The British Virgin Islands

Halsway Grace
Robin and Sue carter
Sat 30 Mar 2013 17:00
18.30,15N 64.21,60W
Bitter End, Virgin Gorda

Happy Easter to all our friends and families!
All good intentions......
In fact I can't quite remember when we last sent an update so forgive me if you've heard some of this before!
We have now been in the BVIS for nearly two weeks. We left St Kitts and then stayed in Sint Maarten for a couple of nights and realised we had left the classic relatively unspoiled
Caribbean islands behind and had now entered a more Americanised world. Not only were US$ the currency, everything was much more expensive unless you needed to buy duty free marine outboards or lots of booze which we didn't. There were traffic jams and that was not only with cars. We were severely scolded by the lifting bridge master when we slowed down because the boat in front of us was doing a reverse park. The boats were huge, many mega yachts waiting to be chartered at many thousands of dollars a week. In the capital, Philipsburg there were 3 cruise liners towering over the town. This tiny island (7 miles long) is actually split between two nations, the northern half is French , the southern ,Dutch and they have their distinct cultures. We only stayed for long enough to restock and prepare for an overnight trip to the Virgins.
That trip was uneventful apart of the frustration of having to reduce sail as we were going too fast and would arrive before daylight.
The Virgin Islands, split between the Spanish in the west, US in the middle and British in the east are a chain of islands with near constant winds, no tide and lots of anchorages with reefs for diving and snorkelling on. Hence they are popular with charter fleets with as many as ten companies operating from the BVIS alone. It is however still possible to find secluded anchorages as many places are off limits to charter yachts. Much of the area is covered by marine parks to protect the coral and mooring 'balls' are provided, at a price of $30 per night!
Anegada is a remote island 16 miles north of the main chain approached through a shallow reef to a deeper anchorage. The way in is further complicated by the fact that none of the information on our chart plotter, the pilot guide or the navigational buoys match each other! We threaded our way in very slowly with a lookout on the bow and still managed to touch bottom briefly, luckily in a sandy patch. As Anegada is only 28 feet high we thought it would be a doddle to cycle around and so we and our friends Hazel and Tony from Longbow got out our respective Brompton bikes and set off to Loblolly Bay. Yes it is flat but there is no shade and it is incredibly boring apart from the good beaches on the north and west coast. Added to that the concrete roads frequently turn into sandy tracks with are not conducive to cycling. And we had our first ever puncture, Robins rear wheel popped as we were trying to take a short cut. Luckily he was prepared, out came the repair kit, new inner tube and bobs your uncle. But the beaches were worth it, miles of sand all to ourselves. Anegada is famous for its spiny lobsters and I had a delightful first experience of eating them, taken from the sea that afternoon, cooked over a wood fuelled BBQ in old oil drums on the beach and eaten on the shore by candle and moonlight, delicious!
We came back to the main islands after a couple of days and spent some time in the marine parks with rays and turtles swimming under the boat and lots of reef fish. Trellis Bay has a thriving artisan community with shops selling their wares, jewellery, paintings, pottery, copper sculptures. We joined them for the Full Moon Party they have each month on the beach with a BBQ, live music, jumblies and lots of fire including statues filled with wood set alight off the beach.
We are now in the far east of the chain, hence 'Bitter End', preparing towards our long sail to Cuba with Annie and Jon who arrive on 8th April. This will be about a 600 mile trip until we make landfall and then internet will be patchy so not sure when we may have chance to write again. We are now filling every space with a month's supply of food as it is hard to come by in Cuba and we hope we won't have too much of it confiscated by the over zealous authorities looking for a backhander. The island next to us is Richard Branson's private 'Necker Island' but we haven't seen the golden flowing locks. It looks as if some of the buildings are being repaired, maybe after the fire last year?
The local  rum punch is called a 'Painkiller', most palatable!
We are attaching a photo of a boat which had been dismasted and was sailing/motoring with a jury rig from Antigua to Sint Maarten. He declined all offers of help.
Also is a shot of the local pub. Patrons add a bit of driftwood with a suitably inscribed message when they visit. Perhaps we could add to the decor at the Kings Head?

We hope this finds you in good fettle. Let us know your news.

Lots of love
Sue and Robin

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