Snow Leopard
Sat 16 Jan 2010 03:02

Tortola, British Virgin Islands   18:23.9N 64:38.16W


One of the reasons to get to the Virgin Islands by the New Year was to welcome in Geoff Holt, a quadriplegic sailor who was crossing the Atlantic. Although there were two others on board (a personal carer and a media correspondent, Geoff was attempting to do all the sailing himself. The trip had been plagued with difficulties and instead of the original e.t.a. of 27th December it now looked like he would not arrive until 7th January, so we had some time to cruise around the BVIs before his arrival. Colin Bramble was organising the reception for Geoff in the BVIs and through him we met John Beardsley and his delightful partner Gill. John is the Commodore of the Royal Southern Yacht Club in Hamble, and was there to greet Geoff, a club member. A keen sailor John jumped at the chance to come day sailing for a few days. He and Gilly were fantastic company and we laughed a great deal over many classes of red wine and several G&Ts. We also spent time with Geoff’s wife, Elaine and their 7 year-old son, Tim. Again both great company.


John Beardsley, Commodore of the Royal Southern Yacht Club, in ‘relaxed’ mode


We took John and Gilly over to Green Island, off Jost van Dyke (great names these islands – later we sailed up Drakes Passage to Sopers Hole!). The reef at Green island was fantastic with some wonderful snorkelling. There were huge balls of literally millions of fish, which attracted in some very large fish indeed. When you come face to face with a 7ft Tarpon, your heart skips a beat, as it does when a pelican dives in three feet in front of you.


We spent a few days moored at Sopers Hole at the west end of Tortola from which John drove us all over the island, cooked a fabulous barbeque and drank more red wine.


Geoff Holt finally arrived on Thursday 7th January to a tremendous reception. That night on the quay there was a great party attended by the Governor and the Deputy Premier of the BVIs. We were enjoying ourselves immensely with lots of great company, including the lovely Susannah, Geoff’s carer on the crossing. More drinks, though now mostly rum based: rum and tonic, rum punch and a lethal cocktail called a painkiller.


Geoff Holt, sailing ‘Impossible Dream’ arriving in the British Virgin Islands


A very happy Geoff Holt


The Governor of the British Virgin Islands with Digby, the media man, and Susannah, Geoff’s personal carer, who both accompanied him on the Atlantic Crossing



As there is a degree of friendly rivalry between John’s club, the Royal Southern Yacht Club and ours, the Royal Southampton Yacht Club, I did suggest he could hoist his club burgee  - but below that of the Royal Southampton. This he resolutely refused to do. When we went out to greet Geoff I allowed him to hoist his club burgee, but only on the condition that afterwards we would raise our Royal Southampton burgee. John obviously realised that I would take this opportunity to photograph the Commodore of the Royal Southern raising his opposition’s flag so tried to hoist it upside down. Unfortunately he got a fit of the giggles (so unbecoming for a club Commodore) and we spotted the ruse.


John Beardsley attempting to hoist the Royal Southampton YC burgee upside down.



Having been caught in the act, John is now having to the job properly!


Next day our friends Mike Browne and Martine arrived. Mike is the owner of the catamaran ‘Impossible Dream’ that Geoff had sailed across the Atlantic. It was great to see them again. We were planning to go through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific later in the year in company with Mike and Martine, but, as happens, various things have cropped up in their lives to make this unlikely, although I’m still working on Mike.


The following day friends from Devon, Peter and Jean Arkwright flew in, albeit 3 hours late, having missed a connection in San Juan, Puerto Rico (Thank you Colin for the use of your car). Now we could start exploring more of the BVIs. The car registration plates claim that the Virgin Islands are ‘natures little secret’ and they are delightful. The area is full of boats, with the largest charter fleets in the world and there is nothing like the cockpit theatre, watching bareboat charterers attempting to pick up a mooring or, God forbid, trying to anchor.


With Peter and Jean on board we once more headed of to Jost Van Dyke and spent the night in a delightful, peaceful anchorage at Diamond Cay (there were only 6 boats in the anchorage so you can find quiet corners in the BVIs despite the large number of boats. Dinner ashore at Foxy’s Taboo restaurant was followed next morning with a stroll along the beach, around the lagoon to the ‘Bubble Bath’ a rock pool continually filled by breaking waves.


After another excellent snorkel stop at Monkey Point on Guana Island (see what I mean by great names), we anchored that night at Marina Cay followed next day by a sail to Virgin Gorda and an excellent dinner at The Saba Rock restaurant.


With a following breeze we decided to sail over to Anagada, a flat coral island unlike all the other very hilly islands. Anagada is famous for their lobsters and the ones we had barbequed for us that evening did not disappoint. The same can we said of the mosquitoes and sand flies, so after dinner it was a hasty retreat to the boat to stop being bitten.


Back to Nanny Quay, Tortola and a chance for Peter and Jean to explore the island. Unfortunately it poured with rain all day, but to make up for it we were all invited to a cocktail party at the Governor’s Residence to celebrate Geoff’s arrival, topped off with the Governor’s chauffeur driving us back to Nanny Cay.