Island View  BVI Map


June 18, 2009  Orange County to Charlotte Amalie

Getting up at 4:00 a.m. we pulled Jessie out of bed at 5:00 a.m. to take us to John Wayne Orange County Airport to catch our 6:45 a.m. flight to Dallas.  At 5:30 a.m., the airport is quiet and we are through security in 10 minutes.  Patty got us some coffee and oatmeal from Starbucks and our flight is the second one out at 7:02 a.m. After tight connections, we got to Miami and finally arrive at Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas in the American Virgin Islands about 8:30 p.m., EST.  We hung out at the little St. Thomas airport for a half hour and Bob and Lenore arrived on their flight from Atlanta and we collected luggage and shared a van for the 10 minute ride to our hotel.  We caught the closing kitchen at the outdoor beach bar at the hotel and got a couple of Chicken Caesar Salads and our free rum drinks.  We sat up talking at the bar until midnight, and finally wandered to our respective rooms.


June 19, 2009  Charlotte Amalie, US Virgin Islands

View from our room Best Western Resort

Here is the view from our room this morning.  Not bad for a quick airport hotel.  We did not have high expectations for the "Best Western Emerald Beach Resort."  However, it is a beautiful hotel and right on this gorgeous beach.

Joining us in the adventure are Jim and Georgette Hicks, his daughter Jennifer Kugies and her significant other Matt; and Patty's brother Bob Romney and his wife Lenore.  We met m and Georgette; Matt and Jennifer at the ferry at about 11:00 a.m. for the noon ferry.  I expected that we would just be hopping on an inter-island ferry, but we were met by TSA personnel, frisking us, searching our bags and having the drug sniffing dog do his best to find some illegal substance in our bags.  Perhaps the inter-island ferry carrying about 40 people have become a haven for drug smugglers and a prime target for terrorists.  It seems a lot of effort for not much reward, but who is to argue with the brave blue bag sniffers who are keeping us safe.

BVI Ferry  Patty on Ferry

After a half an hour, we finally made it to the ferry and took the fast, rough ride between the two island chains.  They are really the same chain, and the passages between the islands are fairly narrow.  It took about an hour to go between Charlotte Amalie and Roadtown on the island of Tortola in the BVI.  We rode on the back deck, which had diesel fumes if you were too far back and spray if you were too far forward.

We cleared customs and immigration in the BVI and the Moorings had an open truck/taxi waiting to take us to the Charter base about 15 minutes away.  The rides are short, but the fares, which are charged by-the-person, are high.  For our group of 8, a ten minute ride can run $32-$40.  Since it is hot, and the roads are not too pedestrian friendly, we used the cabs.

BVI Spirit  Docks at Moorings

We arrived at the beautiful new Charter Base of Moorings, with new hotel buildings that replaced the old motel that burned down a couple of years ago.  It is all modern, clean and spacious.  We got there about 2:00 p.m., and had lunch at the restaurant on the grounds ("Charlie's").  Jim and I went to the Skipper's meeting at 4:00 p.m. and the rest of the crew walked over to a grocery and liquor store down the road to stock up on drinks and incidentals.

Waiting with Bags  Bob Waiting for Rain to Stop

Our boat was ready about 5:30 p.m., but a rainstorm had just come in, so we had to wait a little longer to get on the boat.  The storm passed, and we found the boat and got busy packing away groceries, drinks, ice and finding and organizing our cabins.  The Moorings guy came on board and gave us our boat orientation, and we finally got to settle down for a drink about 7:30 p.m.

Provisioning the Boat  Boys in Cockpit

We decided to go back to the same restaurant on the Charter Base for dinner, but it was full.  We got a taxi into town to a place called the "Spaghetti Junction," more a high-end Italian restaurant than a pasta place.  We had a good dinner of chiopino, osso buco, and other delights, and got back to the Charter Base about 11:00 p.m.  Some of us took a last shower ashore and got to bed just after midnight.

  Osso Bucco


June 20, 2009  Off Sailing

This morning we head out to Manchioneel Bay on Cooper Island.  We got off the dock about 9:00 a.m., after gaining our second kayak for the foredeck and the lost cushion for the dining area settee.  We were missing one of the large seat back cushions when we got on the boat and they were never able to locate it, so they showed up with one the same color and size, but with a different shape of cushion.  We said, "Fine, let's go."

Jim maneuvered the monster twin screw beast out of the slip.  For us smaller monohull drivers, this was a daunting task, but I guess it was small compared to his 55' Navigator power boat.  We got the dinghy tied on the stern and motored out to clear the harbor obstructions, raising the big full battened mainsail.  Matt manned the winch; Bob tailed and I tried to keep the battens out of the lazy jacks.  The main can be raised with the anchor windlass and I think we may try that tomorrow.

Bob at Wheel  Georgette on Boat

Once out in the channel, the wind was blowing about 10 knots, so we rolled out the jib and turned off the engines.  Since Cooper Island was dead upwind, we tacked across the channel toward Peter Island and then with me at the wheel, we attempted to tack back.  The big beast is slow to come about and looses momentum quickly and we were quickly in "irons," with the jib backwinded and the boat nicely hove-to, drifting slowly backward.  A quick start of the starboard engine and a little asymmetrical thrust got us around and sailing back toward Tortola where we had started.  The beast does not have a very good tacking angle and it looked like we might spend the morning, sunny and beautiful as it was, just tacking back and forth in the Sir Francis Drake Channel. 

Patty in Cockpit  Kids on Foredeck

Bob took over and pinched her a little higher and we started making a little progress to windward.  Quite a number of tacks later, some accomplished without engine power, we sailed right into Manchioneel Bay and picked up a mooring right off the beach.  Jim saw we only had two feet of water under the hulls (and we were not sure of the state of the tide), and being the nervous kind, and being the one who had signed the contract for the boat, we moved out to a deeper mooring.

Kids on Foredeck Cooper Island Mooring Field

After securely tying up, I jumped off the bow into the crystal clear water and swam back under the boat to the stern.  I was quickly joined by others in 80 degree water.  We put a kayak in the water and people napped, snorkeled, kayaked and finally wound down to just listening to a jazz CD and laying around the cockpit.  Patty made sandwiches; we had cheese and crackers in the cockpit, and all is good.

Squid  Underwater Fish

After hanging around the boat, snorkeling, kayaking and eating dinner on the boat, we went to bed early.  After dinner entertainment was provided by Matt and Jenny shining dive lights off the stern, which brought small fish, which brought in a 4-foot Tarpon who ate all of the small fish while Patty screamed and we all watched.

Sunset at Cooper Island  Watching Tarpon


June 21, 2009  Baths; Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda

We left Cooper Island about 8:00 a.m. and sailed up to the Baths on the west end of Virgin Gorda.  An early start was necessary because there are a limited number of National Park moorings (between 20 and 30) and lots of boats want to use them.  They are for day use only, so you have to get there early to get one.  The Baths are probably the most photographed feature of the BVI and are really a spectacular site, with big granite boulders and little white sand beaches between them. 

Lenore at Wheel  Enter the Baths

After snagging one of the moorings, we put the kayaks in the water, got out the masks, snorkels and fins and headed to the rocks and the beach.

Matt and Jennie at Baths  Bob, Frank, Lenore and Patty on Beach

The snorkeling around the boulders was very good, with lots of niches and crannies that big and little fishes live in with great abundance.  After spending time in the water, Jim, Georgette, Patty and I took a ride in the dingy.  Going by a 40 foot motor yacht, we were hailed by the skipper, who asked our assistance retrieving some elderly people from the beach.  Apparently he had taken a dozen people from Oklahoma out to the Baths for a fee, had no dingy, and they needed help getting back to the boat.  Two old people were floating on $.98 plastic pool rafts and the kids and grandkids, none of which were very good swimmers, were trying to swim them back to the yacht.  Grandma had a life vest, but grandpa, a non-swimmer, was totally at the mercy of the integrity of that $.98 worth of plastic.  Following behind were the mom and a 6-month old  baby in a little plastic pool toy float ring.  We stood by to pick up survivors and bodies, but in defiance of the Darwin principal, they all made it back to the motor yacht. 

Old folks on Plastic Rafts  Baby on Pool Toy

After snorkeling, sunning, exploring and dingying around, we threw off the mooring and headed for the Sound on Virgin Gorda.  We arranged for a slip at the Bitter End Yacht Club, a high end resort with $800 per night bungalows, but which has slips for $43 per night.  Slip rental allows full resort privileges, so it is a cheap way to live like a rich person.

Jim backed us into our slip in a 20 knot cross wind with only a minimum of screaming from the crew, and we did no damage to the boat that is seen easily, and avoided ramming the pilings (Jim assured us he did actually intend to get within 6" of ramming a piling with the port hull intentionally and he knew the wind would move the hull over just in time.)  Down the dock were showers, the beach bar and a fine restaurant.

Bitter End Yacht Club  Patty at Bar

  The Crew Cleaned Up  Patty and Bob on the Beach

After we cleaned up, we had dinner at the resort restaurant and went back to the boat for an air conditioned night's sleep.


June 22, 2009  Virgin Gorda, Bitter End Yacht Club

At the Bitter End Dock  Bitter End

We are staying at the dock today, so it is a leisurely day.  We are plugged into shore power, the boat air conditioner is running and we have wi-fi access on the boat:  pretty decadent.  We hung around doing a lot of nothing until lunch time when Jennie and Matt took the dingy out to the outer reef for some serious snorkeling and shell collecting.  They came back with four big conch shells and lots of very pretty small shells.  Patty, Bob, Lenore, Jim, Georgette and I took the free launch from the Bitter End over to Gun Bay, a couple of miles across the sound.  Gun Bay is where the resort employees park to come to the resort, as there is no road here.  The launch is in large part to bring them.

We were headed to Leverick Bay, one bay down from Gun Bay, where there was a "Pussers" and other shops.  We told the captain of the launch that we needed a taxi and he said he would take care of us.  He led us off of the dock to his clean and nice Toyota van, which he unlocked and held the doors open for us.  Since the launch only runs every hour, he had time to run us the couple of hot and hilly miles over to Leverick Bay.  The views from the hill on the drive were spectacular, and we got a peak at how the real islanders live on the drive.

Gun Creek Taxi  Leverick Bay

Pussers is a famous BVI institution which sells very good rum of the same name and has boutique shops with lots of high quality clothes and other items including famous British sailor's tin cups with their own art work on them.  Shopping was done and Bob and Lenore bought a "Pain Killer" kit, packed in a cup, with the famous drink parts, including a small bottle of rum all packed and ready for an emergency.

There was a 130' mini mega yacht at the dock and we saw three 50 foot sailboats coming and going.  Patty and I walked down the dock and ended up talking to the teenagers on the sailboats.  They were from all over the world and taking part in a sail, scuba, wind surfing, etc. training.  Each boat has 12 teenagers between 13 and 18 and three paid crew.  They live on the boat, eat, cook, clean and learn for 3 weeks.  It sounded like a blast and they were really nice kids.

Phone Booth  Sailing Kids

We got our "taxi" ride back to Gun Bay from the captain, and came back to the Bitter End where we showered and got ready for dinner.  We went out to "Saba Rock," literally a one-acre rock in the channel that has a restaurant, very small hotel and gift shop built on it.  The restaurant was actually very good.  A launch runs back and forth the 10-minute ride to and from the Bitter End resort.

Saba Launch  Saba Rock Restaurant


June 23, 2009  Virgin Gorda to Marina Cay

We got up and enjoyed the shore bathrooms and a little more shopping before settling our bill with the dock master and heading out.  We just emptied one 125 gallon water tank, so we filled it at only $.20 per gallon before we left.  When I went to settle our bill, the dock master said they were having a two-nights-for-the-price-of-one special in June, so we got off with just one night's dock fees, working out to $8.19 per person per night for use of the dock.  We felt OK about that.

Girls on Bow  Three on Bow

We left Virgin Gorda Sound and were able to run downwind for the first time on the trip, as we wound through the "Dogs," small islands on the north part of the Sir Francis Drake Passage.  Three hours after leaving our dock, we dropped the sails and motored around the reef into the Marina Cay mooring field and picked up a mooring with Bob handling the big twin engine beast.  Marina Cay is a small island, just a little larger than Saba Rock, with a Pusser's store, a bar and restaurant, along with a few hotel rooms.  The island is fringed by a reef that protects the mooring field from the seas.

Marina Cay  Mooring Pick-up 

We tried the snorkeling; saw a big grouper and a barracuda, but the reef looked like it had been blasted by a hurricane in the not too distant past, and was not great snorkeling.  While Jim, Georgette, Bob, Lenore, Patty and I were ashore exploring the island, Jenny was showering off with soap on the swim step and apparently the soapy water made it slippery and she slipped and hit the edge of the step on her side and back, giving her (we hope just) a bad bruise to her lower rib cage and back.  She is in a lot of pain, but we hope that it is nothing more serious.  Matt iced her back for an hour or two before dinner.

Dinner on Boat  Jenny on Bunk 

We made dinner (chicken and shrimp on the grill, salad, rice and garlic bread) on the boat and opened our bottle of port (Cockburn: you can make your own jokes).


June 24, 2009  Marina Cay to Jost Van Dyke

Jenny awoke much better this morning and was able to go for an early morning swim.  Amazing the recuperative powers of youth and fitness.  An unusual boat vendor dropped by.  It is typical to have people come by in boats selling ice, fruit, and other items from small boats, but a middle aged guy came by this morning selling not only ice, fruit and vegetables, but his own original art work on gourds and T-shirts.  The vegetables he had grown in his own garden and the artwork was his own design.  We were good customers, buying fresh tomatoes, basil, avocados, bananas, carved gourds and T-shirts.  He lived in an artists village near Trellis Bay, and if we had not had such a busy schedule, we would have stopped by to see the village and their wares.

Art Vendor  T-shirt

We dropped the mooring and rounded Guano Island for the run up the back side of Tortola to Jost Van Dyke.  We travelled through the narrowest channel in the BVI under the watchful eye of Captain Jim.  We were worried that the island would blanket the wind as it was to our windward for the run west to Jost Van Dyke.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  As we sailed up the lee of the island, a venturi effect gave us the strongest winds of the trip thus far.  The forecast was for maximum winds of 17 knots.  Reality gave us winds that built above 20 knots; 25 knots; and then gusting to 30-35 knots.  We had all our sails up and were sailing on a broad reach, with the wind on the beam.  We enjoyed the 8.5 knot run, but as the wind kept building, we were seriously overpowered and the boat was getting difficult to steer. 

Crew After Dropping Sail  Checking the Anchor

The scary thing about a catamaran is that they do not just heel over to spill the wind; they simply capsize, and do not come back over.  We rounded a point on Tortola and headed up and dropped the sail.  Not an easy task in those winds.  The jib was very hard to roll up and the the jib sheets gave the foredeck crew a whipping.

We were able to roll up the jib, drop the main, and get back under way under power.  As we moved across the channel away from Tortola, the wind dropped and became more manageable.  We passed beautiful little islands and bays on Jost Van Dyke with sparkling white sand beaches.  The water over the white sand is a beautiful turquoise, with the green foliage rising above the white sand beach.

Naughty Nymph  Busy Beach

We went into White Bay on Jost Van Dyke, which is protected by a reef that crosses the channel side of the bay.  All of the dozen moorings were taken, but there was room in the anchorage in the west end of the bay.  We dropped our delta anchor in about 10 feet of crystal clear water and let about 40 feet of chain out.  After snorkeling over the anchor, we saw that it was dug in well, so we shut off the engines. 

Nauti Nymph  Crowded Beach

White Bay is a spectacular ring of white sand beach, fringed by palm trees, with lush green foliage rising on the hills above, leading to a cloud speckled blue sky.  Unfortunately, the bay attracts dozens of day boats from neighboring islands, disgorging day tourists, who wade ashore to the appropriately named "Soggy Dollar Bar." 

Bob, Lenore and Matt on Foredeck  Frank Cooking

We swam, snorkeled and walked the beach and came back to the boat for dinner.  Luckily, the day boats all left before sunset, leaving this pristine, idyllic bay to us and a few other cruising and charter boats.  We cooked steaks, shrimp and garlic mashed potatoes, with a salad, and ate it in the cockpit.  Just to make sure we realized that we had not been transported to heaven, the houseflies descended just as we served the food.

Eating in the Cockpit  Working on the Web Page

After dinner, we sat in the cockpit, sipped a good port wine and enjoyed the silky, warm breeze.  The flies left as soon as the food was gone, and the iPods kept us supplied with good vibes.


June 25, 2009, White Bay, Jost Van Dyke to Soper's Hole and on to Norman Island

Jim on Beach  Foxey's

We pulled up our anchor early in White Bay and went around the corner to Big Harbor, the home of Foxy's, the infamous BVI watering hole.  We dropped the anchor again and all piled into the dingy to go ashore, where we found Foxy's, at 8:00 a.m., definitely quiet, with only a few employees raking the sand and cleaning up from the night before.  The gift shop was open and Foxy's looked like it could hold about a hundred people, with little sub bars and a music stage that looked like it got heavy use.  Patty got eaten by mosquitoes in the gift shop, but nevertheless managed to score some T-shirts along with the 30 bites on her legs.

Group at Foxey's Sign  Patty Shopping

We went back out to the boat, pulled up the anchor and beat the four miles across the channel around the corner to Soper's Hole, a fairly commercial, well-protected harbor on the west end of the island of Tortola.  We stocked up at the grocery store, bought ice, gas for the dingy engine and filled the water tanks for only $.15 per gallon of water -- a hundred gallons for $15. 

Soper's Hole  Getting Water

We pulled out of Soper's Hole at 1:30 p.m. and motored straight up wind the six miles to the Bight on Norman Island.  Coming into a mooring field with about a hundred moorings, only about a half dozen of which were taken.  We had our pick and dove immediately into the water.  Immediately we realized that this fairly remote and uninhabited island probably had the best sea life, with a dolphin swimming through the Bight, sea turtles, rays, and innumerable tropical fish in the shallows.  At the head of the Bight, one little beach bar and restaurant has a little dock and there is a floating boat bar, called the "William Thornton," commonly known as the "Willie T."

Kayak at Norman Island  Willy T

Just south of the entrance to the Bight, there are sea caves that demand exploration.

Bar at Willie T  Group on Willie T

June 26, 2009, The Bight, Norman Island

We woke up to hazy skies, but otherwise the same weather: hot, humid, but with a good wind to cool things down and clear, cool water to jump into.  We put both kayaks in the water and Bob, Lenore and I paddled out to the caves while the rest of the crew brought the big boat around to the Park Service moorings.  The caves were big enough to paddle a kayak into and dark enough in the back to be scary.

Sea Caves  Jim on Float

The snorkeling outside the caves was great with numerous and varied fish, but the caves themselves were a disappointment because as soon as you got back into the dark, they became completely barren with no sea life or fish at all.  After hanging around a while, we pulled the kayaks back aboard the mother ship, toured a dive site off of the Bight, and returned to a mooring at the head of the Bight, where we swam, read, drank and relaxed.

Reading in the Cockpit  Jennie & Jim Floating

That was interrupted by occasional kayaking and a shopping trip into the gift shop next the beach restaurant and bar.  Just about every island in the BVI, no matter how barren and windswept, has a beach bar and the accompanying T-shirt shop. 

Pirates at the Bight  Gift Shop

Patty, Bob and I took a hike up to the ridge above the Bight, and looked over the other side of the island to an isolated coral filled bay with the Atlantic breakers pounding the beach.  Norman Island, along with Peter Island, Cooper, Salt and Virgin Gorda, form the breakwater from the Atlantic swells and are the windward side of the Sir Francis Drake passage which make sailing in the BVI so pleasant.

Boats Framed by Tree  Flower

Bob & Patty on Hike  Back Side Bay

After getting cleaned up, we took the dingy to shore for an expensive, but decent meal at the Pirate's Restaurant.  Back at the boat, we had to face the hard reality of returning the boat tomorrow, and had to start thinking about how we were going to pack all of our collected shells, purchased T-shirts and damp, salt encrusted clothes.

Norman Island Bight Dingy Dock  Toasts


June 27, 2009, Norman Island to Roadtown, Tortola

We dropped the mooring in the Bight at 7:45 a.m. and raised sail at 8:00 a.m.  We had a great half hour sail across the channel, and were dropping sail at 8:30 a.m.  A Moorings pilot met the boat and backed us into a slip.  We are packed up and off the boat and expect to catch the noon ferry to St. Thomas.

We had a great trip, the crew was great and worked well together and everyone made it home safely, as was last reported.