Saturday, February 6, 2010

Anageda Island

February 4-5

Wi-fi at the Spanish Town marina was an fleeting enigmas - it came and went for no apparent reason (mostly went). No one knew where the antenna was located to be able to get a stronger signal. This had a humorous effect - there were a number of people walking around like zombies looking for a wi-fi signal (me included). I’d see somebody with their laptop sitting under a tree and with great expectations walk over to them and ask if they got a signal, but the answer was usually no.
We left the Spanish Town marina in the morning. We had gotten fuel and topped off the water tanks. We headed up the coast towards the Bitter End anchorage. But as we got outside, a nice breeze came up and Dave suggested that we consider going to Anegada Island and then return to the Bitter End the next day. We sailed on a close reach, with hardly any chop. Unbelievable!

We got to Anegada in about three hours, after a smooth and easy-going sail. Making it through the reef was a bit tricky since the last buoys appeared to be missing. We proceeded slowly and cautiously through the channel keeping an eye on the depth sounder while Rob and I stayed on the bow as look-outs. We anchored in about ten feet of water.

Anageda is different from the other islands in the BVI in that it is very low and flat. It looks more like the Bahamas. With all the surrounding reefs and its low elevation makes it treacherous for navigation. As a result, Anageda has over 300 wrecks.

The following day we rented bikes and toured the island from one end to the other. It did have some beautiful beaches and good snorkeling spots, particularly in the northern part. But the (mostly) dirt and sand roads didn’t make the going easy. We got back to the boat exhausted.

In the morning, after breakfast, we had a good sail to the Bitter End, on Virgin Gorda.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tortola, BVI

February 2-3 - Trelllis Bay to Virgin Gorda

I failed to mention on the last blog that when we anchored at Lee Bay, the anchor seemed to catch well. But it was a good thing that, later, I decided to go for a swim/snorkel. When I got a look at how the anchor was set, it turned out to be stuck on a rock - probably not enough to hold us through a good blow, but enough to cause a problem in the morning when trying to bring it up. We got the anchor reset at a spot that was all sand.

Back to the story - the day after Greg left, we spent working on the boat. Dave’s major project was to install another, larger Raycor fuel filter while I worked at getting a flow valve on the salt-water intake for the galley faucet. That night, we went to the airport and picked up another one of Dave’s friends.

Rob walked out of the airport customs area earlier than scheduled. He was a little peeved at the baggage handlers. They had thrown his carry-on baggage on the tarmac and managed to break one of the bottles of Crown Royal he had brought for Dave. Besides the small carry-on bag that contained all his clothing, Rob brought another large suitcase filled with lots of goodies for us. When we got back to the boat, it was like Christmas. .

In the morning, after coffee, we set off for Virgin Gorda. By the time we got to the Baths, an anchorage and snorkeling spot on the western end of VG, all the moorings already were taken by visiting yachts. We had to settle for anchoring outside.

The snorkeling was pretty good. The uniqueness of The Baths are the huge boulders that lie along the beach and in the water. They boulders, some over twenty feet high, create a unique setting for snorkelers in that you see mini walls, caves and ledges in shallow areas.

From The Baths, we took a short hop to Spanish Town, a place that two hundred years ago, had a thriving Spanish community. But all we saw of it was the marina and it’s immediate surroundings - some stores, bars, restaurants and a market.

We had not been at a marina since the Caicos and Turks. It was nice to just be docked. I had the first “land” shower in quite some time. Our standard shower for the most part, consists of getting out the Joy liquid soap (because it suds up in salt water), getting all cleaned up and jump in to the water. After washing the soap off, we typically rinse off with fresh water. It works great and uses very little of our fresh water!

In the evening, Rob master-minded a tasty meal consisting of tortillas, refried beans, shrimp, grouper and cheese with a salad. Hey, this guy seems like he’ll work out just fine!

Monday, February 1, 2010

St. Croix to Tortola

January 22 - St. Croix to Buck Island

It was a short sail from St. Croix to Buck Island. By 11am, we were anchored in a white sandy bottom with crystal clear water. Buck Island is known for its great snorkeling. It’s a national marine park and has an underwater trail that’s marked, identifying the types of coral you’re looking at and also the types of fish that inhabit the reef area.

We took the dinghy to the trail and tied it up to a mooring. As soon as we got in the water, the very first fish we saw was a nosy grey shark, snooping around. The water was exceptionally clear, with lots of other snorkelers in the water who had come on tour boats. The reef was quite spectacular, with lots of varieties of coral such as elkhorn, brain, a soft tubular type and fan coral. Lots of fish too. We saw a number of barracudas, puffer fish, purple tang, clown and trumpet fish, groupers, parrot fish and many others (that I mostly know by “yellow fish, blue fish with stripes, etc). It was one of the best snorkeling swims I’ve done.

After snorkeling, we took a walk on the island’s trail. It started around the beach and wound up the hill. The first thing that we were greeted with was a sign on an inconspicuous tree. It stated “Menchineel Tree. Do Not Touch! Danger! Do not eat the fruit!“. Apparently, the tree is highly poisonous. Some of Christopher Columbus’ men got very ill from eating the fruit. We gingerly walked around the tree. Onward, there were panoramic views of the reef and of St. Croix from the summit. The foliage along the way was predominantly cactus. Some very unique looking specimens.

January 24 - Sailing to St. Thomas

The next day, we pulled up anchor and headed for St. Thomas, the main USVI island. It was an easy crossing and we even got in a little sailing. We anchored on the east end of the island, in a place called Red Hook.

Not long after anchoring, the wind started to pick up. Great, we thought! It turned out to be a restless night with the wind piping up to a steady 22 knots with stronger gusts.

Not a place we want to stay for long, but Red Hook had restaurants, bars and marine stores. We took a ride into town the following day on one of the safari taxis. It only cost a couple of bucks to go anywhere on the island in an open bed truck with bench seating. We got to Charlotte Amalie and soon had our fill of the place. It mostly consisted of duty-free shopping stores to attract the cruise ship tourists.

We asked around for a restaurant that offered free wi-fi to their customers. After following a couple of misguided leads we met a gal who told us to go to Hooters for good wi-fi. Honestly! We talked to her for a few minutes. She divulged that she had worked for Hooters, but left after becoming unhappy with the pay. Besides that, she wasn’t using her masters degree in education. She then made a career change and got a job teaching at a Catholic elementary school. Now she would have been a fun elementary school teacher (that I never had). Anyway, we did find Hooters and indeed it turned out to have good wi-fi and not a bad sandwich to boot. And, yes, the server was indeed well endowed!

That night, a friend of Dave’s came to sail with us for a few days. Greg is one of the people that Dave knew from Ashley Marina in Charleston. Greg is a yacht broker. He worked on the sale of Lahaina Roads to Dave. That same night, I booted up my Acer netbook and the unexpected occurred - it croaked. I tried several times to reboot it and got nothing but a dark screen.

I had to have a computer. The following day I frantically called around town and found out that K-Mart sold computers. As it turned out, I found an HP netbook at a decent price at Office Max. So if my blog sounds a little different, it’s because I have a new computer. :)

After the shopping spree, we went back to the anchorage. When we got to the dinghy, we found the inflatable going flat. Since we didn’t have a pump with us, we took a chance on making back to the boat. With the three of us in it and a good sea chop against us, the dinghy really started to soften. It was at once funny and worrisome. The dinghy was very near to collapsing and folding in half by the time we got to the boat. But we lucked out. It never felt better to grab a hold of Lahaina Roads‘ toe rail!

January 26 - A Quick Three Mile Motorsail to St. John

The following day we picked up anchor for Cruz Bay, St. John. It was only three miles to Cruz Bay from Red Hook. We got there very quickly but found it to be too busy. We moved on to Caneel Bay, an anchorage just east of Cruz Bay.

Two thirds of St. John, at one time, was owned by Laurence Rockefeler. He donated the land to the U.S. Park Service. Thus, even today, most of the island is a park. The park service maintains a bunch of moorings to preserve the underwater reefs. So when we got to Caneel Bay, we picked up a mooring for the night. It was a picture-perfect setting, with a white sandy beach lined with palm trees.

The next day we walked into the town of Cruz Bay. Nice little place, but again, a bit touristy. We got back to the boat and decided to move further eastward to Maho Bay. As we motored along, we could see a number of pristine looking beaches.

When we got to Maho Bay we again picked up a mooring. It’s cheap enough. For those sixty and over, the moorings are half-price ($7.50)! After lunch, we went snorkeling. Although there wasn’t a reef where we were, the snorkeling along a rocky shore was fantastic. I got a chance to follow a leather back turtle for several minutes and later followed a bat ray, as it was skirting around the sandy bottom looking for some scraps. Along with those creatures, I saw countless other varieties of fish.
Greg had to go into town to get his passport. While he did that, Dave and I took a hike. Great panoramas from some of the plantation ruins up the hill. Wild goats were walking by us like we weren‘t there. We struck up a conversation with two couples traveling together, while at the plantation ruins. They seemed interested to hear the tales of our sailing adventure. After a brief chat, we went our separate ways. Dave and I headed up the trail and decided to aim for an old church at a place called Coral Bay.

It turned out to be quite a hike with lots of ups and down. As we neared Coral Bay, all we could think of is that we had a long home and had no money to buy a beer! I suggested that we might try to hitch a ride back. So we started walking down the main road. Just then, a car pulled up and the people inside waved at us. It turned to be the same couples we had met at the ruins (wisely so, they had driven to Coral Bay).

They were on their way to Skinny Legs Bar and Grill, which reportedly had the best burgers in St. John. We told them that we were on our way back hoping to hitch a ride, besides, we didn’t have our wallets with us. They waved us good bye and drove away.

A few minutes later, as we were walking down the street, the couples drove up behind us and said, “Hey, why don’t you come to lunch with us, we’ll treat!” We said “Sure!”

It turned out to be a really enjoyable lunch. Mary Jane, George, Paul and Julia were truly wonderful people and we had a great time exchanging stories. After lunch, they even gave us a ride back, which in their tiny Suzuki required MJ to sit on George’s (her husband) lap. Funny how things turn out.

When we got back to the boat I went snorkeling. Near where we were anchored there was a small cay called Waterlemon Cay. It was a neat swim. There were millions of small silver fish in the water. The brown pelicans were having a field day dive-bombing them. They were doing so all around me and I could watch the pelicans dive under water and fill their bills full of fish. What a sight! On the way back to the boat, a moray eel was quite exposed and curiously looked at me, while further up a bat ray effortlessly glided through the water. All in all, not a bad day.

January 29 - Off to Soper’s Hole, BVI

After one more fascinating snorkeling session at Waterlemon Cay, we left for the British Virgin Islands. In only minutes we were cruising Soper’s Hole looking for a mooring or a good spot to anchor. It was tight. There were dozens of other yachts there.

We finally anchored in twenty meters, deeper than we like to be in. Sopers is very commercial. To me it reminds of the many portside villages in the U.S. built to attract the out-of-town tourists. We took a short walk around the place and went back to the boat. It was happy hour!

January 30 - Just Jost van Dyke

I’m surprised at the short distances to all of these islands. Leaving Soper’s Hole, we made it to Great Harbor at Jost van Dyke under sail in not much more than a half hour. The beaches here are surprisingly lovely - white sand, palm trees and beach bars with wi-fi. What more can a yachty ask for? Near us is Foxy’s and in the next bay, which we walked to, are several more bars. We sat down at Sandy Bottoms where several catamaran yachts had pulled up near the beach. It was a nice afternoon.

January 31 - Feb 1

Dave and I are now sitting in Road Town, Tortola at a small French cafe having a French baggette with a buttery St. Marcellin cheese that reeks of cholesterol. Since Jost van Dyke we made a brief stop at a beautiful bay called Cane Garden Bay, then anchored at Lee Bay. Early this morning we motored to Trellis Bay on Tortola, right near the airport. Greg left from there this morning and we'll be expecting Rob tomorrow night.