British Virgin Islands
We had a week in St Maartin which evaporated in getting our battery charging system from the engine completely sorted, getting searched by Customs, getting the first service done on the engine, fixing chips in fibreglass and the wild excitement of stocking up on shopping. We met up with Peter and Barbara (and Wifi their cat) from NZ again - they decided to take on even more 'work' than us in reconstructing the floor of their dingy which meant they were marooned on their boat for a couple of days so we tried to help out with lifts ashore and turning up on their boat with beer (whoops - we stopped work going on and I suppose meant an extra half day for them stuck at anchor).
But after a week we were all done and ready to go on holiday to the BVI's (holiday i.e. no boat work and no major shopping), thing was - now there is no wind at all so it was a rather dull motor for 90 miles overnight, but we could relax in the fact that the batteries were getting a good charge with their new regulator. Actually saw some Dolphins as we left which was good - second ones this year!
We arrived in the BVI's about half an hour after dawn, it was completely windless but beautiful at that time - no boats around, flat water dotted with islands which form a sort of rough ring. Inside the ring of islands the water is shallow (30 metres or so) and so clear you can see the bottom when it is 15 metres or less and there is no swell - a bit like sailing in the scottish islands - but much warmer/less shipping/clear water! The islands are the usual small caribbean islands - rocky headlands with hills covered in dry forest, many bays and sandy beaches. We had to go and anchor in Road Town, Tortola first in order to clear in.
Road Town wasn't as nice as I had imagined, there were a couple of quaint streets but the overall impression is not quaint, there are many new big buildings going up - only 3 floors high but large and square and concrete. The new streets are straight and very wide (too wide so there is no shade to walk in) so it doesn't really feel very caribbean - I imagine that the new buildings are for trust fund companies and accountants etc. So after a couple of very hot hours walking around and not finding much of interest we were ready to go back to the boat.
The past couple of days we have done what you really come to the BVI's for - visit lots of little islands all with beautiful bays to anchor in and good diving/snorkelling. We made our way a whole 4 miles from Tortola over to Norman island where we are anchored now and have done a couple of dives today on the reefs. My ears were checked out in St Maartin and all appears fine but am taking it carefully. Norman island claims to be 'the island' that Treasure Island was based on, it has some caves and allegedly some 'treasure' was found in them. However, lots of places seem to lay claim to being 'The' Treasure island - La Graciosa off Lanzarote was also 'The Treasure island' according to the guide books - I suppose ideas are probably drawn from lots of places. Anyway - we are anchored about half a mile from said Caves and went snorkelling into them, they're quite pretty and some big fish around them - 3ft Tarpon in gangs (big silver predator fish) and a 3ft Barracuda.
There is also, 'Deadchest island' just around the corner from us which is apparently the one that 15 men were marooned on by some famous pirate (can't remember which one) and they all died as they couldn't make the half mile swim to the next island, hence the song '15 men on a deadman's chest, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum etc. . . .' The guide book says that Deadchest island looks like a coffin (if viewed from a certain angle . . . and squinting. .. . . ) which gives it the name - we will have to have a look/squint
The reefs are very pretty with lots of fish and there are weeks and weeks worth of diving with more sites than we can do in our time. We did however see our first sightings of Lionfish in the Caribbean here after only one day - Lionfish are very beautiful but the islands here are trying to eradicate them as they don't belong here, they were brought here in the 90's (no idea how) from the pacific and they are multiplying rapidly, munching on the small reef fish as they do. We need to report our sightings of them so they can be rounded up and disposed of, they are the grey squirrel of the Caribbean. There are dive buoys you can tie the tender to, or in some cases the yacht to on the dive sites - we did both today, we tendered around from the bay we were in last night to a site around the corner to dive, then this afternoon took Stargazer over to some rocks called 'the Indians' and tied onto a national park mooring. Neither of us has dived in a couple of months so we were both worn out tonight. There was quite a lot of current on the second dive which gave the legs a good work out, the diving here features quite a lot of caves and tunnels in the rocks - we found a tunnel to cut through, I was just trying to work out which bit of rock I could hold onto to sort my positioning out before swimming through (looking for a bit of rock free of sea urchins and fire coral is not easy) - next minute the underwater surge sucked me through the tunnel which was a bit unexpected, Adam said I just vanished. Looking forward to diving a couple of wrecks and hopefully a site where Sharks are about in the next few days.
There are lots of charter boats here and easter isn't probably the quietest time to visit, but it is absolutely ideal holiday sailing, a perfect location. The charter boats seem to collect in specific bays where there are bars and mooring buoys - we need neither so we go to the quiet bays which can be just around the corner.