4 Jan 2019 - New Year and beyond in the BVIs

Escapade of Rame
Richard & Julie Farrington
Thu 10 Jan 2019 15:28

18:30.45N  64:21.44W


Great Harbour, Jost van Dyke

The boys turned up as planned on Saturday night and Sunday morning, so by lunchtime on 30 December we were broad reaching down the north side of Tortola towards Jost van Dyke, listed variously as the third best place in the world (after Times Square and Trafalgar Square) to see in the New Year.  The scenery here is spectacular: Camanoe and Guana Islands to the north, a narrow channel, some fine sandy beaches and then a series of enticing bays along the mountainous north coast of Tortola.  Superyachts scattered around like confetti, Escapade romping through the middle.  We arrived in Great Harbour, Jost van Dyke at lunchtime and found a decent-sized slot in about 15m of water in which to anchor, with two large, modern Oysters ahead of us, a couple of huge private catamarans on either side to ward off intruders and a sprinkling of charter boats astern of us.  The young people went ashore to recce ‘Foxy’s’ – the epicentre of the impending festivities whilst we settled down to the continual entertainment show provided by latecomers of all shapes and sizes trying to anchor in ever-tighter spots with the ferries shouting friendly abuse at those who strayed into the main channel and a regular drumbeat of ‘look out, you’re dragging into me’ from all directions. 

We had a splendid walk westwards to White Bay on New Year’s Eve.  With hindsight, I might have chosen this as our main anchorage as the walk to Foxy’s isn’t too bad and there was a constant stream of taxis for the stragglers.  Quite a big hill to negotiate in the middle, mind, but White Bay is well named: glorious sand, some interesting reefs which keep most of the deeper-keeled vessels anchored a bit further offshore and some quite tasteful, scattered housing and beach bars.  From above, it looks idyllic and close up, impressive enough that we will try to return before all the visitors leave.


White Bay, Jost van Dyke

Foxy’s wanted $500 per head for their ‘full VVIP’ event, so we ate onboard and got the party started before venturing ashore.  It was packed but not stiflingly busy and spirits were high – no doubt fuelled by the drink of the moment, the ‘Painkiller’.  Equal parts of rum and pineapple juice, set off with orange juice and coconut juice.  Pretty tasty… We sampled several along the beach front before trying to find the live band at Foxy’s.  To be honest, the music wasn’t that great and midnight came and went with surprisingly little fanfare, but the overall ‘vibe’ was outstanding and we all gave it a big ‘thumbs up’.


New Years Eve Painkillers at Foxy’s, Jost van Dyke

New Years Day started inauspiciously as the aft heads jammed again.  This time, it was clearly a blockage in the (brand new) discharge hose, but Great Harbour was not the place to try to fix it so we pushed east to Green Cay and Sandy Spit where we anchored and returned to the little beach bar there for lunch.  There were about forty yachts from The Yacht Week (highly organised flotilla holidays for the young, free and single) over by the Bubble Pool so we gave that a miss and chilled on the boat instead. 

Or rather, everyone else did whilst I removed a blocked, pressurised hose from the seacock, cleaned up the resulting mess and found some rock-like debris from the old hose blocking the seacock.  Probably the nastiest job I’ve had to do since helping Petty Officer Mackay clean the sewerage treatment plant in HMS Battleaxe as a Midshipman in 1981 (stopped me biting my nails for life).  Meanwhile, a brisk easterly wind constrained the snorkelling around Green Cay, so its another place we need to return to when the weather eases later in the month.

Across to Cane Garden Bay on the north coast of Tortola the next day to visit the supermarket there and send Julie, Anna and Matt on an emergency run across to Road Town to visit an optician.  It’s a fine bay with a series of small resorts and a good beach, but crowded to almost Mediterranean standards by day trippers from the cruise ships in Road Town.  Sight restored, we called on our friend Jeff and his wife Paula aboard ‘Sea Larks’ and the girls got to see how the other half live on a modern, well-equipped cruising catamaran.  We managed to prise them away though and had an enjoyable sail around the western end of Tortola, past Soper’s Hole and east to Norman Island the next day. 


At Pirate’s Bight, Norman Island. My new favourite photo.

A bit of excitement enroute: in the course of a gybe I got clouted by the end of the boom.  Enough blood for Julie to spring into action with her splendid First Aid kit but it turned out to be a glancing blow and a salutary reminder to ‘pay attention’.  Great snorkelling at Norman Island on the Indians and off Treasure Point, whilst the Pirate’s Bight Beach Bar holds the ‘number one’ spot on the list of tasteful developments in a spectacular location with half decent painkillers to boot.  Sunset here, overlooking the anchorage and the beautiful island of St John’s in the background must be a good reason to come sailing in the Caribbean. 

On Friday 4th we sailed north to Virgin Gorda and Eustatia Island.  It was a fast upwind passage with a couple of reefs in, but the sea state had improved over previous days and the sun shone, so everyone was happy.  For the young people, this was their first glimpse of Necker Island, Sir Richard Branson’s slice of paradise.  It doesn’t disappoint, but when we looked it up on the Interweb and discovered that it costs $77000 (sic) per night to rent the island with thirty of your closest friends, we decided that Escapade isn’t so bad after all.  [All my kit’s on here, anyway]

Julie and I had enjoyed some of the best snorkelling we’ve experienced in the Caribbean off Eustatia, just north of Bitter End on Virgin Gorda.  Previously we had always anchored in Gorda Sound which is one of the most secure in the whole region, but today we felt our way in around Prickly Pear island (owned by Larry Ellison of Oracle, apparently) and anchored off the tiny private resort on the south east corner of Eustatia.  We pushed upwind in the rubber boat to our favoured diving site, getting quite wet in the process.  Saw some stingrays very close up: they are almost as curious as we are and I had a memorable few minutes a couple of yards from a Spotted Eagle Ray complete with small sucker fish escorts as we circled each other at slow speed.  Seeing these magnificent fish jump several feet out of the water and land with a great crash is an inspiring sight – why do they do it?  There are two main theories: one is that they are trying to remove parasites, the other is that this is a courtship ritual.  I prefer the latter!


Spotted Eagle Ray on patrol off Eustatia Island

  I was looking for an old cannon that we’d found previously.  It turned out that the buoy we had secured to had been moved (neither Julie or I recognised the underwater landscape) so on the way back to the boat we tried another likely-looking spot.  I found the cannon almost at once – and then we found a second nearby.  Group photos using Lizzie’s underwater camera followed.  Credibility as an amateur underwater archaeologist restored!


Look what I found!

There were some ominous looking squalls approaching as we returned onboard for tea, so we relocated to Gorda Sound overnight.  Ironically, we dragged the anchor whilst cooking dinner, so had a hasty reset in the dark – fortunately the squalls had long dissipated and a quiet night ensued.