Our friends, Sasha and David, will be our first visitors down here in the Virgins. Some of you may remember them from our Abacos charter before we even purchased Bear. In anticipation of their visit, we put together a list of places to see and things to do in Leinster Bay, on St. John, and in the nearby area. We figured we would share the list here on the blog.
To put the list into perspective, Sasha and David are staying at an inn in Cruz Bay, and we do not know whether they will spend a night aboard. So we are not contemplating going far into the BVI should we go at all. And we do not know if they will want to or can come all the way out to Leinster every day. Likewise, Sasha and David are divers who may or may not be diving while they are here, but have already indicated that they are interested in doing a lot of snorkeling.
Last night at 5pm, Margaret and I started our new “job.” We are now volunteer bay hosts for Virgin Islands National Park. For the next two months – at a minimum – we will be living on a mooring in beautiful Leinster Bay on the northeast corner of St. John.
As bay hosts, our duties include greeting boaters, tending to the moorings, and making sure folks know the park rules. We are expected to give forty hours every week. That will still leave us lots of time to continue to explore the BVI and start to get to know the rest of the USVI. But Leinster Bay has some of the best snorkeling on St. John and trails and ruins line the shoreline, so we might just spend most of our time exploring and relaxing here.
Looking out from the ruins of the former big house of the Murphy plantation. Bear is on a mooring just off Watermelon Cay.
As we continue our posts on the British Virgin Islands in the wake of the 2018 storms (see our last one on Trellis Bay), we turn our attention to Great Harbour post-Hurricane Irma. With Foxy’s drawing in cruisers, charterers, and other visitors from around the world, nearly everyone makes it over to the well-protected anchorage in Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke during a visit to the BVI. While Jost took a major hit from Hurricane Irma, Foxy’s and some of the other stalwarts that line the beach, like Ali Baba’s and Corsairs, have already reopened. And you can still clear customs right off the government dock in the center of it all, as we did after our passage down.
There was certainly no shortage of damage on Jost. And quite a bit of destruction is still evident. But compared to a lot of places in the BVI, Great Harbour and the rest of Jost are making large strides and some new – rather than just replacement – construction is even occurring.
We are going to start highlighting the major anchorages of the BVI, describing some of the damage from Hurricane Irma and giving a rundown of the current state of the bars, restaurants, and other businesses. We start this little series with Trellis Bay.
Before Hurricane Irma, Trellis Bay was well known to cruisers with its easy access to the Beef Island airport, family-friendly full moon party, community of artists centered on Aragorn’s Studio, and well-loved bars, including De Loose Mongoose and The Last Resort. Like a lot of the BVI, Irma pummeled Trellis, destroying a good deal of the infrastructure of the community. The damage is extensive, but a few stalwarts have reopened and the full moon parties are still going strong.
In Trellis Bay, the wind and surge from Hurricane Irma, which was damaging enough, was exacerbated by the few dozen boats that went ashore in this supposed hurricane hole. About thirty-five yachts line the beach, mainly – though far from only – in the area of the De Loose Mongoose. These are obviously an impediment to rebuilding some properties, and the boats surely acted as additional wrecking balls in a storm full of them, wreaking havoc on the docks and buildings along Trellis.
Before arriving in the British Virgin Islands, we had read up on fees and procedures on Noonsite.com, in The Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands, and elsewhere. Everything mentions an additional BVI National Parks Trust Marine Parks Mooring Permit that you need in order to use the moorings in the BVI marine parks. These moorings are day-use only, but put you right on some of the best dive and snorkeling spots in the BVI. The annual fee for foreign vessels is $150. According to various sources, you can purchase the pass when you check into the country. This is all only partially true, as we found out.
When we checked in at Jost Van Dyke, I asked about the BVI National Parks Trust Marine Parks Mooring Permit. The customs officer told me that she could issue one-week passes, but we would need to go to Road Town to get the annual permit. The one-week pass is fifty dollars, so an annual permit seemed like a no-brainer; knowing we were not going to be using the NPT moorings immediately, I figured we would wait until we were in Road Town to get the permit.
Installing an automated identification system (AIS) – an AIS transceiver in particular – was a priority for us this spring. And although it took us until July, when we spent two weeks in the mooring field at Annapolis completing our spring projects, to finally take care of the installation, it has proved to be an important piece of gear on Bear.
While helping bring s/v Remedy down to the BVI in 2016, I recognized how useful their AIS transceiver was on passage. We could see big ships from nearly fifty miles off, long before most radar on small sailboats would have picked them up. And we also received the name of vessels, commercial and otherwise, which made hailing them to break up a long watch with a conversation or for more important safety concerns easy.
We finally slipped the grip of Nanny Cay today. And it was only after a monumental effort this morning that we were able to get away.
When Felipe and I first arrived at Nanny Cay marina a day after we checked into the BVI at Jost, we were only planning on staying for three days. Flip and I would have the boat cleaned inside and out by the time Margaret arrived. Then the three of us would have an epic arrival banquet. On the second day of our stay, we would get some boat work and a day trip to Norman in before Felipe departed the following morning. That would still leave Margaret and I twenty-four hours to get some more jobs done before we slipped the dock lines and started hopping around the BVI.
As many of you know, we completed our passage to the BVI a week ago, arriving in Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke after 13 days from Hampton. We have spent most of the time since at Nanny Cay marina, cleaning and working on Bear, recovering from the trip, and simply relaxing. Margaret arrived this past Monday evening, and Felipe left on Wednesday. If all goes well, we will depart Nanny Cay tomorrow morning and start cruising the BVI in earnest.
On the trip south, we did not encounter the gales that I had experienced on my last passage to the BVI. But we did have our share of adversity, battling headwinds nearly the entire trip, enduring three different bouts of steady winds in the upper 20s with confused seas, and ghosting along through 60 hours of light winds while we conserved our limited fuel. All-in-all, the passage to the BVI was challenging and fun, though far from champagne sailing.
As we make our passage to the Caribbean, our only long-range communications will be a Garmin InReach, which will provide text messaging capabilities (unless we get our SSB working, which seems unlikely given the time constraints). Without regular access to the internet and all the weather information that provides, I will be relying on Margaret to text me key weather information en route. In order to ensure that I get the information that I want and am familiar using, I am writing up some instructions for her and figured I would share them here. This first post is just about tropical weather forecast information that she will text me.
Though we are on the tail end of it, we are still in hurricane season at the moment. So I am particularly concerned about tropical weather and would like to keep an eye on it. Normally, I simply rely on the information provided by the National Hurricane Center. In particular, I regularly look at the 5-day tropical weather outlook, the tropical weather discussion, and the forecast discussion for any active tropical storms.
Yesterday, from New London to Manhasset, started out lovely, but turned into a beast.
Right on schedule, we all raised our sails, dropped our moorings, and headed down the Thames into Long Island Sound. There was not much wind, but what there was of it had already shifted around to NNW. We – Bear, Jade, and Jabiroo II – all motor-sailed, kept in contact on the VHF, and fought the current on what was an exceptionally warm night, in the low 50s.
By 2am, with the genoa out and a double-reefed main, I finally turned off the engine. Over the next couple hours, our speed increased from the low 5s to the low 7s as the wind increased and the adverse current slacked. By 4am, I was starting to feel a little out of control and took the prudent measure of swapping the genoa for the staysail. That dropped my speed back into the mid-5s, but I felt a lot more comfortable, especially knowing that more breeze was on its way.