Norman Island - 17 April

Tue 18 Apr 2006 14:11
When we arrived at Norman Island we decided it was time for a drink and all headed for Wille T's for some refreshment.  The bar was really hopping (being Easter Weekend) and the children enjoyed jumping off the top level of the boat, into the water.  In fact, after a few rums, the adults enjoyed it too...
Pip jumping off with Jon from Wild Alliance
Anna and Rachel on the way down
Charlie and Trond surface after their jump - a long way down, and this picture was taken from the deck rather than the top of the jumping platform (around 1.5 metres higher)
We also snorkelled the wreck of the Rhone, a steel mail ship of 310 feet in length, that sank in October 1867, during a hurricane.  The ship had ridden the first part of the storm at anchor in the lea of Peter Island.  During a lull the captain decided to weigh anchor and head for a more sheltered anchorage.  As it was being lifted the 3,000 lb anchor broke off and fell to the sea bed.  There was no other means of anchoring or mooring, so the capitain decided to seek sea room and headed for open ocean.  The Rhone had almost made it, but as it emerged through the entrance to the channel between Salt and Peter islands, it was hit by a massive blast of wind, which sent her onto Salt Island's rocks and broke her up. 
From the surface it is easy to see the ship's propellor (around 10m long!), her masts, sections of hull (including portholes) and deck, a crow's nest, the prop shaft and her bow sprit.  The wreck is now gilded with pretty corals and fish swim in and out of the hatches - once again I wished for an underwater camera! 
We enjoyed snorkelling the wreck immensely, although it was rather sad to see, and to think of all those that lost their lives in the tragedy.
It was also sad to say goodbye to Kosh Long and Regina, as we headed away to check out of the BVIs and head south again, en route back to Antigua for Race Week.  We don't know when we will see these boats again, as they are now on their way to Canada and Sweden, respectively.  We will miss the Radio Regina VHF calls in the morning!  For the other boats bound for the UK, we will be meeting them in Bermuda or the Azores, or, in the case of Tamarisk, in Suffolk!  I have promised Penny that I will attend her Pilates class - no excuses now!
We are quite glad to be leaving the BVIs.  Everything is so expensive, making supermarket shopping a real chore (we have no fresh food left as we have avoided buying any) and restraurants are a rip off with a 15% service charge added to each bill, on top of what are already high prices for meals.  We even experienced a bar man pocketing part of the payment for a meal (a US$50 note) and then adding the amount to our friends' credit card.  When challenged, he denied it and there was little we could do, although several of us had seen the cash counted out and we knew how much was there.  On the other hand, the BVIs are beautiful and the snorkelling is great.  Perhaps because of this they are now a large number of boats here, especially charter boats.  We believe there to be three times the number of boats here than the number we saw when we visited the BVIs 7 years ago.  In The Bight in Norman Island we counted 78 boats on moorings.  Not small boats - 45 foot catermerans would make up 25% of boats here and 36 foot is the smallest you will see.
So we are now heading for St Martin, to stock up in a tax free supermarket.  We'll also get the spinnaker repaired.  Alice wants to buy a skim board, with her birthday money and accumulated pocket money.  It is around 90 miles away so will probably take around 12 hours to get there.  Our friends tell us it is like Benidorm, but we'll make sure it is a flying visit, before heading off somewhere nice again.