It got rather squally last night. Chuck considered setting a second anchor in the afternoon but decided that conditions didn’t warrant it. Then, just after sunset the wind shifted some to the north and Brisa swung in towards the beach. Placing a second anchor in the dinghy, Chuck ran it out into deep water and dropped it over. This kept us in one place all night through several squalls.
This morning dawned grey, overcast and windy but along about 11:00 the sun came out so Debbie went snorkeling while Chuck got Brisa ready to leave. After lunch we headed out, across Sir Francis Drake Channel to Road Town, Tortola. The east wind was blowing 16-20 kts. It was a fast fun close reach.
Road Town is the capital of the BVIs and their major commercial port. It is where the cruise ships dock and where the largest bare boat charter companies are located. It is also the best place for us to buy provisions and supplies. We came here to take care of several things that cannot be done elsewhere in the BVI including extending our visas beyond thirty days. Despite its commercial character Road Town is rather attractive. It is certainly busy with all the cruise ship passengers, bare boat charters, ferries and inter-island ships coming and going.
Unfortunately for us there are no good places to anchor Brisa. We chose a spot between Wickhams Cays and Port Purcell. It seems to be the only spot with space available. However, there is a lot of wave action from the Sir Francis Drake Channel and all the vessel traffic. It is very rolly. We only plan to be here two nights so we will put up with it.
Chuck decorated the cockpit with purple lights. We sat in their glow to eat dinner and watch the two cruise ships depart.
Although the weather doesn’t feel like Christmas, the calendar does not lie. So, in honor of the holiday we have begun playing Christmas carols. ‘White Christmas’ could just as easily apply to a sandy beach as a snowdrift and ‘Silver Bells’ can be the chiming of the ships clock (if we had one). ‘Grandma Got Run-over By A Reindeer’ is just as irreverent in the tropics as it is in the northern latitudes and palm trees are just as evergreen as any ‘Tannenbaum’. Christmas hymns are slightly more problematic but, let’s face it, ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ is located in a desert and those ‘Three Kings’ were riding camels across the sand. It is hard to disassociate ‘Silent Night’ from its church setting on a cold Christmas eve but the masthead lights in a crowded anchorage bear a striking resemblance to a candle light service especially with the bright stars overhead. We may be stretching here but we work with what we got.
We did hang Christmas lights on the stay-sail stay last night. They look pretty good too if we may say so. Unfortunately, they kept shorting out in the squalls. Chuck has attempted to water proof the connections so, hopefully, that will not be a problem tonight.
We enjoyed a beautiful day here in The Bight on Norman Island. The morning was spent doing chores – Debbie repaired (again) our Salty Dawg Rally burgee which tends to fray in the wind. After lunch we determined it was time to snorkel! The SE shore of The Bight has proven to be a delightful place to observe the underwater world. We go in right from Brisa. We are anchored in about 15 feet so we can easily see the sandy/grassy bottom below — and today the water was the clearest we’ve seen. Nestled in the grass we occasionally find a black sea cucumber and live conchs. As we get closer to shore there are large boulders covered with various corals and sponges. It is not what you might imagine a reef to be but the area is teeming with fish of all sizes. As we began our swim today two 15 inch Bar Jacks swam by. Around the rocks we have seen Fairy Baslets, Bluehead Wrasses, Trumpetfish, several different parrotfish, juvenile French Angelfish, Sergeant Majors, Foureye Butterflyfish, Squirrelfish, Blue Tang, Yellowtail Snapper, Striped Goatfish and so many more. Yesterday Debbie spotted a Southern Stingray nestled in the sand and today she saw a small eel poking out of its cave of rocks. We have taken lots of photos, some of which we will post on Facebook once we find free wifi. Our snorkel excursion ended in a brief rain squall!
Well after sunset last night we watched a large sailing cruise ship go between Norman and St. John islands, headed out to sea. It was well lit up and we imagined the passengers enjoying a tasty dinner after a day exploring Roadtown.
The wind moderated over night and the clouds stayed away today (for the most part). We dropped our mooring and moved onto the anchor. Although The Bight is full of mooring balls there is some room around the edges. We are in 16 feet of water about 125 feet off the beach. Since the prevailing wind is parallel to the beach we are secure for the night. Brisa still dances around a bit but since we anchored she has not strayed far.
The forecast calls for slightly stronger winds the rest of the week with isolated squalls tomorrow night through Thursday. So, pretty much what we are becoming used to.
With the sun out today we went snorkeling again only this time it was better. We saw a cuttlefish (squid) and a ray buried in the sand. Three-quarters of the boats in The Bight moved on today and have been replaced by others. A family from Quebec moored their recently purchased catamaran next to us. When they set out in their dinghy to go exploring their outboard would not run. Since they had already cast off their line, they drifted ashore so Chuck took our dinghy over and towed them back to their boat.
Looks like it will be a little livelier at the bars tonight judging by the level of dinghy activity we have seen today. It could get entertaining!
Speaking of entertaining the Mooring Follies were on today. We saw one foredeck crew try to hold a forty foot cat by hand while fumbling with the mooring line. Another boat took three efforts to get moored finally resorting to the use of all four people aboard. In the meantime, a fellow Salty Dawg raised his anchor and calmly got his 53′ Swan underway solo! He even had time to come by and visit with us before heading to St. Thomas to pick up his wife and crew. It takes all types.
After enjoying the sun set while sipping rum punches we are now preparing stir fry chicken with eggplant and tomatoes for dinner. Chuck has just run our one strand of white Christmas lights up the mast. Very festive!
We have had a pretty windy time of it. Even here in The Bight we have seen wind speeds up to the low 30 kts in the squalls. Mostly it has been 18-22 kts. Brisa goes back and forth on her mooring as though she were still named Wind Dancer. Sometimes she will catch the gusts broadside and get pushed over quite a bit. It made for an unsettled night last night.
This morning it was overcast and squally so we didn’t go anywhere or do much. We were quite content to spend time reading. After lunch it became partly sunny so we got in some snorkeling. We took some nice underwater pictures and will post them next time we have full internet connection.
Speaking of connectivity, these posts are being done with our satellite phone. The service includes a (very) limited data plan – 9,600 baud for you computer geeks out there. As a result we don’t do more than post text with low res pictures and some email. It costs $1.00/minute so we try to be judicious in our use.
After running errands to Roadtown yesterday we spent a quiet evening aboard Brisa. There was a little excitement when we swung on the mooring and almost bumped another boat. Chuck still can’t figure out why Brisa was swinging the opposite direction from all the other boats around us. Guess she marches to her own drummer sometimes.
We were not in a hurry to get going this morning as we didn’t have far to go. Mid-morning we ran Brisa over to top-off fuel and fill the water tanks. Once we finished with that, we left Soper’s Hole and headed into Sir Francis Drake Channel. The weather delivered on the forecast and we had 15-20 kts of wind blowing down the channel right at us. Fortunately we were headed across the channel so we were able use the partially furled jib on a close reach to get to Norman Island. We sailed past the Indians, a wonderful location for snorkeling but there were only a few boats there due to the wind and seas.
We arrived in The Bight, a popular anchorage on Norman Island, about 12:30. One of its attractions is that it is well protected, a good thing on a day like today. Despite the surrounding hills, the wind can still funnel though The Bight so we are occasionally hit with some strong gusts that push Brisa around a bit. Also, there have been showers off and on all day. Not enough to be a problem but just enough to be bothersome.
There is also a lot of good snorkeling nearby. In fact we only had to swim about 75 feet from Brisa to enjoy a wealth of underwater life. When we first jumped in and looked down there were about six good size tarpon hanging about 15 feet below the boat! Remember, they have no teeth . . . We encountered coral growing on big boulders which have tumbled down off the surrounding cliffs. We also saw a large variety of sponges.
The Bight is an easy one-hour sail from most of the bareboat charter bases so it makes a good first night’s stop on a cruise of the BVIs. When we arrived there were only about a dozen boats here. Over the course of the afternoon the mooring field has just about filled up with almost seventy boats.
Now that evening is upon us the main attraction of The Bight for most visitors is about to get going in earnest. There are two restaurant/bars here: Pirates Bight and Willie T’s. Both are world famous for raucous partying. All afternoon dinghies have been zipping back and forth taking people from their boats to one or the other. We don’t expect a quiet night in The Bight. With that in mind, we chose our mooring close in to shore but equidistant between the two bars. Hopefully that will keep the noise to a dull roar and we won’t be kept up too late. One drawback we did not anticipate is that we are in the traffic pattern for dinghies going from one bar to the other. Think we will put a light in the cockpit tonight so we can been seen easily.
We moved from Cane Garden Bay to Soper’s Hole (West End) first thing Thursday morning in order to join the last official Salty Dawg party for the fall rally. It was held Thursday evening at the Bamboushay Lounge in Roadtown. They are a sponsor of the rally and wanted to entertain the group. They even provided transportation from West End to Roadtown and back. We had a delightful time. The dinner consisted of mahi mahi with chutney glaze, jerk chicken and BBQ pork ribs. We sat outside on their patio, listened to a local band and enjoyed the company of fellow cruisers.
Bamboushay is also a pottery studio. They provided each skipper with an official Salty Dawg coffee mug. Several first mates purchased their own mugs including Debbie.
Friday saw us returning to Roadtown with Ron & LeAnn to run some errands and do some shopping. Ron rented a car for the day and braved the driving task. Not only are the local roads narrow and the drivers fearless but it is all done on the left side of the street in a left-hand drive car. Driving on the left is part of a cultural trade off between the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. Both drive on the left and use U.S. Dollars. We made it there and back in one piece!
We found out yesterday that Ethan and Jake will be coming here for a visit the first week-and-a-half in January. We are looking forward to having them aboard. This will give us the opportunity to explore the Virgin Islands more fully and (hopefully) get up to Anegada. Much depends upon the weather which is supposed to get very windy for the next week. In fact, our weather man recommends against island hopping south until after Christmas on account of high winds so staying in the Virgins is a doubly good idea.
While friends and family are enduring ice and snow storms, we continue to be amazed at the tropical beauty here. We relaxed in the cockpit tonight before dinner and enjoyed yet another spectacular sunset. We thank God every day for this adventure we are on.
We are still in Cane Garden Bay.
Thought we would enjoy one more day here but the weather made it less than enjoyable. It was overcast and breezy which combined to make it feel cold. We weren’t the only ones of this opinion as the beach was deserted all day. Also, a northern swell continues to roll in. So long as the wind keeps Brisa stern to the swell it is not too objectionable. However, sometimes we swing 90 degrees on to the swell which causes Brisa to roll quite a bit.
So we took care of things like defrosting the refrigerator and documenting our passage here on a paper chart for posterity. Pretty exciting isn’t it?