Racing, Rocking and Rolling
The BVI Spring Regatta was held at the beginning of April. Marketed as 3 days of racing in the sheltered waters of the British Virgin Islands it sounded like just the ticket to satisfy skippers racing urges for a little while longer. We anchored off Road Town, the main town on the island of Tortola, close to Hotel California Too, the Santa Cruz 70 that Mark was crewing on for the regatta.
We had heard such good reports of the anchorages in the BVIs, most offered sheltered bays tucked away behind islands or reefs with gentle breezes and flat seas. This, quite clearly, was not one of them!! We had a period of very unsettled weather - accelerated trade winds howled through the anchorage making it very bouncy and rolly, constant squalls with heavy downpours and stronger winds brought choppy seas and to top it off we were on the main thoroughfare to the marinas. Now you wouldn’t think we could get much wake from marina traffic but this is the Moorings and Sunsail Charter Yacht Base, and I understand this is the largest charter fleet in the world. We are not talking busy, it was manic.
While Mark enjoyed 3 days of wet, boisterous racing with Hotel California Too once again taking line honours in every race, I endured the anchorage even unable to take much respite ashore as the weather was so awful, c’est la vie! Once the racing ended we were able to squeeze into the inner lagoon anchorage, less than 100 metres away but flat, flat flat – at last we could actually enjoy Road Town.
Unscheduled Fireworks Display
One night we were awakened by blue flashing lights and sirens. On checking what the disturbance was it was clear a large fire was underway. From our view point it appeared to be a large motor yacht in nearby Village Cay Marina, but it was actually an adjacent restaurant on land - the fire took hold quickly as it was fed by steady winds.
The marina came alive with activity at 4am, most yachts with crew onboard departed as flames and cinders bore down on them. Luckily we were above the wind line as we had no desire to surrender our coveted position and return back out to the larger lumpy anchorage. Next morning we surveyed the damage, the restaurant was just a pile of charcoal, several yachts that had not moved had blistered paint, burnt decks and holes in canvas work; all in all quite a mess.
Moving On To Island Time
When the weather settled we moved on from Road Town and started enjoying quieter bays – yes there are literally 100’s of charter yachts around but there are plenty of anchorages to go around, even some empty ones. We stayed a few nights in peaceful Benures Bay on Norman Island with a handful of others. The only disturbances were the dawn chorus of land birds, the incredible splashes made by the pelicans as they dove down to catch dinner and the expelling of breath of the turtles as they surface from the incredibly clear water - magic.
We moved on a few miles to adjacent Peter Island and anchored in front of all the mooring balls in Great Harbour. We had come to meet up with our Canadian friends Gordon and Ginny who we first met in Darwin in 2006 while they were cruising on their yacht Ascension. We travelled many miles with them and last saw them in Greece in June 2009. They are now based in the BVIs and run a beautiful 56foot catamaran Copper Penny available for charter. We were lucky to catch up between charters, the intervening 5 years vanished in a blink and we had a couple of fun days with them just like old times.
Even More Reunions
We made our way up to Virgin Gorda, we even shook the cobwebs out of the main and had a pleasant sail with only a few tacks to avoid the odd island that got in our way. We anchored in North Sound by Macushla then the next day Serafina arrived too as planned.
I don’t think we have ever had a season where we have kept meeting up with so many boats we know, some we haven’t seen for years. Another one of these was fellow kiwis Martha and Bryce on Silver Fern, not seen since Thailand 2007. Mark and Bryce had many a rum and beer while discussing and dissecting last summers Americas Cup, a raw subject still for both of them.
This long term cruisers community we are part of is a small one spread over all the oceans of the world, it is very special when we come together, even for a short time and have the chance to catch up and share our stories. Then we say our sad farewells and wonder when or if we will next see each other.
We sat out strong winds in North Sound for a week, the charterers came and went daily, the cruisers stayed put. The charterers provide ongoing entertainment - trying to master the art of picking up mooring balls without losing their boat hooks overboard or breaking them in two; putting up or dropping mainsails without going to windward and just the simple things like how to get in and out of the dinghy without falling overboard. All good stuff!
Easily Whiling Away the Days
The windy week passed in a blur, could that have been due to an excess of Painkillers, the local Virgin Islands rum cocktail? There did seem to be daily gatherings either on someone’s yacht, on the beach or at the bar on Saba Rock or the Bitter End Yacht Club. So many boats, so many happy hours!!
We did fit in an excellent walk one morning that provided an outstanding vista of North Sound and the neighbouring islands owned by the rich and famous.
As with all good parties this too could not go on forever, Silver Fern headed west to the US Virgins, Macushla set sail east to St Barths, Serafina headed back to the US Virgins for watermaker repairs and Balvenie stayed for a couple more days.