On to British Virgin Islands

31 December 2018 Jolly Harbour, Antigua
For a change, it was a lovely sunny day. We nipped ashore to spend the last of our Caribbean ECs – it’s all US dollars from here onwards. After clearing out, which was painless, we went alongside the fuel dock and filled up our diesel tank.

We motored out to the anchorage outside the marina and dropped the anchor at 17°04.50N 061°53.81W in 4 metres depth over weed and sand. It took us two goes because we were a little too aggressive backing the anchor in and the anchor skipped over the weed.

Sunset over Saba

Our friends on “Leyna”, who we met in Brazil, were in the anchorage, so we went over and a chat – they are heading up to the East coast of the USA so we might see them on the way. With our socialising done, we put the dinghy on deck and tidied up ready for an overnight sail – we finished just in time for our evening cold beer at 17:00.

We had a very quiet New Year’s Eve. Glenys rustled up a nice Cassuolet; we ripped opened a good bottle of wine; and watched a few episodes of Downton Abbey – no late night revelling for us, a sure sign that we’re getting old.

1 January 2019 Jolly Harbour to Gorda Sound, BVI (Day 1)
The alarm went off at 06:30 and we were on our way at 07:00. It took us an hour to clear the wind-shadow of Antigua, but we were soon out into the 20 knot north-east wind. Our course was roughly north-west, so we were on a beam reach all day. The sea state was horrible with 2 metre steep, confused waves coming from the north-east, making us bounce about. Glenys made the mistake of trying to sit down below at the laptop and, after 10 minutes came up looking a little queasy, so she went back to bed for a couple of hours.

In the afternoon, the wind dropped down to 15 knots and the waves settled down a little, making it a more pleasant motion. We scooted past Nevis, St Kitts, St Barts and by nightfall, we were passing by Saba doing 6-7 knots with the wind just abaft the beam.

We had a very pleasant star-lit night until 01:00, when the first shower hit us. I was on watch and alarmed to see the wind suddenly jump from 15 knots to 25 knots in the space of 15 seconds. Fortunately, we’d already put two reefs in the main, so I ran downwind for a few minutes and then rolled away some of the genoa.

Gloomy approach to BVIs

The clouds built up for the rest of the night and the wind picked up to 20-25 knots, so by day break we only had a small scrap of genoa.

2 January 2019 Jolly Harbour to Gorda Sound, BVI (Day 2)
At dawn, we could see land and passed through the Round Island passage at 08:45 having averaged 6.5 knots over the 170 miles. It took us a further 45 minutes to motor-sail into the wind to Spanish Town. The anchorage is covered with moorings, so we picked one up – I believe that the moorings are free for day-time use and you only get charged for staying overnight.

It took us an hour to sort ourselves out and get the dinghy back into the water – not my favourite job after a tiring passage. We zipped into the marina and walked to the customs building, where the clearance was fairly straightforward – customs, immigration and the treasury departments are in one room at separate windows. It cost us $38 US to clear in.

We wanted to buy a permit for the Marine Park moorings, but the nearest place to buy a permit is at The Baths, which is too far to walk. The customs officer said that we can pick up a mooring and pay when a park office comes along. They didn’t know how much the fees are.

Now that we were legal, we did our usual task of buying a SIM card, so that we’ll have internet access. The Digicel office was a 10 minute walk up the main road from the customs office. I’m still annoyed that we have to buy a new Digicel SIM card in every country that we visit – this one cost us $55US for 3 GB for 30 days.

Anchored off Mountain Point

(I recently found out from another cruiser that you can purchase a €40Euro per month contract in Martinique, which gives you 40 GB of data and works in every island including the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. Apparently, you can cancel the contract after only one month. Of course, it’s too late for us, so we have to carry on buying a SIM card in every country…)

With our chores completed, we motored 6 miles upwind around to Gorda Sound, where we anchored at 18°30.37N 064°22.36W in 5 metres on good holding sand. We collapsed for the rest of the afternoon and had a quiet night.

3 January 2019 Gorda Sound, BVI
After breakfast, we took the dinghy upwind to The Bitter End Yacht Club only to find that it (and the Saba Rock bar) was wiped out in Hurricane Irma last year. Glenys chatted to the owner and she said that they hope to be back in business next year. We were planning to go for a 2 mile hike to the lighthouse on the island, but the paths have been neglected and are now too overgrown to use.

We returned to the boat, where we spent the morning planning what we’re going to do here in the BVI, which is mostly scuba diving. In the afternoon, I filled our dive tanks and ran the water maker, so we’re all ready to go diving tomorrow.

I read up on the Marine Park mooring system – it looks like Red moorings are for general use, Blue moorings are for dinghies, and yellow moorings are for commercial dive boats. We’ve still not been able to get a permit yet.