Monday 4 Mar: Leaving Anguilla and downwind sailing to the BVIs, arriving in Gorda Sound.
Long day ahead, sailing the 80nm to the BVIs. It will be our longest passage since Bermuda to Antigua, back in December. So we planned for a very early start with alarm set at 4.45am. Ooph, that was painful to wake up to! Quick breakfast to a chorus of cockerels starting their early morning screeching on land. There must be at least 20 of them, all competing it seems.
By 05:30 we are ready to lift the anchor. It’s still dark so we need to gently feel our way through the mooring buoys and the other boats anchored near us as we cautiously exit the bay.
The wind is rather light to start with and we continue to motor for the first hour, making water, charging the batteries and giving the engine a proper run for once.
And while motoring Glen keeps busy on the deck changing the pole to the starboard side. He put it up last night, all ready to go, on the port side. But now that we are on the correct trajectory it’s actually on the wrong side for the wind this morning.
We were hoping to fly the Parasailor today, and the wind looked promisingly low early morning. But as the sun comes up the wind picked up to 20kts. Hm, Parasailor will have to wait. We really want calmer conditions when we fly it for the first time. With an area of 228m2 (2500sqft) it is a lot of canvas to handle with just two of us.
So out come the sails, the usual configuration for downwind sailing: full main on the port and poled genoa on the starboard side. And in this wind we are happily speeding at 8-9kts, nice and stable. As we sail west, away from the Lesser Antilles, it feels good to be sailing downwind for a change. Inter-island sailing is always a bit of a bash, shy reaching across the ocean swells. From now on it will be all downwind for our exploration of the British, US and Spanish Virgin Islands, then through the Greater Antilles.
Four hours into the journey and we completed 32nm. The wind is still up there at 18-22kts (TWS) so we continue with the same sail plan. Rolling in these following waves should be a good test for the vang that we just had rebuilt. So far so good, no leaking. And the goose neck is perfect now, there’s zero play in it at all, no more squeaking and no more banging. Glen really didn’t like the movement we had in it before but several riggers told us it’s normal. That was until we came across FKG in St.Maarten. Their re-work of the pins and bushings has really made a difference.
Glen has a go at fishing but each time the reel goes all we catch is seaweed, every 5-10 minutes. Maybe we don’t have the right lure? Or maybe we need to add some weight to get the lure further in the water. After a couple of hours and several de-weeding reel-in reel-outs, he gives up. Pity, I fancied a nice fresh Mahi Mahi tonight.
By midday we have covered 50nm already. So looks like we will arrive mid-afternoon now. Not that we are in a hurry, I can enjoy sun bathing on the aft deck. Today there is hazy cloudy cover and the sun is not so intense. A good sailing day for Glen and a good sun bathing day for me 🙂
The reel goes off one more time and we are convinced it is seaweed again. But what do you know? As Glen reels it in we see we actually caught a fish! How about that! Rather small and no idea what kind of fish, but a fish it is.
So books come out to flip through the pictures till we find a similarity with our fish. Turns out it is a type of jack fish called Blue Jack. Our pilot book includes all jack fish on the dangerous fish list right next to the barracudas. Hm… It is small so can’t really be toxic, but do we want to risk it? After a minute of thinking we decide it’s safest for us not to eat it and Glen throws it back in the sea. Poor thing.
When we are 10nm away from Virgin Gorda we gybe the main and pole out on the port side. As we sit for lunch I notice the tack of the main sail is hanging out of the mast. How is that even possible? So Glen gathers all his strength to pull the main in while trying to hook the tack loop back inside the mast to the lower end of the furling system. It was not an easy job, but he managed it after dropping the sail (releasing the halyard) a few centimeters. Glen releases the halyard tension after each sail – but clearly this time it was too loose. It was a good catch to spot it though.
More dark clouds gather above us and it rains even harder as we enter BVIs waters. Not the best of light to enter the so praised cruising ground.
First island we pass is Necker Island, which is protected by a reef. And at the end of the reef there is a sand bank like an island, with three palm trees on it. New palms must be, as any that were there before for sure got blown by the recent hurricanes. This is the island owned by Sir Richard Branson (owner of all businesses Virgin). So I guess he had to also own one of the Virgin Islands too! Very nice looking island though.
Once we pass this island we furl away the sails and motor into Gorda Sound. To our port there are many boats anchored behind Prickly Pear island. There’s nothing on this island, just bushes and low trees that are trying to grow after they were all destroyed by Irma. Not even a nice beach. So why this crowd, I don’t know.
We motor passed them aiming for Bitter End, which Glen remembers as the highlight of the BVIs from many years ago. But again, there’s nothing of interest ashore. Only ruins and few buildings which look like there might be work being done on. Hm, sad to see it like that. I would have thought that major progress was done to rebuild, it’s been 18 months after all.
Even so, the mooring buoys field in front of what used to be the fancy resort is very much in place. More than a hundred of them looks like. And no boat in sight.
When we get at the end of the bay at Biras Creek the resort there is also destroyed. So we make a u-turn and motor closely to the shore line to look for a shallow enough anchoring spot. But seems to be quite deep everywhere. And where it gets shallower, if we venture to anchor we will probably end up swinging on the shore.
So we return to where the forest of masts is, behind Prickly Pear island. Now we have the explanation why they are all here. Soon we find our spot and as we get ready to drop the anchor a charter catamaran motors right in front of us. I drop the anchor anyway. And once it’s well in, the skipper of the charter cat shouts over to us “yay mate, are you planning to stay here?” Well, what does it look like? We just dropped anchor! He looks miffed and eventually goes and anchors somewhere else.
Glen jumps in for a swim to check the anchor which is firmly in. Too late to venture anywhere to find the customs office, so we are good for tonight. Formalities will be taken care of tomorrow morning.
As we sit with a cup of tea, we enjoy the peace of this anchorage. No swell, no rocking, no blaring music. Just the sound of clanking rigging on nearby boats and wild goats bleating on the nearby shore. I’m certain we will sleep well tonight.