18 26 400N 64 45 100W
After the thrill of seeing the whales, we spent a couple of glorious days anchored by a reef tucked behind a rocky headland at Long Bay on the NE corner of Virgin Gorda. The weather was very settled and hot so we snorkelled several times a day. The water was quite cloudy where we had anchored over sand, but just a few yards off the boat and onto the reef rewarded us with an array of tropical fish to swim amongst. The weather unfortunately soon changed, with winds forecast to increase to the mid 20’s and a northerly swell of 6ft due to arrive at midnight, we pondered over whether we had enough protection where we were.
The winds became fluky, swirling around the hills and coming at all directions, so at 9.30pm we made the decision to move to Gorda Sound where we knew we would be sheltered. As we prepared to lift the anchor we noticed some rather large shadows in the water, shining the torch we could see three reef sharks circling around by the side of the boat. I went forward to lift the anchor and a fourth large shark broke the surface and went under – it was the size of a dolphin! As the anchor chain came up, they circled around the chain as if waiting for dinner. Not a good time for a man over board I thought as I held on to the pulpit tightly!
Reassuringly the entrance into Gorda Sound is buoyed so we could be sure that our approach through the reef was accurate, and once inside there is plenty of water so we anchored close to where we had been a few days earlier near Leverick Bay. Not a very exciting place to be, but absolutely no swell got past the reef by Mosquito Island and the wind was from a constant direction so we were comfortable.
We stayed put until Saturday when conditions improved and we decided to head down to maybe Cooper or Peter Island and meet up with Steven from Amaris who was also heading that way. We caught up with Amaris as we sailed down the west coast of Gorda and past ‘The Baths’ and both headed for our intended hideaway on the south side of Cooper Island. When we arrived it was a stunning little bay with quite deep water until very close to shore. There was unfortunately swell arriving from the south and the wind from the east which meant roll for poor Joy whilst Amaris being a catamaran would sit comfortably, but with a lee shore we all decided that we would be rather exposed there and we would continue to Peter Island a few miles to the west. We arrived at Great Harbour on Peter Island after a nose in at a very rolly Deadmans Bay on the way, and whilst the wind was blowing strong we were pleased to find no swell. It is a large and very deep natural harbour surrounded by hills with a small beach on the west and eastern corners and quite a few mooring buoys on the fringes charging $30 a night. Our problem was finding shallow enough water as most of the bay is 20+ meters deep which requires rather a lot of scope on the chain. The shallower parts had either already been taken or had mooring buoys so we eventually dropped the hook in 27 meters, probably the deepest we have anchored before! So, all of our 105 metres of chain later and we discovered a chain locker full of hydraulic oil, some of which deposited on the deck as the chain came out. We therefore decided to let the remaining 30 metres of warp out too in order to mop out the locker and clean the deck. What a mess! Jez had fixed the leak in St Martin but because we usually get to a maximum of about 50 metres of chain, we had no idea of the state of the remaining 55 in the locker. So a few beers were in order and fish supper with Steven after the clear up.
The following day we received an email from Steve and Ange on Pannikin, they were headed to Great Harbour and wondered where we were! Coincidence indeed! It was great to see them healed over entering the harbour, we haven’t seen these guys for over a month.
As a few boats had left that morning from the shallower parts, we hauled anchor and moved in closer by the beach. We were still anchored in 16 metres but only a couple of boat lengths away from some fabulous snorkelling. The rocks and reefs around the coast line is home to hundreds of different species of fish and we had great fun snorkelling and drifting through thousands of tiny juvenile fish that swayed in the current moving in synchronised formations, it was a surreal experience being completely surrounded by them. Pelicans dive and catch fish right by you snorkelling, raising your mask above the waterline you then see them drain the water from their beak before swallowing their snack. Peter Island is a private island and has no shops, so in need of essential provisions (i.e. beer) we had a day trip on Pannikin over to Road Town, Tortola, just about 4 miles north of where we were, leaving Joy and Amaris on Peter Island. We found a great wine merchant quite close to the dinghy dock and with a special offer on Red Stripe Lager we all decided to stock up for a bit. Three full trolley loads later, Steven’s dinghy (now named Chatty Charles) was very much struggling to stay above the water line.. 15 cartons of beer (24’s), 1 carton of cider, 3 boxes of wine and 2 bottles of vodka...oh and three men in a boat. Happy Days!
Now fully stocked with beer, the boys could turn their attention to fixing Mr Slappy who had sprung a few leaks in sympathy with Baby Joy (I know, integrating back into normal society is going to be tough), so a bit of gluing and patching was in order. Our outboard needed a bit of attention too, a valve had got stuck in the carburettor making it over rev, so a strip down and TLC solved the problem.
We have enjoyed a wonderful week of great weather, fab snorkelling, and top company. We had all decided to head off yesterday, towards the island of Jos Van Dyke north of Tortola. The weather has started to change again with lots of squalls and gusts and another ground swell on the way. Jez and I hoisted the mizzen before going forward to lift the anchor, and noticed Steve shouting at us and pointing behind. Looking back we saw our mizzen flapping on the aft deck – the halyard (the rope that hoists the sail) had given way above the splice and then disappeared inside the mast! Just as we were deciding what to do with it, Steven from Amaris arrived in his dinghy concerned about his own disaster. As he was lifting his anchor a gust dragged him onto a mooring buoy, tangling the anchor warp on the buoy. On a lee shore and in gusty conditions he attached himself to the buoy to save himself, but desperately needed help untangling the mess. He helped us refurl the mizzen sail into the boom and then we picked up Steve from Pannikin and headed back to Amaris. Luckily the chain and anchor had not fouled with the buoy fixings, so after getting the warp unwrapped and a bit of jiggling he got clear of the buoy safely and lifted his anchor. We attached him to a buoy closer to Joy and then went back to Joy to hoist Jez up the mast to retrieve the halyard, not as easy as hoped. It had to be pulled completely out the mast from the bottom, then a fishing line with weights dropped from the top, once retrieved out of the bottom it was attached to a leader line which pulled the halyard back up the mast and out the top again!
Our departure from Peter Island was now some three hours later than scheduled, and just as I lifted the anchor a squall came through hitting us with hard rain and strong wind. Soaked to the skin we headed west cursing the Caribbean weather! We sailed around Tortola and headed north on a close reach with a fair current against us, and as we approached our anchorage we noticed Pannikin having trouble furling their headsail in the gusty conditions. Their furling line had jammed and they eventually decided to drop the sail on the deck and tie it down. Well, that was the third disaster of the day!
We anchored up in Little Harbour on Jos Van Dyke, holding is not good here as the sea bed is hard coral sand and the anchor wasn’t keen on digging in first go. The gusty conditions are due to stay with us for a few days so we will stay on this lovely little Island until then.
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