Meridians and Parallels:  Let’s Go Sailing

 

 

SHIBUMI begins to explore the British Virgin Islands

If you have ever wondered where they coined the phrase, “the ocean blue,”  we would like to suggest the Virgin Islands.  Nestled closely together, the islands of the US and British Virgin Islands blend with the seas surrounding them to produce quite a visual effect.  Move over, Blue Ridge Mountains.

And the islands are mountains, languishing for 45 miles in a footpath pattern where no island is more than three miles from another.  Sailing distances between major anchorages average 8-10 miles so you need to plan a trek to have time to hoist the sails. 

The southwest group of islands are US territories while the rest are British, and, yes, you must check in with immigration and customs each time you cross the boundary.

Name a tropical environment or activity, be it beaches, cruise ships, resorts, secluded anchorages, marinas, bustling casinos, fishing, diving, snorkeling, reef, wrecks, underwater caves, surfing,  hiking, and you will find it somewhere in the Virgins.  Without any attempt to fit into “big city life.”

Navigation is simple as you can literally see the next island.  Few reefs and shoals exist except close to shore.  Winds blew from the Northeast to the East.  And there is almost always a 30% chance of rain.

As tourism as expanded, efforts have increased to marry new developments with natural surroundings,  An example in the southwest top of Tortola, almost adjacent to Soper’s Hole, is a rental complex which stretches down to the sea. 

Anchoring in the Virgins requires diligence and anchor scope as water depths near shore often exceed 20 or 30 feet.   And most harbors include at least one coral reef to compete for space.  A few marinas reside in sheltered harbors such as Nanny Cay, pictured on the left.  This harbor lies behind their manicured beach frontage.

However there are many coves facing in a multitude of directions, so no matter what the wind direction, you should always find a protected anchorage.  When we arrived on a Sunday morning after an overnight sail from St. Martin, the weather was squally with 25-30 knot winds, rain, and fog.  After sailing by numerous well-known anchorages which were filled to the brim with both mega-yachts and bareboat charters, we discovered Brandywine Bay east of Road Town.  Not scenic, but secure and, most importantly, empty. 

We sailed from St. Martin at the beginning of February to rendezvous with Mike Laughlin, one of our recent trans-Atlantic crew members to deliver the set of foul-weather gear that he had forgotten.  Mike was one of eleven captains in the Ottawa Sailing School’s annual bareboat regatta, once again sailing from Road Town, Tortola.

SHIBUMI intercepted the flotilla in Great Harbor on Jost Van Dyke, the location of Foxy’s which is famous for its beach bar.  It took little time to invite Mike and his wife and friends aboard so that he could show them his SHIBUMI.

And what a group they are!  Not only did they sail the breadth and width of the British Virgin Island chain in a week, but they found time to stage practical jokes on each other constantly.

Mike’s wife Karen invited us to join her boat for a pasta dinner and we gratefully accepted.  Seated left to right, Chris Lambertsen, Karen and Mike Laughlin, Don and Karen Finucane.  We were impressed not only with their friendliness but also with their concern for one another, even while they were hanging objects on each other’s anchor lines, stealing all the grills for one boat, submerging diving gear under the yacht, switching clothes into different cabins.  Beware all who accompany these folks!

The next morning we accepted a second invitation to join them for a swim off Green Cay, east of Little Jost Van Dyke Island.  As the wind strengthened, we surfed off the cay as we chatted about their future flotilla plans in the South Pacific.  After saying goodbye to our new Canadian friends, we sailed south to the US Virgins to check into US territory for the first time in 21 months.  We plan to return to the BVI in March.

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History:   2003 Horta, Azores
2003 People of Azores
2003 Galicia, Spain
2003 Rias Biaxas, Spain
2003 Porto and Lisbon
2003 Rota, Spain
2004 Andalucia, Spain
2004 Gibraltar to Mallorca
2004 The Baleares
2004 Western Med
2004 Canary Islands
2005 British Virgin Islands
2005 New England USA
2006 Cruise to Venezuela
2007 Venezuela Review
2007 Retun to San Blas