Some new blog...!!

Chelone's travels.....
John and Susie Blair.
Wed 30 Oct 2013 00:42
Yes, it's been a while coming, sorry about that.  So, where were we last then? 


Oh dear, I just had a look at my last entry....errr, arrival at Virgin Gorda! Oh no, looks like we've some catching up to do!


It was the 16th of October when we arrived in Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda. We anchored in gin clear water and immediately got in for a swim…ahh, beautiful. Within minutes Ross had found some rope on the seabed and I went to investigate. Nice rope! A little tangled into the rocks but I got it off and then.... nice chain and oooh….a huge lovely Danforth anchor!!.  Needless to say, it’s now sited next to Chelone’s other anchor under our bowsprit! (very handy should a hurricane arrive).

Next I spotted an Octopus…..Dinner!  I’ll spare you the details but it was in a bowl in the fridge a few minutes later (Yes, the octopus in the photo last blog).


The guide book advises sailors to clear in with Customs & Immigration so I went ashore and did that. All was very quiet, one has to remember that this is like arriving for a holiday in Tenby….in February!  Yes, out of season, which has it’s benefits….I’ve been told by many who’ve been here before (Virgin Islands) that It’s too overcrowded, with charter yachts and motorboats, packed beaches etc so I reckon this is kinda nice and we should appreciate the peace.


I cleared us with Customs and as the town looked dead and it was absolutely blisteringly hot I returned to Chelone and we moved on down the coast to the legendary ‘Baths’. The guide book say’s no anchoring but to pick up a mooring at $25 (£15)…..So Ross and myself are thinking 'sod that'. Right next to the Baths there’s a privately owned beach….hmmmn!  Well, if we drop the hook there and they’re not happy someone will soon let us know right?


The beach was totally deserted… sign of life whatsoever, and I know what you’re thinking but no, that’s the way it stayed, no waving arms or shouts from the shore….we boarded our dinghy and did the Baths visit (you’ve seen the pics). The massive boulders reminded me of La Digue in Seychelles and the snorkelling was superb.


Back to Chelone and Ross swam ashore and took a stroll on the fabulous beach….not a soul in sight.


As I write we’ve been here in the Virgins for a day shy of two weeks. One thing that’s struck me is how small the place is. I had this idea that the island chain was bigger somehow but what has become apparent is the opposite.


Basically you’ve the British Virgin Islands which are three eight mile(ish) long islands (Virgin Gorda, Tortola, Anegada) and one little (2.5 mile) island (Jost Van Dyke) pronounced ‘yost’ by the way. Apart from that there are loads of little off lying islands, some uninhabited, many private, ie Bransons ‘Necker Island’.


Then there’s the American Virgin Islands…..Just the two really, St.Thomas and St.John. Only a couple of miles separate all except Anegada which is out on a limb being 10 miles to the north of everything.


So we did the ‘Baths’ ok, then we looked in the Cruising guide book where I’d read somewhere about a little known about ‘Hurricane hole’ on the north east (weather facing) side of the island (called South Creek) so considering there was currently an unusual lack of wind we thought it’d be interesting to take a look. We motored the few miles up the coast and entered this excellent little shelter bay and crept in behind a reef to anchor for the night and though the nearest habitation was far distant our new wi-fi set up acquired a perfect connection!

Next morning and in order to take Chelone further passed the reef and into the hurricane hole itself we’d have to survey the area carefully by dinghy first as the guide book author said there was no current information about depths in there only that it was shallow and to exercise caution.


From the dinghy we could monitor depth and as we surveyed we also surveyed the shore as there was much stuff washed up…..plastic rubbish,  coconuts, fenders & buoys….and a windsurfing board! Ah lovely, now we’ve a paddleboard, yeaay!

Survey done and we returned for Chelone and took her in. I did take some pictures but they were rubbish so I’ll post the pic from Google images instead. We're still in hurricane season (ends in November) and the prudent sailor needs to have some idea as to where to go should things turn bad. There are very few, if any, good shelter holes in the Virgin Islands but this was certainly somewhere that we now had experience of entering and had our exact course track saved for future reference should we need it.


From South Creek we again took advantage of the very calm conditions with a visit to the ‘Channel Islands’, a string of very small islands off the south of Virgin Gorda starting with Ginger Island, beautiful remote and uninhabited beaches but we didn’t stop. Then Cooper Island…privately owned and a tiny resort and restaurant. We anchored and were immediately approached by a British lad in a dinghy who came to inform us that ‘Happy Hour’ was imminent so we showered and went ashore to investigate. All was pristine…the sand around the beach palms carefully raked and manicured. We had a beer and a basket of delicious home made fries…Ross chatted to family back home via Skype on his phone then we headed back to the boat where we looked at the next islands in the chain in the guide book.

The picture of tiny ‘Salt Island’ showed it’s small lake white with salt which reminded me of a salt lake in Cyprus fringed with hundreds of pink Flamingo’s. Another item of interest was the wreck of a British Royal Mail Steamer ‘The Rhone’ lying in 15 meters depth off a headland so keen to take a look we dropped anchor. First we took to the dinghy and headed ashore to see the ‘Salt lake’. We landed and only had to walk a hundred meters to see two muddy, stagnant, fly infested ponds!! Oh dear. Ross went back to the beach for a swim and I decided to walk up a little hill overlooking the ponds etc (see pic).


Next we dinghied over to a mooring ball above the wreck of the RMS Rhone. We got in and looked down…..just a massive pile of scrap metal…one could hardly make out any shape or form. The hull had split open lengthways leaving the whole ship flat on the bottom, I saw no boilers or superstructure though the vis was fair and there were some fish but it was pretty boring really.


Next island….Peter Island…Another very pleasant looking place with pristine beaches and seclusion but a half mile further, and the last island in the chain, ‘Norman Island’ boasted a ‘Floating Bar/Restaurant’ by way of a converted 90 foot Schooner ‘The Willie T’ anchored in a bay called ‘The Bight’ so we thought we’d check that out.


One of the downsides of the Virgin Islands is the proliferation of mooring balls. On other Caribbean islands there are always moorings about, mostly for the wealthy (and inexperienced) Charter people, we certainly never bother as it’s so easy to anchor. Here, on the other hand, they fill every possible space with moorings so it’s virtually impossible to find a spot to anchor. The only spaces are those where it’s impractical for them to put a mooring ie, in 50 feet of water but that means us laying out 300 feet of cable which is a pain but there you go.


We had a few beers (the most expensive yet) aboard the ‘Willie T’ and a spot of people watching as the American Charterers were acting up. Next day we set off across ‘Sir Francis Drake Channel’ for the four mile crossing to Tortola!

I was told many times to avoid going to the American Islands as they're spoilt with burger bars and Condo’s (Condominiums/blocks of flats) best to stay in the beautiful BVI. Well, we sailed into Tortola’s capital, Road Town and managed (just about) to find a space to drop our anchor conveniently between two pleasant Marinas full of charter boats being prepared for the upcoming season.


Ross and myself wandered into the town behind the one marina…..OMG, what a dump!!.... Dirty, smelly…and ugly…The Capital of BVI’s Tortola…Road Town! Blimey, we were expecting better. Anyhow, on the brighter side we did find reasonable resources. A reasonably well stocked Chandlery, excellent Supermarket and after exhaustive attempts elsewhere we located a Chinese chap with a tiny workshop in the back of a clothes store who repaired Ross’ broken iphone….Yeaaay!  We also had an excellent free wi-fi connection at all times onboard Chelone.


After a few days, and Ross’ 21st Birthday looming we took a ferry to the USVI….both islands. Firstly we stopped at St.Thomas (The slightly bigger and more distant island) had a wander around the capital Charlotte Amalie….


Now bearing in mind what folks had told me about the USVI….OK, it was full of Burger joints, Wendy’s, Dunkin’ Donuts etc, and Condo’s were perched on the coast and on the hills surrounding the place but guess what? It was clean, bright and cheery compared with Road Town! Yes there were Cruise Liners on the dock, and big fat tourists everywhere, nasty tacky shops etc but still better than gutter stench.


We stopped at a typical American eatery…’Hooters’…I had a burger (when in Rome..) Ross abstained, he Skyped home as I people watched and took in the ‘ambiance’ (I was sat next to a broken plastic palm tree).


Next we boarded a local bus for a half hour ride across the island to Red Hook where we immediately boarded another ferry which took us to the other USVI, St.John. By now it was mid afternoon and we’d little time to look around but the Capital ‘Cruz Bay’ where we landed was quite pleasant, much smaller and quieter than Charlotte Amalie and still by far better than Road Town! 


Not much to say really other than we looked around the town before boarding another ferry back to Road Town, Tortola.


Right next to us in Road town was a sunken yacht (not uncommon in the Caribbean) two lovely varnished masts sticking out….maybe a Ketch or Yawl? Must surely have been a 50 footer?....very sad, apparently she was afloat just two months back.


So we finally left Road Town two days ago and made our way north up Tortola’s coast to ‘Trellis Bay’…lovely clean water for snorkelling and a great stretch of shoreline for beach-combing too. Then yesterday we moved again…just half a mile across the bay to ‘Marina Cay Island’, a pretty spot, beautiful turquoise water, free wi-fi onboard again. I think we’ll sail across to the third BVI, Jost Van Dyke tomorrow so we’ll let you know about that in the next instalment….sorry it’s been so long since the last blog…I will try harder!  JB.