Arrival in Tortola
The voyage from Sint Maarten to Tortola was uneventful. No Barracudas to fight with, no breaching whales or other denizens from the deep. We had a good breeze to get us there - in fact we had to slow down a little to arrive off the Virgins around dawn. As many historians will no doubt tell you, Columbus 'discovered' these islands on his second voyage in 1493, and named them Las Once Mil Las Virgines, after the legendary St Ursula and the 11000 (once mil) virgins. It was also a pirate stronghold for many years (Blaackbeard, Captain Kidd and even Francis Drake - yes he was a pirate of sorts - maybe a nice one as he also dealt with the Spanish Armada and played bowls a lot, and I can't see Blackbeard or Captain Kidd playing bowls in their spare time).
Back to our present day blundering as apposed to plundering through the islands - Once through the gap between Ginger Island and Round Rock we headed for Road Town, the main port on Tortola. Unfortunately there was nowhere sensible to anchor to clear in with customs, let alone stay for any length of time to get anything done - it was very crowded. The one time we put the anchor down just south of the cruise ship terminal there was such a swell running into the harbour that it was just like being at sea! It certainly didn't affect the large cruise ships docked at the town pier or anchored off like Sea Princess, which we had been observing all night on our AIS system as it cruised up and down north to south so that, like us, it didn't arrive too early in Tortola. Even when out of sight it's light loom could be clearly seen as a glow on the horizon just like a fully lit town. The huge Norwegian Dawn was on the town quay (looking like a giant crèche with large plastic dinosaurs on the upper deck at the stern with the slogan "Freestyle Cruising" painted down the side) Hmmm give that one a miss for our world cruise if you don't mind!
Safely through the passage between Ginger Island and Round Island (Pictured)
After a quickly convened committee meeting onboard Ajaya we decided instead to clear in at Soper's Hole situated at 18:23.19N, 64:42.06W on the western end of Tortola, a deep-ish bay with some bars, restaurants and a charter base full of catamarans. Whilst it was still windy blowing F5-6 from the east as we entered the sheltered bay we had at least lost the effects of the sea. Like many popular spots in the BVIs Sopers now has mooring buoys to be picked up with anchoring not encouraged. Buoys are charged at $25US per night whether you are in a canoe or a large yacht which we thought was reasonable. The option was $78US in the marina which wasn't actually an option, so we treated ourselves to fish 'n chips with a rum punch in the dockside bar, feeling rather isolated amongst all of the American voices surrounding us - for the Americans are here in huge numbers chartering as the neighbouring islands of St John and St Thomas (must be a story there) are administered by the USA.
We are staying in Sopers for another day then heading to Jost Van Dyke to find some swimming and snorkelling locations before heading back to collect the gas bottle we are having filled. We had hoped to have some post forwarded but on asking the marina staff they advise it will be a long wait - so it may be a few more weeks before Nikki has her birthday cards. So like the queen she will have to have a double celebration in June. In the meantime we will explore the BVI's reccomended anchorages and see what the islands have to offer before we set sail for the USA.
Soper's Hole Marina with yachts on buoys in the background
Tiny little beach in Soper's Hole (perfect for a teddy bears picnic)
Ajaya on a buoy at Soper's Hole - flying our yellow Q Flag prior to clearing in.