Tortola BVI

Phil Pascoe
Wed 6 May 2009 11:11

18:26.79N 64:31,65W
Trellis Bay, NE Tortola, BVIs – 24 April 2009
It was a relief to have reached the BVIs, as all the distances we needed to cover now were no more than a few miles, and we had five days before Paula was due to fly home.  As mentioned in the last blog, we started our mini cruise of the BVIs in North Sound at the top end of Virgin Gorda.  This was sheltered and attractive, with a few luxury resorts and restaurants dotted round.  We enjoyed a walk ashore – the resorts were fairly quiet, and some of the restaurants were temporarily closed, but some of the watersports available were being enjoyed by the residents.  We were surprised that the islands were not developed to a greater extent, and apart from the resorts, just consisted of scrubby vegetation, an assortment of small trees and cacti, with lots of lizards.  This we found was pretty typical of the BVIs and I suppose is one of the main attractions – they remain relatively unspoilt.
On our second day we had a leisurely downwind sail (genoa only) to St. Thomas Bay and Spanish Town, the capital of Virgin Gorda.  By the time we arrived at the marina to fill with water, we were too late to clear in at customs, so we went down to the Baths at the southern end of the island (a ‘must see’ of the BVIs) to check them out.  These are huge granite boulders, interspersed with golden sand beaches – all very attractive, and a bit like Dartmoor by the sea, or the coasts of Cornwall or Brittany, but a lot warmer.  The National Park mooring buoys were for day stops only, the swell and the surf on the beach didn’t make anchoring or going ashore attractive so we returned to the anchorage south of Colison Point, near to the dock and the customs office.  In the morning, clearing in through customs and immigration went smoothly and wasn’t too expensive.  Then we set off to check out the shops at the marina and possibly walk to the Baths (1 to 2 miles).  All pretty expensive, as expected, but it’s a pleasant and clean place.  It was a long, hot walk to the Baths, only to find that, if entered by land, there was an entry fee of $4 – we were too tight to pay it, and walked back to Spring Bay only a few hundred metres along and viewed the area from there.  Then it was back to town, stopping at quite a good Cash & Carry to restock (two cases of beer, 6 bottles of wine and 3 bottles of gin – the food wasn’t very attractive) and we even got them to deliver the grog and us to the dock. 
The next plan was to check out Trellis Bay on Tortola, which was right next to the airport and only a short hop across from Virgin Gorda.  It was pretty crowded and almost full of mooring buoys that cost $25/night.  These buoys are professionally laid and maintained and are common in most of the more popular bays in the BVIs, and of course are often taken up by all the charter yachts, many of which are Catamarans.  However, $25 is a bit steep for Sea Gypsies like us, so we headed onto a nearby anchorage off Guana Island, which had to ourselves.  The following day we returned to Trellis Bay, picked up one of the moorings and went ashore.  A pleasant enough place, 3 or 4 restaurants/bars, a few art/craft/clothes shops and a very small supermarket – not somewhere one would wish to provision a boat, but it is obviously a popular spot, possibly because the airport is literally 3 minutes walk from the beach – so this will be the place for Paula to depart and to wait for Dave and Pete to arrive.  We were actually offered a private mooring by a resident Brit who ran the Cyber café and restaurant at a much discounted rate – we agreed to check it out when we returned.
Later the same day we cruised down the south coast of Tortola to capital, Road Harbour or Road Town.  This is a fairly large natural harbour, not dissimilar to Plymouth or Falmouth, with several marinas and a cruise ship dock – there were 3 cruise ships there when we arrived.  It’s the Yacht Charter centre for the BVIs.  We anchored on the west side N. of Burt Point and rowed the dinghy to the nearest marina to explore.  The first supermarket, which was recommended in our cruising guide, was not brilliant and I was not optimistic that we would be able to provision the boat for a Trans-Atlantic crossing in the BVIs – the choice and price of the usual food was grim.
The town itself was fairly busy, lots of traffic and the usual touristy shops for the Cruise liner clients.  We found the famous Pussers bar and enjoyed a ‘happy hour’ beer or two and some good food, which was actually pretty good value overall.  Their happy hour lasts from 4 until 7pm and the drinks are half price (beers $1.50 rather than 3, unlike many places which just knock off a dollar) – now that’s my kind of happy hour!  They also have daily specials from the food menu – highly recommended. 
The following day we discovered a couple of better, well-stocked supermarkets and I started to feel better about the BVIs as a cruising ground and for stocking the boat for the return trip.  This was Paula’s last full day – we returned upwind to Trellis Bay, by two long tacks out to Salt Island and back – good sailing, if a little brisk.  In Trellis Bay we found that the mooring we had been offered was not only in pretty shallow water (echo sounder touched zero as we circled it), but there was a big Moorings chartered catamaran anchored right next to it – Americans, obviously – what a plonker.  I pointed out that he had rendered two private moorings unusable by anchoring there (you tosser), and moved further out in the bay where luckily we found a tight, but adequate spot to anchor.  Well that’s it – no more sailing for Paula, and a few days rest for me, phew. 
We spent the evening and following morning on the boat and left in good time for the airport just in case of problems.  It all went smoothly, I returned to the boat and started preparing for some long awaited maintenance, but kept an eye on the time for Paula’s flight.  Her LIAT plane flew out on time and passed over the boat, I waved – I didn’t envy her the journey, but at least it’s a bit quicker than sailing home!  Thanks for all your help, for the fourth time on this Odyssey Paula – see you in June.
I returned to my chores – winches and engine servicing.

Pics:  Relaxation.  Baby mangroves.

Gorda (North) Sound.  The Baths, Virging Gorda.

Bon Voyage Paula, no need to look so happy!  Winch maintenance.