Writing this now at the end of July and after a 10 day haul out in Grenada the BVI’s in late April seem many adventures ago.
Arriving in the beautiful BVI’s it was quickly apparent why this place is an iconic destination. The brochure promises beautiful white sandy beaches, plenty of sheltered bays and a large selection of islands all clustered together and whispered over by the trade winds. And this time the advertising is correct, this place is amazing.
Welcome to the BVI’s as we ran the channel inside Necker Is, one of Brandson’s private resort islands complete with sandbank decorated with three fake palms. The first stop was Gorda Sound to check in at customs. After formalities Prickly Pear Is was our first beach stop. Ahhhh, Lovely.
We met the cool crew from SV Safari on the beach as the kids had fun collecting the large hermit crabs. We were sorry our paths crossed so briefly and their lovely leopard cat is on the market. It’s surprising how few Kiwi boats we see in our travels. SV Dolselene came aboard for sundowners and kindly passed on their suggested places to see and tips. Odd to hear Kiwi accents after so long.
Evening boat gymnastics. Otherwise known as how to make Dad proud and Mum nervous.
The amount of sea life here is good to see. While the turtles are shy there is lots of fish activity. This school was going mad chasing bait fish. The noise was incredible as they drummed on the boat and thrashed the surface to a boil.
All flashed up and off to Saba Rock which is a tiny island developed into a fancy resort.
Every 5pm the kitchen scraps are fed to their semi tame very large tarpon. Quite a good show including brow beating an American tourist to swim amongst them as they were fed. They also have a cool aquarium with a huge moray eel that fascinated the kids.
Being cruisers we timed it for happy hour as well as their fish feeding. Their painkiller rum punch was so good we needed to try it again. And then needed it after paying the bill even from happy hour… We now had their wifi code so moved the boat closer to raid their signal the next day.
We had last seen our Australian friends on SV Jojo way up the Sibenik river in Croatia so it was great to catch up again. Paddleboards make awesome toys for kids.
Tucked behind the reef in Savannah Bay was a lovely spot. Off the charter boat trail it was almost deserted. We were often the only boat in the whole bay enjoying the white sandy beach a swim away through the warm clear water. Here the kids have invented a new game swinging on loose halyards.
What!? How dare you park that multi level condomaran right next to us in our private bay! Never mind, they are a charter boat and only stopping for lunch as they rush around on their tight holiday schedule.
One of Boston’s projects proudly on display. His question; did dinosaurs die so humans could live?
One of the must do’s in the BVI is The Baths. An adventurous dinghy ride down from Savannah Bay brought us to this cool place.
It’s hard to get facebook pictures in the Baths when one of the many guided tours are passing…
It’s hard to get good photos even without the tours but here are a few attempts. We had great fun exploring through the tunnels and mini beaches. Very hot day meant after a few hours it was rest time.
On the dinghy ride down we noticed that the mooring off the baths were packed and notorious for charter boats jostling to get the last available ones. But Spring Bay right next door was deserted? It has a bigger sandy beach and the same rock formations but there is no one there. I have a plan…
We spent several days chilling in this amazing place. Here looking north is our paradise. Looking south is the crowded baths.
Swimming to check the anchor was good in the small path of sand close to the beach I was surprised to find a school of reef fish fighting over the almost non-existent growth on the hulls.
Not a bad classroom. Still the hardest part of cruising is teaching your own kids. Good days are getting more frequent but still depend on everyone’s energy levels. (read moods)
Cool to be a short swim away from the beach. The kids made a fort amongst the rocks and spent hours playing.
Cheeseburger flavoured Pringles just had to be sampled. Yes, they really taste like cheeseburgers!
The baths are just around the rocky point top centre in the photo and before the island above the red bouy. So close, the same geography, but a world apart.
Amelia’s research project from her question: Why are coral reefs dying? It’s been great watching the kids growing appreciation for nature and how we can protect and enhance it by the choices we make.
Next stop was Manchineel Bay on Cooper Is for some entertainment watching charter boat antics. This bay is very popular and the moorings fill up fast. Rather than join the competition to pay for a mooring we anchored in 16m on the edge of the mooring field next to Cistern Pt and its renowned snorkelling and sat back to watch the show. With a little bit of maintenance on the foredeck trampoline thrown in because it was too early for a spot of rum. You know the water is clear when you can see the anchor clearly 16m down and the stingray next to it. Makes swimming on the anchor a pleasure. The snorkelling was pretty good, but most of the charter boats seemed to be here as it was on the itinerary for the expensive beach bars, restaurants and to be seen.
A couple of nights later we made the short, like 30min short, run down to the imaginatively named Salt Is. No prizes for guessing what this island produced. The cartographer must have been having an off day as we stopped in Salt Is Bay. The other options being South Bay and Lee Bay on their respective sides of the island. The island was much more interesting than the names suggest with a narrow scrubby isthmus with mostly abandoned structures on the edge of the natural salt ponds.
Amelia got very upset at the amount of dead bees we found amongst the salt on the edge of the ponds. The count got to over seventy on the small portion we walked before becoming overwhelming.
Scrambling up the harsh rocky terrain to a hilltop was rewarded with a breath taking panorama.
We pulled into Fat Hogs Bay for some provisioning and washing chores. Loving the supermarket with a dinghy dock! Here is some of the local street scenes that don’t make it into the tourist brochure as I track down large bins and fuel station. Squint and Drakkar is above the drainage channel.
Stocked up again we were off that afternoon with a lovely downwind sail to Privateer Bay on Norman Is. Good fun racing a large fancy keeler motoring hard to try and beat us and flying past another cat. Compulsory sunset shot, this one looking over the US Virgins.
The reason for this stop and all the tour boats were some caves to snorkel into. Somewhat spooky and glad we had the big dive torch. Tourists at the same time were also glad we had a torch as it got very dark around the corner and the water smelled funny…
Still amazed how close everything is here as we sailed through the narrow channel between the British and US Vrigins headed for a lunch stop off the park island Sandy Cay. Beautiful! Kids and I swam ashore to explore. We lost Amelia in the interior for a while as she hunted the big lizards and hermit crabs.
Tucking up under Little Jost Van Dyke and Sandy Spit we had our own deserted island. Very Cool! Such an awesome spot we lingered here for a while. It made me quite jealous of our friends crossing the Pacific as this sort of islands from paradise will be their normal rather than our exception.
Sandcastle championship time on Sandy Spit during the morning run ashore before charter boats arrived.
Charter boat driver had me worried enough to start filming. He was a bit worried too when he worked out how close he was and I could see the whites of his eyes as he grabbed a handful of throttle to try and clear us… Sandy Spit is just visible over his bow.
Firewood is a bit scarce for Explorer Is style bonfire marshmallows so BBQ time it is. Yum…
We hiked out to the Bubby Pool on another very hot day. The swell was a bit quiet to make it properly exciting but a good trip.
One of the kid’s passions is trying to save as many bees as they can. Here Boston has pulled a waterlogged one out of the sea before placing him on a tree to dry out.
Despite the hordes of charter boats you can still find secluded anchorages. We were here in Little Bay on northern Tortola for two nights by ourselves and hardly a person on the beach.
The sandy beach of White Bay across the channel on the private Guana Is tempted us over. Here Boston is saying his catch cry “how much longer will you be Dad?” as I raid the hotels unsecured wifi. Long enough for the kids to get beached out and need a run back to the boat and then the day shift boss to arrive and ask not too politely for me to not sit in front of their expensive resort using their wifi. Good thing I had done everything by then. With local sim cards not easy we relied on wifi where we could find it for weather and communications with pretty good success. The guide book was not clear if the mooring in this bay needed to be paid or not so for the first time we picked on up. At 5pm a boat made his way through the mooring field collecting money. We were last and I was curious how much it would be, USD 30! You have to be joking. So in 5 min we had dropped the ball and moved 100 feet back to sit on our anchor for free. I am sure I heard the wallets of the other 6 boats groaning as they watched us.
We had been told that the full moon party was very kids friendly and not to be missed. He we are in Trellis Bay as it fills up getting ready.
The party was great with steel fire sculptures scattered amongst the beach bars and art galleries.
The dancers on stilts put on a great show and had Amelia up dancing in front of the crowd. Awesome!
Trying to capture the kids entranced by the fire dancers under the palm trees and full moon.
That night there was a massive thunder storm right on top of us. Thankfully we were in the best place possible packed into a small bay surrounded by lots of boats. I slept quite well figuring the odds of us being hit we about as low as they were going to get with so many close neighbours. Quite a change from being chased by a thunderstorm at midnight halfway between Greece and Sicily! Why do they so often strike in the middle of the night?
As a weather window opened our time was up as we decided to start heading back south to hide from the hurricane season. The BVI’s will be as far up the chain we get on this trip. We would love to come back as there is still so much to explore this way. Here we are at dusk on the first leg pushing back into the trade winds to get down island. Its a long drive from the BVI’s to St Martin motoring into light headwinds. Thank goodness for big strong motors making it an easy option.