Back to the BVI!

“Lay it on me, Card- how is it down there?  Really.

Well, it’s like this…


We all know that there’s an elephant in the chat room.  It’s been hard to get a good sense of what it’s like down there post Irma and Maria.   So, we up and went, on the assumption that despite boat and building damage, the islands would still be there.

Our report?  Not half bad!  Better than that.  We recommend it.

Of course, that depends on what you’re looking for in a tropical sailing trip.  If you want an endless variety of bars, restaurants, and gift shops, go elsewhere.  If you want beautiful islands, healthy reefs, and an abundance of fish to gape at while snorkeling, a representative sample of shoreside fun, and some well deserved tranquility, then head on down or join us on one of our trips.

The hand that steers the boat is… well, the hand that steers the boat. Balance it correctly, and only one hand is needed! 20-25 knots in Sir Francis Drake Channel with double reefed main and partial reef in genoa-jib.

Islands: what’s good and what isn’t

Most islands in the British Virgin Islands were impacted by the hurricane.  Some did quite well and it was not an issue for tuning up for the tourist season.  Others had extensive shoreside damage and the facilities (restaurants/marinas) were basically wiped out.  These areas are under reconstruction, and will be restored, but some have a way to go.

A-Z, to the extent we could ever bother to spell while down there…


Anegada

We didn’t go this time around due to a short trip and rough weather for more than half of it.  However, we’ve heard all along that Anegada fared well in the storm and was good to go.  Once we were down there for our skippers meeting at Moorings/Sunsail, this was confirmed.  The Anegada Reef Hotel and many other restaurants on Anegada await you.


Beef Island/Trellis Bay

Pretty beat up.  Many boats still littered around the anchorage and shore, and as it’s connected to the mainland, it remains a busy and crowded anchorage.  There’s a market to get supplies which might be adding to the crowding.  This was from observation, briefing, and first hand reports from people who just went there.


Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

Didn’t go, but it has a restaurant open on the beach (supposedly a good one).  The satellite branch of Bobby’s Marketplace is not open yet.  As this anchorage is uncomfortable in any north ground swell unless you get a good mooring, either skip it or arrive very early with a Plan B in mind.  Having said that, they’re recommending it subject to the swell, and based on past experience, we agree.  It’s gorgeous.


Cooper Island

Restaurant not open yet.  Can sort of get ashore to walk on the beach a little; if you do, honor the signs for private property when you get close.  There are plenty of moorings here, but get there early.   This is the only anchorage in the area where anchoring is legally prohibited.  You will be chased out if you try it, so if you’re getting there past early afternoon, have a plan B.

Cooper Time! People beachcombing, seeing what’s SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard), snorkeling from the dinghy moorings off the large rock upcropping near top center, or just chllaxin aboard their charter yachts. Cooper is also a great place to just do nothing.

Snorkeling from the dinghy mooring at Cistern was above average for the location with plenty of fish.  (A certain secret spot where a VERY large barracuda liked to hang was all but destroyed so didn’t go looking for trouble.  To this day, dear friends/clients argue with each other and me as to whether this was actually a shark.  It wasn’t.)


Jost Van Dyke

Here’s your nightlife.  Most places on the island are up and running, including Foxy’s in Great Harbor, Sydney’s and Harris’ in Little Harbor, and the Soggy Dollar Bare in White Bay.  One can dock up to refill water tanks in Great Harbor.  Foxy’s Taboo at Diamond Cay (near Little Jost) is not open yet.

There are some moorings in each harbor, although traditionally, one expects to anchor at Jost due to the volume.


Marina Cay

Open this one up! It’s a Pano – must see it full sized and scroll in both directions.  Click once for a new window and again to really expand it.  We had the anchorage at Marina Cay to ourselves at around noon. Very tranquil.  

Gone.  The island is still there, of course, and anything concrete and steel remains.  The fuel and water dock, English phone booth, restaurants and bars are gone.  The island is off limits and (fairly) strictly enforced.  That makes it nice and quiet!  Get there early, get a mooring directly in the lee of the island (protected from the prevailing wind), and enjoy a nice quiet night.

Snorkeling at the Coral Gardens was amazing.  It’s always good, but we enjoyed something different this time.  Schools of parrot fish were behaving a lot like predator gamefish, snapping at floating weeds at and just below the surface!  We’ve never seen them more than a few foot off the bottom, cruising around or nibbling at coral.  Their were several varieties in attendance, but the ones schooling were fairly colorless with gray/black highlights.  There were rainbows and other color varieties around as well.


Norman Island

The Bight, or Pirates Bight, is a large anchorage that always has room for more boats, and a little more now that the Willy T (William T Thornton, a large sailing vessel semi-permanently moored in the Bight), is semi-permanently wrecked ashore. Sad.  Benefit?  That was a LOUD boat, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.  So, much quieter now until if/when they replace it.

Rain squalls have their rewards! Double rainbow looking west toward St. John from the Bight at Norman Island.

The restaurant is supposed to be open but we didn’t go ashore to investigate.  Snorkeling along the walls at the Caves, around the corner from the anchorage, was average to slightly above for this spot (which is excellent if you do it right).


North Sound (Gorda Sound), Virgin Gorda

Mostly gone.  This area’s facilities were mostly wiped out.  One can anchor or moor in many places, of course, and enjoy the tranquility and the reefs for snorkeling.

The one facility open in the Sound is Leverick Bay, and the Pussers (eh) restaurant is open.  I don’t remember if water was available at Leverick to top off tanks, but one can check before planning on it.


Peter Island

Looking roughly south from the east headland of Great Harbor. The boats in the background are in the back of the bay where there’s a bit of a pebbly beach. They were getting more wind/gusts (expand the pic to see the whitecaps), so we opted for shiftier winds with less velocity and lighter gusts, plus snorkeling off the boat.

No facilities open yet ashore.  Who needs it… Peter Island had an expensive and snotty facility which, if memory serves, required a jacket of gentlemen for dinner.  So NOT going down there for that.  The allure of Peter, as we see it, is that the harbors have nothing.  Just protected anchorages and scenic tranquility.  We anchored along the east wall of Great Harbor and loved it.  Good snorkel trip along the rip rap on the bottom (which had been there forever).  Not a coral spot, but lots of fish as they love this kind of structure.  Not bad for jumping off the back of the boat!

At anchor, pointing roughly south west at other yachts in Great Harbor. The black bow of one mega private sailing yacht is on far right.

Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda

Marina is open.  This is very enclosed with slips.  There are also a few moorings outside, and an area where one can anchor and dinghy in if it’s not rough.  No dockside market, and might not have any restaurant facilities running yet, but there are several in town within walking distance, which lets one see how the locals live.   Also, one can get a taxi from here to go to the Baths.  If it’s a little lumpy in the harbors due to weather conditions, and people need a break, this is your spot.  Flat calm, plus you can step off and walk around on solid ground.


Our trip revealed what we’d hoped it would:  a resilient populace living in a natural environment, both of whom roll with the proverbial punches of Poseidon, Neptune, etc.  If you want to see and explore the British Virgin Islands closer to the way they were before the charter industry really built up, now’s the time!  Expect to provision your boat more and dine ashore less.  If that’s the price to pay to play here, I’m more than happy to go back ASAP.

Apres-snorkel sunbathing (briefly of course). Cooper Island, BVI.
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Lighting up a Light House

A client of ours is originally from Canada, and two buddies and he did 103 and 104 with us one season before doing their first bareboat charter in the BVI.

Adam’s uncle got involved with a latent lighthouse in Ontario, Canada. He’s on the local preservation committee, and had been trying to get it lit back up. Apparently, it was a somewhat uphill battle as there were concerns about the light shining on shoreside homes at night and being intrusive.  The major’s office was involved and favored the light being back on, so that helped.
Here’s an excerpt from the original Notice to Mariners in 1917 that announced the construction of this light!..
For its return, the compromise was to aim the light across the bay at another peninsula rather than sweep across the shore or just aim 360 all around.  Our mission: confirm the exact bearing, and show/explain why we came up with the magic number.
(Truth be told, Adam was more than capable of doing this himself, having successfully taken and passed 103, 104 and 105 with us and then applied it in the BVI. But this had to come from us as the outside experts.)
Anywho, Adam enlisted us to be the alleged experts to plot the angle of the light and show how we’d done it.

Dividers (nautical drafting compass) set exactly on the two points; protractor triangle was laid carefully against them to be on the correct bearing. Then, triangle was carefully moved to a meridian of longitude to read the bearing in true degrees. This was converted to magnetic so bearings could be taken from either point in real time to confirm.
1. Get the right chart.  Adam took care of this: NOAA #14832, Upper Niagara River, ending in Lake Erie.

2. ID the light in question: “Light House,” on Point Abino.  No characteristics shown as it’s idle.

3. ID the exact spot the new light is supposed to be aimed at: SW corner of the peninsula across the bay at the other end of Crystal Beach.
4. Measure the bearing painstakingly several times with at least two methods and get a consistent answer: 61 degrees magnetic.

There you have it.  And thar she glows…

The light house at Point Abino, Ontario, with its beacon aimed back across the bay.
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“A school has no name…”

…or is it no location?  Or too many, so a school is confused about where it is?

Do two (or three) wrongs make a right (location)?

Wonder what percentage of you get the GoT reference of this post’s title. (If you don’t get GoT, let us know and we’ll bring you up to speed.)

Hint…

GoT final scene
Wings over water – on sailboats and soaring dragons. Final scene of season six finale, Game of Thrones.

WTF am I talking about?  Sailing schools who are geographically challenged and are either so confused they don’t know where they are – or want you to be so you sign up for their school at one of their dubious digs.

Example: a school is named after a geographic location.  An island.  They had to move from that island to a neighboring state.  They still reference teaching at that original island in their blurb on the ASA School’s page. But a girl has to cross a river to get to them.  (oops; there’s another GOT reference…)

Another example: a school has three locations, none far from the others (and all in our state).  One moved across the bay it’s located in.  Map page still shows it where it isn’t.  At least it’s the right bay.   One is entirely new.  It’s listed on the ASA page as being in a particular Bay, where they say the sailing is Great.  But a school is not in this bay.  It is in another, far away, and the sailing is not in this tiny bay.  A school sails in an inlet on an ocean. (And a school cannot hide from that ocean’s swells.)

What do we care?  We like good old fashioned, straight up honest advertising.  Plus, we’re very proud of our location.  It’s extremely accessible from so many places, both by public transit and car.  The area is insanely good for teaching sailing and just enjoying a day sail or a cruise.

Some schools have multiple locations.  Some locations have multiple schools.  Tiny little City Island, barely a mile and a half long, has historically been home to two sailing schools – sometimes just one, and for a time, three.  Plus, it has two college sailing teams.  Both those universities have campuses on Manhattan.  But, they sail out of City Island.  Finally – we have three yacht clubs on the Island and the vast majority of their members’ toys are sailboats.

We have had opportunities to add a satellite location at the “bay on the ocean,” on the Hudson, etc.  We have always declined.  Not worth having a location slightly more convenient to Manhattanites, or to spread ourselves around hoping to capture another demographic, just to take clients’ money and give them a piss-poor education and experience that, if they even learn properly from, they’ll soon outgrow.

A school has an ethic.

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Bareboat 104: Cruise to Oyster Bay

We did the first weekend of a Bareboat Cruising course (ASA 104) on the 11th and 12th.  Marc and Sheri, prior grads and ongoing Sailing Club members, wanted an overnight cruise experience as part of their training.  We decided on Oyster Bay.  Say hi to Marc & Sheri…
m and s
Evening on Oyster Bay
Moderate, slightly gusty breezes tapered off as we departed, so it was light winds all the way.  They became variable in direction as well so it was a good challenge to keep the boat moving.  Too many people just give up in these conditions, and never learn to actually sail a boat in them.  This is one of the fascinating challenges in sailing, and as Long Island Sound and the Northeast are light-wind regions, it’s a critical skillset to develop.  We did motor-sail briefly when it was futile to sail. After all, there was a sunset to catch while relaxing on the mooring!
ob sunset
Hard to get tired of this vista!

We arranged for a mooring and the timing was perfect.  After the yacht club’s sunset cannon went off, we walked into town in time for our dinner reservation at Wild Honey.  Appetizers and entrees were all excellent as usual.  We did have to reject the first bottle of wine, but the replacement was fine.

The next day saw winds increase beyond what had been originally forecast.  We expected Northwest winds of 10-15 with gusts to 20.  We were greeted with 20-30 from WNW.  Higher gusts were to be possible. So, after taking our time with breakfast and boat prep, and preparing quick access sandwiches and snacks (as well as water), we headed out with our smallest genoa and a single reef in the main.  First thing we encountered in the mouth of the bay? A fleet of little Optis zipping all over in perfect control, and one chase boat seemingly with nothing to do.  We knew we then had no choice but to tough it out on our Pearson 10M (33-foot) keelboat!  (Opti, short for Optimist Pram, is the most popular kids training boat in the world.  We see them everywhere we cruise in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.)
m and c
Marc honing his helm chops while our Director and Dockmaster, and HBIC (Head Bozo in Charge), Captain Stephen Glenn Card sort of hangs around.

But it wasn’t a big deal despite a confused sea state with short choppy waves.  Kilroy ate it up with a balanced helm.  The seas became more rhythmical the further west we progressed.  But after a brief lulling of the breeze to mid-teens, it picked back up.  By the time we had to negotiate the entrance to City Island Harbor, winds were 30-35.  That’s getting into gale forces.  Whew!  But the boat and crew both took it in stride and it was a rewarding finish to a fine trip.

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