18:20.113N 065:37.314W BVI,USVI,SVI & Puerto Rico
Week ending 17 February 2008
Sunday JOST VAN DYKE BVI
I went off to Jost Van Dyke, it was a lovely downwind sail. 18:26.525N 064:45.062W. I had to have a drink in Foxy’s, one of the must do things in the BVIs. There are only 150 people living here and there is not much else. I had a stomach ache, but they had ginger beer. They had some good double hammocks that were comfortable to swing in. Then I rowed back to the boat, got the rubbish and did a return trip.
The harbour was full of boats, including a party of 10 Sunsail catamarrans that were all flying a specific flag with very foreign looking writing on it. The holding in the bay was not good and one boat tried all over and gave up and left. Others decided that where I was anchored was good and sat on top of me. One did move when I told him I would need to go straight through him to get my anchor up in the morning, but another one replaced him. I let it go until the morning.
PHOTOS – take a look
Last week when I was off Norman Island an annoying little dinghy kept getting in my way, I soon realised that it was a photographer. So if you want to see photos of the boat, only half the main was up, but it was windy. www.digiproofs.com Norman & Peter Island. 20 January 2008 to date. 5 February 2008. If Knot Y Knot, number 147, 13 photos.
Monday TORTOLA, BVI
I waited until 8am for signs of life on the boat on my nose and when a woman came up I asked if someone could take the helm because they were in my way. She asked me to wait 5 minutes, it was a long 5 minutes and rather bad manners a there were 6 of them and they had anchored on top of me.
11.00 I arrived in Sopers Hole, Tortola. I wanted to complete my BVI tour without taking a mooring buoy. Sopers Hole was my biggest test. Most of the bay was over 20 metres deep and all filled with mooring buoys. There was a small area that went down to 10 metres, but that too had buoys. There was a small gap and that was where I had to go. I tried to anchor, but I had to get the anchor down and set in exactly the right spot to not sit on any boats and it was quite windy, as usual. I tried several times and either got blown off my spot or the anchor did not hold. I got a rope and was ready to take a buoy if I slipped down onto one, but just one more attempt to anchor. I got the boathook and was more ready for the buoy, just one more attempt to anchor. Eventually I made it, anchor down and set in just the right place, not a lot of room, but just enough. 18:23.263N 064:42.055W.
I got the dinghy down and rowed to the ferry dock. I caught the 12.15 ferry to St John USVI. That cost $45. 13.00 I arrived in the USVI, my first taste of US territory. 15.00 back to the ferry dock for the last ferry back to Tortola. All that just so that I could get a visa waiver, so now I can take the boat in. It is more than a bit unfair that the US can come to the BVIs, but we have to have a visa to go to the USVIs. Obviously this will stop terrorism. The questions on the immigration form will stop that.
Are you or have you ever been involved with terrorism, treason, espionage or genicide? Answer yes to that one and think of all the work that you have saved the FBI and CIA. Answer it falsely and the consequences are severe.
Bluewater Cat had arrived in Sopers Hole today and I was queuing up to get back in at customs and saw them in the dinghy. Jimmy came and tapped on the window for me outside customs and was told off for interfering with the passengers. We seem to get told off quite a bit in the BVIs, nothing serious, well we don’t take it seriously.
Tuesday ST JOHN, USVI
Bluewater Cat were meeting people in St John, I had to wait and check out before I could leave. I did customs and went back to the dinghy and was nearly gone when the immigration official came up and told me I had not gone to him. Right, I forgot. He was very nice, he dealt with it on the dock and did not make me go back to the office.
10.00 I arrived in Cruz Bay, St John, USVI . I anchored in just enough water for the keel outside the ferry channel and rowed in to customs and immigration. Once they found I was alone then they loved me. The customs man helped me fill in the form, they accepted the visa waiver and were very friendly. The immigration man was happy too. No, I do not have any rubbish, I disposed of it when I checked out of the BVIs, I know better than to bring foreign rubbish into another country. Poor Jimmy had thrown a bag away and had had to climb into the dumpster to retrieve it for the man to look through, otherwise the fine is $250,000. I checked that I could go to Puerto Rico and asked for the form, but I was told it was all US territory and I was in. I went out to my dinghy which was out of sight, half under the dock beside a fishing boat, thanks guys. The customs man had come out to watch and when he saw I was rowing he was totally mine; perhaps I could have got away without coming on the ferry for the visa waiver or maybe I could have answered yes to the terrorism question.
12.30 I arrived in Trunk Bay 18:21.294N 064:46.289W, just as Bluewater Cat were arriving with their visitors after having a little sail. St John is National Park and you have to take a buoy, although they don’t think about how I could do this into 20 knots of wind. I was going to pick the buoy up from the stern as the wind does not blow that off, but Jimmy swam over to help. I did not want to run him over, so he got on the boat and helped from there. The instructions tell you not to take a buoy from the stern, but they are not the ones having to do it. Presumably they think you will get it caught round the prop and damage their rope.
I donned wetsuit and snorkel and fins and swam over to join the others. After lunch we went on the underwater trail. I saw two turtles on the way over, but the water was a bit murky there. Over by the rocks I saw another turtle, the water was clear with the sun shining through. I followed it out and it came up to breathe between Bob and I within 2 feet of us. On the trail there were lots of tourists and not so many fish. When we got away from the visitors there were more fish, some really large ones and I saw one cuttle fish.
Bluewater Cat went off for a sail before dropping the visitors back in Cruz Bay, they are on holiday here. USVIs are very popular caribbean holidays for the US people, figures. I made some water as the batteries were full and then set off the short distance to Caneel Bay for the night. 18:20.765N 064:47.393. Jimmy was just ahead of me and came over in the dinghy to help me with the buoy, but this one did not put up a fight; it is more sheltered here.
We went ashore to pay for the moorings. You complete the details on the envelope and put the money inside and post it in a tin box. This is a system for honest people. I did not mind paying the National Park mooring, the BVI mooring money went into private pockets, except for the park ones for which you pay for a licence. We were just leaving before the rain, but the rain got there first and we had to shelter. It was a heavy downpour and my rain catcher was not out, what a waste.
Today we had agreed to go to the SE coast, but I had bad feelings about it and did not want to go; Jimmy had also changed his mind overnight and we moved to Cinammon Bay, 18:21.279N 064:45.515W. If I was plotting the positions you would be able to tell that Jimmy goes back and forth and I am determined to teach him to sail in a constant direction, not into the wind. This is the National Park Camping Ground, buildings, not tents. We went for a hike. Donna and I got out on shore and Jimmy took the dinghy back to the blue buoy and had to swim ashore. All that and Jimmy still got told off, not to tie up to that dinghy buoy. A day is never complete until Jimmy has been told off, or he gets away with it and Donna and I get caught.
In the afternoon we went to Christmas cove, St James a small island off St Thomas 18:18.678N 064:49.953W. We snorkelled, it was a place for tripper boats. I saw large starfish, not with thin points, but really chunky 5 triangle ones, just like they draw them in cartoons. I also saw a large stingray and a large spotted eagle ray, close enough to see the head that looks like and eagle with a beak. There was a tourist trying to take a photo (there’s a hint of the nationality) of a beautiful stag coral while he stomped all over the other corals with his flippers, it was very upsetting to see, but he did not understand English.
My overnight neighbour was a motor boat with a helicopter on the top deck and on the other side was a yacht with 5 sets of spreaders, posh neighbours. The yacht was especially amazing because it had no visible sign of what was anchoring it to the seabed, how does that work?
Thursday ST THOMAS, USVI
We went to Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas. 18:20.190N 064:55.541W. All the USVIs were purchased from the Danes in 1917. Tranquility were in the harbour and I drove past and said hi to Cindy before I anchored. If Jimmy can wear us out hiking and snorkelling then it is only fair that every now and then we take him on a long shopping day. I don’t buy anything, but I like to look round. There were 2 cruise ships in, like there are every day, and more than the usual quantity of jewellery shops for the visitors. What is Tanzanite? How can it be rare if every shop has it and you can get a pair of earrings for $9.99. I left Donna and Jimmy to have a Valentines lunch while I looked around the shops, but I could not decide on anything.
I have decided to start fishing. My line was not strong enough and I lost the line and my new lure.
We went to customs just to double check that we did not have to do anything to go into Puerto Rican waters. Bluewater Cat are US flagged and they just have to phone customs, UK flagged they were not sure, so I completed the clearance documents just in case. So much for my decision to start back down after the USVIs.
Friday CULEBRA, SPANISH VI
Ok, so hands up who knew these existed. They are part of Puerto Rico and they were Spanish, but were given to America as a war prize after the American-Spanish war; hands up if you knew about that war; so they are US. Do they really think that you can give Spanish speaking people to the US and expect them to like it. We went to Flamenco Beach first, as we did not have to go to customs. It was a very long, white sandy beach, but I nearly did not go in. There were lots of reefs and it was very rough. I went in and we snorkelled, walked the beach and had to swim back through the surf and heavy waves to the boat. Donna napped, clever girl. There were people walking the beach with equipment, metal detecting. This was official metal detecting, gold, silver, unexploded ammunition. The Spanish Vis were heavily used as military training areas until very recently.
After lunch we sailed to the main town, Dewey. 18:18.02N 065:18.328W. Bluewater Cat were ok by phoning in and they got a number, but I had to check in. It was gone 4.30pm when I anchored and I had to get to the airport by 5pm, this puts a strain on any afternoon sail. I was in a terribly bad mood and had to restrain myself so as not to get into trouble. There are no taxis, they just use any vehicle and fill it with people, but you do not know who is official, if anyone is. We walked to the airport, this is US, but all the signs are in Spanish and everybody speaks Spanish.
The customs official was waiting for me and I offered him my clearance from St Thomas. Very nice, but he did not want it. I had to fill in their three forms and needed a cruising permit. I could have got the permit free in St Johns if I had got an official who knew the rules, I did ask. I had to pay $37 for the permit, which he has given me for a year and I can visit any US territory or the mainland with no more fees to pay. I also have to phone customs every time I arrive in US territory, but I don’t have to check in. However I am leaving soon and need a 10 year visa to take the boat into the US.
We walked back to town, I use the word in a very generous way. There was nothing to see or do and we did not want to be there after dark. I am sure it is lovely if you are not in a bad mood when you arrive. I shall go to St Croix tomorrow and start back down.
Saturday ISLA DE VIEQUES, SPANISH VI
I was in a better mood this morning and had a good sail to the next island. Ok, just one more island before I start down. About an hour out I was visited by the Coastguard, I hoped they did not want me to stop as I was under full sail with the windvane balanced. Perhaps I could put on my 19 HP engine and outrun their 3 x 275 HP motorboat, and then again perhaps not. I did not turn the radio on and they came up beside me to read the name and then waved and left. Was I glad that I had gone to the airport and done it all properly. I could have shown them my cruising permit. These islands seem to be all reefs and shallows, which are quite scary. We anchored outside the capital, again this term is used in the most generous way.
Jimmy had caught a fish and showed me how to fillet it, now I just have to catch one.
We went ashore and walked to the fort which is also a museum. The woman on the front desk gave us the English version of the story. All the exhibits were annotated only in Spanish, US territory, not evident. There was a video of the story of the US taking over the island for military purposes and it was very obvious that it was against the wishes of the islanders and they want their land back. The documentary was in Spanish, but this was sub titled in English and explains the language and signs in the islands.
This afternoon we sailed to the anchorage on the West corner of the island. 18:06.767N 065:34.706W. The shallows on the end extend so far out that we had to sail 4 miles out and 4 miles back. A couple of boats cut straight across, but I did not have a pilot book telling me and did not want to take the risk, but they must have saved at least 5 miles. There were some small dolphins in the bay. We anchored and after dinner we went night snorkelling, it had to be done before I leave.
Sunday PUERTO RICO
I was not going to Puerto Rico, I was definitely starting back down, no matter what. 9.00 I set off for Puerto Rico, but this is the very, very last one.
Just as we were in the buoyed channel, with rocks and shallows around us we got a 30 knot, gale force squall. I got the main down, but the genoa wrapped itself round the forestay. It was raining very hard and visibility was nearly zero, so I put the radar on. All in all it was not very nice, but I came out the other side and made it to the anchorage. 18:20.113N 065:37.314W. Now if I had known I was going I would have left earlier and I would have been in before the squall hit.