in White Bay on Guana Island and admired Sailing Yacht A – the super yacht built for Russian Andrey Melnichenko. Meanwhile Easy Breezy headed straight for Cane Garden Bay. At this point Jillsee took the opportunity of contacting the charter company as they had discovered fresh water in the bilges and had had to spend $28 filling up. Efficiently, an engineer arrived from the base and diagnosed a cracked connector to the dock shower which he returned to fix the next day. That evening Easy Breezy ate on the boat whilst Jillsee enjoyed a night with the locals at the Paradise Bar, oddly both the chicken and ribs came with Brussel sprouts, cranberries and pecans.

Cane Garden Bay proved to have the most shops we ever saw in the BVIs and so the females of the species hit the well-stocked supermarket and browsed a couple of clothes/gift shops whilst the males awaited the engineer. Our short trip over to Jost van Dyke was made more interesting by very heavy rain but nevertheless we picked up buoys in Great Harbour in time for lunch and afternoon swims. Great Harbour is home to Foxy’s Bar, well known throughout the sailing world, and so we repaired there for Happy Hour (although no reduced prices hence much stronger rum punches) and a frenzy of t-shirt shopping.  We ate in Foxy’s that night where there was karaoke entertainment – a great local guy with knee length dreadlocks sung some reggae and some loud Americans sung the rest.

Great Harbour is adjacent to the infamous White Bay (they aren’t over imaginative with their names) which houses the even better known Soggy Dollar Bar, your dollars get soggy swimming there! Sadly, due to shifting sands, we had been told not to go into the bay and a brisk wind precluded taking the dinghy round. Instead we took Easy Eddies taxi over the hill (great views either side) to visit for a pleasant lunchtime and afternoon swimming in beautiful seas, some great people watching and some more t-shirt buying before returning over the hill for another on board dinner.

Friday was the last full day of our 10 day trip and we headed back towards the south of Tortola to another of the Channel Islands, Peter Island. Some initial concern that there was no food or drink to be had but the William Thornton Floating Bar & Restaurant, commonly referred to as the Willy-T, one of the most iconic bars in the BVIs, has been relocated there following Hurricane Irma.  An amusing afternoon followed watching people throwing themselves off the stern deck. A final cocktail party on Jillsee and then a fairly basic dinner on the top deck of the aforementioned vessel.

And so, sadly, it was time to return to the base in Road Town and disembark to go our separate ways with some flying back home immediately and others spending an extra few days on Antigua or St Marten.

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