Time for Some Island Hopping
After catching up on sleep, chores and internet we finally left Saba Rock in North Sound on Virgin Gorda and started heading westwards, not the preferred direction when our plans are to head east and south down the Caribbean Chain for the next few months but we still had so much to see in the BVI’s and we were pencilling in Carnival in the USVI’s early May – so backwards it was.
The huge benefit was, after going to windward all season, we finally got to sail off downwind, what a treat! First stop was Trellis Bay on Beef Island, a popular anchorage as it is adjacent to the airport and has regular ferries to all the other islands. We had had the Tuesday night entertainment at the Last Resort recommended, but just our luck, due to Easter there was no music so we missed out. Unfortunately the planes and ferries didn't stop - it wasn't one of our quieter nights.
Trellis Bay is known in the BVI’s for its wild full moon parties (which we had passed on the previous week, think we are getting too old for “wild”!) The settlement ashore was quite a funky tiny place with a few shacky beach bars, a couple of arty shops and some interesting sculptures on the beach.
From the Depths to the Heights
We sailed along the top of Tortola and stopped for coffee and snorkeling at Monkey Point on Guana Island, a small National Park daytime mooring field. We were lucky to find a vacant buoy, got our flippers and snorkels out and jumped overboard. It wasn’t a spectacular snorkelling site but the best we had seen in quite some time with an interesting variety of fish, some species we weren’t familiar with. We saw an octopus, only the 3rd we have ever seen (and we hadn’t taken the camera!) so that was a bonus then we swam through clouds of tiny fish, thousands of them clustered together close to the rocks, presumably hiding from their predators.
We spent a few nights in lovely Cane Garden Bay, clear waters, golden sandy beach, palms swaying in the breeze, steep to hills covered in tropical vegetation provided a stunning rich background, a top spot. Apparently this opinion is shared by the tour operators who offer it as a half day excursion to cruise ship passengers – about 1000 white plastic sun loungers were stacked in piles ready for deployment and rental the minute the hordes arrived for their BVIs “beach experience”.
But for those of us who spend our days at sea the attraction here for us was to head for the hills. We had met up in the anchorage with Canadians Janet and Jeff on Truant III who we first saw back up in Newport, Rhode Island over summer. They had been recommended a hike up on the top of Tortola within the National Park and invited us to join them.
It was a hot steamy day so we did cheat just a little and took a taxi to the National Park entry, this would have been a serious uphill slog, even the 4x4 struggled in parts. At the top we were given a map of the trails and off we set. We were all amazed by the verdant forest and lush surroundings, this is in total contrast to the dry vegetation we have seen on the other neighbouring islands and it is was an absolute delight to hear the birdlife, see and smell the thick rain forest and hike through such picturesque and shaded surroundings.
We spent about 3 hours on the various trails in the park and summited Tortola, no grand vista from the highest point, just wonderful mature trees supporting a truly diverse ecosystem up high in the forest.
Rum Tasting Before Lunch!!
We took the taxi again, think that descending would have been even harder on the legs than going up! We disembarked back at the start of Cane Garden Bay and went off to explore the rather “quaint” Callwood Rum Distillery, home of Arundel Cane Rum.
This is what could be termed either a boutique distillery, cottage industry or just a distillery where time has stood still since the 19th century - everything certainly appeared to be in its “original condition!!” We had a wander round this interesting rustic operation, out in the back yard under a heavily laden mango tree we found the press that extracts the juice from the sugar cane .
Out front the fire was being stoked, a big pot suspended above with secret ingredients bubbling away. Inside where skipper partook in some tasting the layers of dust everywhere really did look quite authentic, it was just great. It’s the oldest continuously operating pot distillery in the Caribbean, we suspect very little has changed in over 200 years of production. With 2 bottles of their finest 10 year old purchased it was time to head back to Balvenie for the afternoon – it had been a hectic morning.
Then Lobster For Dinner!
Back at the dinghy dock we ran into Gord & Ginny, our Canadian cruiser friends who are currently having a break from cruising and are running a 56ft catamaran Copper Penny. They had the owners John and Lesley onboard and we were kindly invited by them for lobster dinner. We had a most enjoyable evening onboard, excellent company and surrounds. Copper Penny is like a swanky city apartment and Ginny’s gourmet dinner was superb. If you’re looking for a 5 star charter holiday in the BVIs, then look no further.
It was time for us to move on, we sailed over to the neighbouring island of Jost Van Dyke planning to stay a couple of nights but the wind angle had changed and the anchorages were too exposed. So back to Tortola again where we found good coverage at busy Sopers Hole and stayed a couple of nights before checking out of the British Virgins and setting sail downwind back to Charlotte Amalie in the US Virgins.
We were back for a few reasons, we needed to source a new watermaker part, wanted to catch up again with Rob & Sarah on Serafina before they shipped home and …….