British Virgin Islands

British Virgin Islands

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  • Day164

    It’s that time again. Full tanks, full propane, full water tanks, and laundry is all set. We chipped away at our seemingly endless list of boat chores and found victory in our accomplishments. St. Maarten struck us as a home away from home and we’d love to return to the island paradise but for now, we’ve made arrangements to pick up friends and sail around the VIs.

    The Virgin Islands are a cluster of islands with all forms of interesting dives, coves, caves, and anchorages for cruisers. The islands provide wind shadows and great barriers to the wild ocean seas making the Sir Francis Drake Channel a very enjoyable place to sail. It’s no wonder hundreds or sailors flock here each winter.
    Our overnight sail was beautiful, we flew the spinnaker for half of the trip and enjoyed a star-studded night. We passed several vessels and I watched a lightning storm pass at a safe distance. En route, I read that the US bought the Dutch portion of the Virgin Islands for $25 million in 1917… nicely done Uncle Sam…. At the time the Virgin Islands were in economic decline from the abolition of slavery. The main export was sugar which had been heavily dependent on slave labor. But far before that ugly period in time; Christopher Columbus discovered the Virgin Islands in 1493 and named the island chain the Virgin Islands after Saint Ursula and the 11,000 virgins. (Virgin Gorda -fat- received it’s name because the island resembled a reclining woman with a protruding belly from the seaside vantage point).

    Having never heard of this Saint Ursula or the 11,000 virgins, I did a little research, I mean, 11,000 virgins… that’s a lot of dames. Why 11,000? What happened to them? From what I’ve gathered from a few sources, Saint Ursula lived between 300-600 AD… (she lived 1500 years ago, & they narrowed it down to 300 years, way to go historians). Ursula was betrothed to marry a complete stranger higher in rank. To meet her soon-to-be husband, she boarded a ship with her hand maidens ranging anywhere between 11 to 11,000 in number. Oh, how stories are skewed sometimes. The long and arduous voyage was miraculously completed in a single day. Taking this to be a sign, Ursula declared she would make a panEuropean pilgrimage with all 11 or 11,000 handmaidens before the wedding (sounds like someones stalling to me). Their journey landed them in Cologne Germany, which, unfortunately was invaded by the Hun troops. The handmaidens refused to be with or marry the invading troops so they were tragically beheaded. Ursula was brought to death by the bow and arrow of the Hun soldiers. One of histories tragic tales, and in part, made immortal by Columbus giving respect to St. Ursula by way of the beautiful island chain we now call the Virgin Islands.

    Around 9 AM we passed Sir Richard Bransons famous Necker Island, we made our way through the narrow passage by Saba Rock and found a cozy little place to anchor in the lee of Prickly Pear Island – only a skip away from Saba, Bitter End Yacht Club, and Customs.

    When I was a kid my family and our good family friends, the Lainos, chartered a Beneteau throughout the Sir Francis Drake. It was at the beautiful Bitter End, I learned how to swim by myself. So, revisiting this place was one of nostalgia. Mike and I stayed here for a few days to recoup and play around with my brand new scuba setup! Mike had purchased his own scuba gear last year so it was about time I join him in exploring watery deep. In St. Martin we stumbled upon great gear on sale; new BCD, new regulator/octopus, new shorty wetsuits for both of us, and lightly used tank for $ 1,000. I’m sure if we had reliable internet and searched high and low there’s a better deal out there…. but for the ease of walking in and walking out in an hour or so… we were excited. We pulled off two beginner dives, testing our buddy breathing, clearing goggles 30 feet under water, hand signals, and buoyancy. Even on the overcast day, we had a blast and celebrated with cocktails at Saba Rock. We refilled our tanks, grabbed a cocktail and still had time to spare before we bore witness to the famous 5 pm tarpon feeding. It was my first time experiencing tarpon fish, 4 feet in length, duking it out for dinner bites cast out into the water. Tarpon are notorious for not being “tasty”, so for the most part, they appear to be slow and docile monsters. But toss a piece of shredded fish out to the water and they tear after the treat with furious speed and agility.

    As always I *really* enjoyed our new anchorage, the Bitter End this time, but we had a beautiful down wind sail to make to meet our friends flying in to St. Thomas the next day.
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  • Day177

    Our last few days we explored Jost Van Dyke enjoying pain killers from the Soggy Dollar Bar, (supposedly where the recipe was created) and danced on the beach with a bunch of spring breakers having a good time.
    The Soggy Dollar gets its name from boaters arriving, throwing down their anchor, then swimming to shore for a drink; there’s even a line with clothespins to dry out the sopping-wet tens and twenties. After enough partying we spent the night off Maho Beach and dinghied into Cruz Bay where by Corey and Jamie’s combined worldly knowledge won trivia night! Technically we didn’t win win, the bar tenders won but they had won every trivia night for the past month and we had the severe disadvantage since teams were allowed to buy the moderator drinks in exchange for points…. Bartenders won again but team Masshole Sailors came in second place.Read more

  • Day180

    We eventually left Christmas Cove for Cooper and Salt Island of the Channel Islands, to dive on the famed RMS Rhone. We descended at the stern to 35 feet and descended our way forward to the bow (the bowsprit lay at 90 feet). Within minutes of our descent we encountered a giant green moray eel….. swimming! He swam right between us! I didn’t realize they ever left their little caves… This beast was at least 10 feet long and slithered through the water gracefully, finally diving into a compartment in the back of what was once part of an engine. I thought it exquisite but cute; while its head & body was hidden about 3 feet of its tail was still exposed as it had outgrown its old hiding spots. Mike later said he had the urge to pull on the tail; needless to say I’m glad he suppressed his 10 year old self. We swam back and forth over and under the old engine room and decaying hull. The RMS Rhone broke in two and now rests on its side so you can see old portholes from above and swim into what once was the deck. We saw some enormous lobsters and beautiful angel fish. The amount of coral and fish life was amazingly bountiful and beautiful.dive site.
    But not so much that it took my mind off the fact that I was now 90 feet underwater and every inch of me was compressed by more than a few atmospheres. It’s a little alarming how long it takes your air bubbles to reach the surface at 90 feet. Feeling a little cold and recognizing I was approaching low air, we both slowly ascended on a mooring line – zero complications. No fire coral to report of.

    Background on the RMS Rhone:

    RhoneThe RMS Rhone was a 310 ft mail steamer. Powered by sail (2 masts) and steam engine. On October 29 of 1867, Robert F. Wooley captained the ship and was preparing her for the return voyage to England. The end of October generally marks the end of hurricane season, so when a Northerly wind began to blow and barometer began to fall, he dismissed it as a northerly front. At the time it was a beautiful day but the captain directed the ship to Road Town, Tortolla to weather the “storm”. At 11 AM, the barometer fell to 27.9 and the sky darkened quickly. Immense winds blew from the NNW destroying the main sails & rigging. A lull passed over so the captain made a the quick order to anchor. But the shackle of the cable caught in the hawsepipe…. (And translation for all the non-maritime folk… ‘messed up their ability to anchor – real bad’.). They were forced to drop the 3,000 lb. anchor and all 300 ft of anchor chain (trans: ‘seriously not good’). Captain Wooley took the appropriate option of weathering the storm out at sea. It was with full engines running, the RMS Rhone turned out to cross the Sir Francis Drake Channel and pass the Channel Islands. By that time the RMS Rhone had almost navigated its way through the Channel Islands, the SSW winds had started up in full strength and forced the RMS Rhone into the rocks, just off of Salt Island. The boat heeled over and broke in two, sinking instantly. There were crew and passengers onboard; of the survivors, I believe, 18 or so crew & 2 passengers survived the sinking.
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  • Day180

    Once a salt farm, this island held a small village that was slowly abandoned in the 1940's... After diving on the Rhone we hiked around the island, leisurely roaming after small herds of goats. We ended a most spectacular day hiking to the top of the island and watching the sun go down over the VIs. Woot!

  • Day185

    With St. John and Jost Van Dyke & the Channel Islands (Cooper, Peter, Salt, Normans) covered, our next destination to discover was Virgin Gorda (the fat virgin) with Tom & Danise. We had a great sail from Peter Island to the Bitter End, Tom took a go at the helm and sailed Gaia close hauled like he’d been doing it for months. In the afternoon we anchored in the calm waters of Eustatius and just right of the famous shallow snorkeling. Since Saba Rock was only a cables throw away we dinghy-ed over for the cocktails and tarpon feeding. Saba Rock has such a relaxed vibe, it’s where all the cool dinghies go to hang out and their owners sit idly on the dock drinking their high-priced cocktails watching kite surfers perform jaw-dropping tricks.

    We learned there was a full moon party in Trellis Bay and made sail for Tortola to have our own experience in the full moon revelry. We arrived at Trellis Bay… and it was packed, more aptly defined as a sh!t show or a fog of boat masts – it was tightly anchored. Let’s put it this way; being between a rock and hard place was beginning to look roomy. We slowly and carefully meandered the premise, in hopes to find something the other 10 boats in front of us didn’t and sure enough! Winner! On the outer edge close to shore! We surreptitiously motored over, I felt like the submarine commander in WW II b&w movie trying to creep along enemy lines. There were hungry sailboats in every direction eager to jump on a mooring ball or sink their anchor in any ole patch of open water. We maneuvered to the cramped but unoccupied pocket and crept to a halt to anchor. This is what we had been training for. These past six months of hand signals, strong currents, timing, placement…. after 2 tries we anchored in just the right area. We were golden! We watched as other sad boaters skimmed past our transom with forlorn looks of despair at not finding anything.

    We decided to grab a drink before dinner at this small island in the middle of the harbor. All the reviews made mention of young English hipsters who ran the bar. Of course we had to investigate these ‘youngens’. We arrived seconds after the bartender opened for business and had our first round of margs. We meandered to the outside and found a spacious yard with giant jenga, swings made from crates to lounge on, cornhole, fussball, every hipster/frat outdoor game you could think of, it was adult recess.

    The moon began to rise as the sun sunk beyond the horizon, when we saw flames on the beach we took that as our calling. Live festive music was playing at full blast upon arrival and our friends Megs & Tom just happened to be sitting not 10 feet away from the dinghy dock and almost done with their first round of drinks. Fire-Sculpture-trio2 We roamed the beach and perused the art village and all the amazing steel creations and designs. There was a family friendly area and fires ablaze every hundred yards or so. There were several dance parties & jumby walkers spread out but the main attraction were these sculptures stuffed with paper and lit on fire. It was the Burning Man of the Virgin Islands! Far more tame but far more accessible for us. We enjoyed our 2 EC red stripes and danced until Megs & Tom and Nils & Lisa had to catch the last free ferry back across the channel. It was fun festive and lively. Definitely check it out if you’re in the area.
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  • Day186

    Day 4 was the day I had been waiting for, a visit to The Baths! You’re not allowed to bring your dinghy to shore, instead there are bouys to attach your tender and then you’re expected to swim ashore. All guidebooks mention the swim is not for the weak. Ok, but I’m young and fit and most guidebooks tell me a 3mile hike in the VIs is considered difficult, which I politely disagree with. I took the warnings with a grain of salt. Don’t do what I did the swim can be difficult. There are surges that roll through and crash after the steep dropoff on the beach. What our guidebook failed to mention is the red flags on the beach signaled there are stronger than usual wave conditions. Great. We had snorkels and flotation devices, we all made it in but not without an exhausting fight.

    Finally! Our efforts finally paid off in the form of this magnificent and wild scenery. We found the path for tourists and quickly found our way up and away from the path.

    We spent the night in Spanish Town and found the ocean front restaurants to be a bit pricey and with a less than local feel. We ended up talking to a driver in an open-aired bus who dropped us off at one of his favorite restaurants. It was a perfect mom n pop restaurant with outdoor seating and ridiculously good bbq. Yay! Does life get better? Sailing, adventuring, bouldering, friends, bbq, and fresh passion juice.

    We spent the night in a marina because the swells were just too rowdy in the anchorage for top-heavy Gaia to spend the night. And the following day we had a great sail to Norman Island. We tried racing a catamaran but once they realized how to use the entire main sail we were toast. Norman Island in the afternoon was fairly crowded. The wind had picked up and the few anchoring spots were filled with other boats. We looped around the vast mooring field for the second time as rain began to pour. It was then a voice from heaven (or the mist) called out to Gaia. ‘There’s a mooring behind you!’ Sure enough, an off-colored mooring was indeed bobbing helplessly in the wind. Mike tried his best to keep the bow steady in line with the mooring ball pendant and I cumbersomely hitched a dock line with Tom and cleated it off securing Gaia for the night. I came back slightly chilled and soaking wet. Danise informed me there were gusts up to 30 knots while I was on the bow. I nodded my head feeling a little badass that we had just secured Gaia so effortlessly. It really does make all the difference having another pair of hands on deck.
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  • Day38

    We made it to the Caribbean!

    Forgetting that St Thomas, USVI is US soil, we were initially surprised to not be greeted by customs. Rather, we were hit with a giant heat bat followed swiftly by breath of air so humid it was bordering on drinkable. Then came the sweat. Heavy, relentless, beading sweat. Mmmmm.

    By the time we reached the ferry, I was in need of an outfit change. A brief look at the passports and we were on the boat to the BVIs. Not even an 18kt head wind could stop us. Or cool us down.

    After a few customs hiccups in Road Town, a long walk in the wrong direction with all our bags, and a twice-as-long walk in the other direction, we arrived at the hotel. (I should note that most of that walking was on the road...footpaths here are few and far between.) We quickly discovered that the hotel had AC and that's all that mattered. However, cue boat panic moment. For those of you who haven't been on boats, they get hot. The suns attacks them from the sky and the engine, stove, oven and lights heat them from the inside out. The only source of cool is the breeze which, at a low of 27 degrees, doesn't quite balance the system. I am genuinely fearing a non-metaphorical meltdown.

    We definitely hit island life square on. It seems very familiar to Pacific culture, the only difference is the locals aren't shouting 'Bula' from a distant paddock. Our greetings at the airport, ferry and hotel were somewhat inhospitable, which was a little disappointing, but experiences since have been better, now that we know that locals respond well to a smile and a joke. Now we just have to get over the feeling of being ripped off on every purchase (its bloody expensive here!!) and we'll be away laughing.

    Day two on Tortola was equally as hot, but I had come to terms with my early demise and got on with the day. Scoping out the supermarket situation was our number one priority. Where and how to feed three hungry boys, on an island of 2,500 people....for 2 months. The most highly rated supermarket was Bobby's who also offer delivery to you boat, if you order 7 to 10 days in advance. Our mistake. Upon inspection, Bobbys was under construction and was currently clearing stock. Something they failed to mention on their website. Not a refridgerated good in sight, nor a fruit or vegetable, nor a pricetag. Not a good start. Supermarkets two and three offered little more and we began to panic. Rushing back to pick up a windsurfer, and receive our boat briefing, left us anxious about this situation.

    Reinforcing the earlier mention of island time, our man David was late to the boat. But we'd helped ourselves to an introduction of home for the next two months. 50 feet of well used fibreglass with four cabins and a crews quarters - more than enough for three!

    After he arrived, his briefing was short and sweet (the way it should be) but the number of items that were casually skipped over for 'not working' was cause for concern. After insisting on several of them being fixed, we set out for a wee sail. All went swimmingly except for the fact the marina is too shallow to get out of without grounding the boat, and Dave had a personal emergency which cut the trip short.

    Fortunately for Dave we had already planned on spending the night in the marina, and took advantage of the afternoon to do our grocery shop. We finally found our mark on our forth supermarket and unleashed a Pauline Ellis special - two full shopping trolleys. Interestingly, we caught a cab each way which cost $12 out and $25 back. Riddle me that. It was however, a drop in the ocean for what was spent on the shop.

    The next day after a bit of faffing we finally set off, pushed out over the sandbar and hoisted the sails, let the dream begin!
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  • Day43

    Our first sail was to Norman Island. We picked up a mooring in the lee of the island and were swimming in the deepest blue before even cutting the engine. Glorious, warm, deep blue sea. The boys were ecstatic and spent the rest of the day exploring the area underwater. Turtles, sharks, stingrays, lobsters, fish, coral and underwater caves were amoungst the delights to be observed below the surface.

    Our first night on the boat was pleasant, disrupted only by banging of halyards and swinging of the boom - somewhat highlighting the amatuer cruisers we are.

    The next morning, our soon-to-be-routine pre-breakfast engine start proved difficult. So difficult, in fact, the engine never started. Our minds raced back to the charter briefing; battery switches, ignition switches, choke, throttle. No dice. For the life of us, we could not get the thing to start. We had been given a spare battery but no chords to connect it. Such is island life. We tore the boat apart and pooled our brains and came up with nothing. Our emergency phone to the charter company was used on the first day.

    To make matters worse, it was a Sunday and our mate Dave was at church with his family. Woops, sorry Dave. Dave took our apology and continued his morning at church and then lunch with his family, as any decent man would. He also took the family out on the boat for his afternoon rescue mission. Good on you Dave!

    Much to our surprise, Dave managed to start the engine with a new battery and a few hits of the terminals with the back end of a crescent. How embarrassing. Somewhat dumbfounded at the simplicity of the solution, we thanked him and putted off the mooring and onwards to Peter Island. Little did we know this would be the first of many situations with which we bonded with our power source.

    Peter offered shelter from the wind, but the swell was uncomfortable. Boys being boys we put up with it and enjoyed the teetering daylight with a swim and feed. Beautiful!

    Now I know you'll guess it. Morning two engine start was no better success. Furthermore, yesterday's blue skies had faded to dark clouds and persistent showers, and a swinging breeze had made our anchorage indesirable and rather risky. We spent the morning unconvinced that the batteries were flat and conjured several solutions to gain maximum power for an engine start. With no success and an impending rocky outcrop to leeward, we opted for emergency phone call number two. Now Dave had already told us he didn't have a tender, and his only way of rescue was to use whichever charter boat was available at the time. Given our distance from the marina, one would expect Dave to be rather ticked off having to spend a good part of the day just getting out to us. Oh no, au contraire. He was delighted to see us! Or so it seemed! Hindsight tells me it was a nervous front but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

    A fifth battery got the engine started. After a myriad of 'before and after' battery readings, engine starts and wiring scenarios we managed to convince Dave that it'd be best to have an electrician look at it. So we weighed anchor and motored into the sunset and impending darkness. The wind died off to nothing at dusk which made for a stunning return to a well lit Tortola.

    The next day started with the electrician banging on the cabin window at 7am, unannounced. Dazed and disoriented I welcomed him aboard and roused the crew. He, like all Tortolans, seemed cheery and confident. He explained to us the situation, offered the solution and promised to return at midday with the missing parts.

    Midday came and went and no sign of the electrician. Dave, who was already a little out of his depth, kindly offered us a car for the afternoon (to get us out of his hair). We obliged, and set off to explore Tortola and top up groceries. Upon return, our mate Dave was thrilled to see us. 'Look', he said, 'I'll show you. Everything is rrrrready to go.' He explained that the electrician had never returned and he'd dragged another yachtie from a nearby boat, who looked like he had some know-how, onto our boat to resolve the problem. The yachtie had disagreed with the electricians wiring and rewired the system for a third time and explained the issues to Dave. Unfortunately, after hearing Dave out, we were not convinced that we had resolved the fundamental problem being that the house batteries drained the starter batteries.

    So we agreed on a solution and wired it accordingly, and Dave got us a third, brand new, 1000USD battery. We also requested a voltmeter and a spare starter battery so Dave will (hopefully) never have to rescue us again. We're now three days in and haven't spoken to Dave. Watch this space.

    Jools has taken to the engineer's role like a duck to water, monitoring and recording our battery juice four hourly.

    You might question why we don't just man up and use the sails. A valid question. The only problem is a fifty foot ship, loaded to the gunnels, takes a while to respond to a sail. Not easy when your moorings leave you four feet clear of the bottom and 15 yards clear of your neighbour, and the marina requires you to dance with the bottom to get to your slip. No thanks.

    In case I made it sound like getting stranded in the BVIs was a bad thing, let me set the record straight with a few images...
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  • Day44

    Anxious to cross the Sir Francis Drake Channel by dusk, we cast the lines and motored off at ferocious pace, pumping precious volts into our brand new power supply. Our planned anchorage was Great Harbour on Peter Island. Calm and enclosed, and packed full of boats, we nestled up close to the beach and dropped anchor. There were plenty of available moorings but at $30 per night we were happy to place our bets on the sandy bottom. The only disturbance that night was a school of 70cm fish who appeared to be so fascinated with the stern of the boat they forgot which way up to swim. No rods. Too bad.

    The next morning we took the dinghy to a nearby dive site. We'd managed to secure an excellent deal on dive gear for the full charter - a good swindle on Scotts behalf. Diving in warm water is effortless. No wetsuits, gloves or boots. No catch bags nooses or torches. Just shorts and mask. Okay, and maybe some fins and a dash of air, but you get my gist. It was diving without admin, just the way it should be.

    The ocean floor beheld one of many shipwrecks in the area. Fearless, the name of the old mine sweeping ship, was largely intact and brimming with wildlife. Notably out of place was a toilet mounted adjacent the cannon on the foredeck which provided great entertainment giving a whole new meaning to the phrase 'bombs away'. Who thought men couldn't multitask?

    With the wind swinging south during the day we meandered eastward in search of an afternoon and hopefully overnight anchorage. Lunch took place during a spot of sailing but a calm and sandy anchorage was becoming more and more elusive. Eventually we gave in and moored up almost on the beach in Machioneers Bay, Salt Island. The rest of the afternoon played out just like any other day: plenty of swimming and snorkeling, a windsurf, a spot of exercise on the beach all washed down with a cold beer and a hot fajita. Bellisimo!

    The boys are starting to settle into a cruisers routine. Here's what a typical day is beginning to look like:
    7-8am wake up, followed eagerly by a bowl of cereal and a book read. A quick dip (read: shower) and some house admin before firing the engine and setting off to a new destination.
    The rest of the day plays out with all kinds of marine based activities, with a quick break for lunch and maybe a lazy afternoon read. The days' activities usually culminate with Scott free diving the anchor to check it's set for the night.
    Evenings are lazy deck time as the sun sets quickly and early. Cold beverages a must.
    A wee planning session is usually thrown in the mix and the occasion is seized to voice our desired activities or destinations.
    Dinner comes when the hungriest person succumbs to cooking. This is usually chased with a game or two, a read, an episode of Limitless and a boat pack down. Tough life. Absolutely loving it!
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  • Day47

    Once close to becoming the capital of the BVIs, Virgin Gorda is both idyllic and functional. Creeping up to the western end in some form of motor/sail (light winds for a change!), we were welcomed by golden sandy beaches, seperated intermittently by giant broken boulders. Boats dotted the waterline and littered snorkelers all the way to shore. 'The Caves' is one of the BVIs must-dos, and it's apparent popularity proved so. Further exploration came in the form of snorkeling, wading, and climbing as we worked our way along the shoreline, over, under and around the granite monstrosities. Boys being boys, we had to climb the biggest boulder. Not an easy feat given the size and smoothness of the boulders. Perseverance paid off and we topped out on our fourth attempt to witness a spectacular view! Motivated only by the impending fall of the hot day's sun, we splashed back into the sea and swam back to the boat. Our next night's anchorage was just off Spanishtown, where we learnt our lesson on anchoring next to a busy channel.

    After a rocky night's sleep (lesson learned), Spanishtown fulfilled our food, compressed air and wifi needs. But only just in the nick of time as we raced back to the mothership to beat the approaching onslaught of tropical rain.

    Our next destination was just around the point. Savanna Bay is a beautiful series of golden bays tucked inside a subtle and dangerously shallow outer reef. Navigating with caution under a gloomy sky, we found the unmarked channel  (read: missed the reef) and dropped anchor on a sandy sea floor in the rain.

    The kindles came out in force as the boys prepared to hunker down for the afternoon. Little did we know what was brewing. The boys have stopped growing and haven't stopped eating. So the energy surplus on offer after a day couped up could be measured in Megawatts. Jools offered a proposal to balance the situation which sounded candid. Sprint endurance training on the beach. Once an avid decathlete, now a dwindling twenty-something has-been, Jools has a lot to offer on the subject of keeping fit. Naively, we headed ashore.

    An extensive warm up should have raised warning flags for what was to come. Before we knew it, we were hurtling down the beach at a competitive pace, set after set. The short breaks felt shorter and shorter as our bodies screamed for oxygen and rammed lactic acid down our fast twich fibres. What a scene. Rolling about in the shallows, moving only for relief from mosquitos and biting ants, the recovery wouldn't come fast enough. When the dust settled, there wasn't a man standing. Lolling about in the shallows, gasping for air I was struggling to remember the last time the body hurt so much. Jools' work outs are not for the feint hearted. Lesson learned. The man himself could hardly get back to the boat so I don't feel that bad.

    Savanna bay proved to be out calmest anchorage yet. Given the privacy of the whole beach to ourselves and a splendid nights sleep, we have our sights set on returning - when the wind blows us that way.

    Waking to blue skies and 15 knot easterlies, the day was there to be seized. Conveniently our boat is equipped with numerous guides for the surrounding areas, including a dive guide which contains more dives than you could poke a stick at! Scott has been maticulously selecting dives based on proximity, and has yet to miss a mark. Although, we came close. Leaving Savanna bay for the Dog Islands, I made a slight navigational error. As we sailed to, and around the Seal Dog Islands, under a cloud of confusion, we failed to get our bearings. A correction from the crew and mile or two later we found our spot between the Dogs. Another spectacular dive teeming with life and the ever elusive lobster!

    This dive however, we discovered the down side of diving sans wetsuit. Getting down and dirty with the ocean floor, and tucking into cracks and swim-throughs, we enevitably had some contact with our surroundings. New to coral reefs and unseasoned in the naked dive, we surfaced in a little pain. Stained fingers, cuts, grazes and burns were discovered post dive and treated appropriately (thanks Pauline!). Amazing that after all the diving I have done I never considered the protective qualities of the wetsuit and booties.

    The afternoon held time for a few more activities. Another fantasic sandwich (baking our own bread now!), a read, another long snorkel and a mosy past Richard Branson's Island into the tranquil beauty of the Gorda Sound. Spoilt for choice on anchorages, we hooked in just east of Saba rock for the night. Jools dropped anchor and Scott descended to a hefty 60 feet for his regular anchor check. I sat relaxed at the helm. All important jobs.

    Saba rock is about as big as the the property at 51 Windmill. At low tide. It occupies a narrow gap between Prickly Pear Island and The Bitter End creating two shallow channels, through which the brave mariner can exit Gorda Sound into a shallow and coral-head studded Eustatia Sound. As any good rock should, Saba hosts a waterside bar, primed for dinghy entry, a boutique hotel and a few slips for the well-off shallow draft boat owner. Now I've never had much faith in my body clock, but the day's thirst had us pull up at that bar at the strike of happy hour. The cocktails flowed, the sun set, the fish were fed and then like flicking a switch we scrambled off the island to evade a relentless mosquito assault. Hopefully no Zika!!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

British Virgin Islands, Britische Jungferninseln, BVI, Britse Maagde-eilande, Britainfo Virgin Islands, የእንግሊዝ ድንግል ደሴቶች, Islas Virchens Britanicas, Bryttiscan Fæmne Īegland, جزر فرجين البريطانية, Britaniya Virgin Adaları, Islas Virgenes nin Britanya, Віргінскія астравы, Британски Вирджински острони, Angilɛ ka Sungurunnin Gun, ব্রিটিশ ভার্জিন দ্বীপপুঞ্জ, ব্রিটিশ ভার্জিন দ্বীপমালা, Inizi Gwercʼh Breizh-Veur, Britanska Devičanska Ostrva, Illes Verges Britàniques, Британин Виргинийн гӀайренаш, Britské Panenské ostrovy, Ynysoedd Prydeinig y Wyryf, De britiske jomfruøer, Britaniske kněžniske kupy, ބިރިޓިޝް ވާޖިން ޖަޒީރާ, Britaintɔwo ƒe Virgin ƒudomekpowo nutome, Βρετανικές Παρθένοι Νήσοι, Britaj Virgulininsuloj, Islas Vírgenes, Briti Neitsisaared, Birjina uharte britainiarrak, جزایر ویرجین بریتانیا, duuɗe kecce britanii, Brittiläiset Neitsytsaaret, Stóra Bretlands Jómfrúoyggjarnar, Îles Vierges, Iles Vièrges britaniques, Britisk Jongfoomen Eilunen, Oileáin Bhriotanacha na Maighdean, Büük Britaniya Virgin Adaları, Illas Virxes Británicas, બ્રિટિશ વર્જિન આઇલેન્ડ, Tsibirin Birjin Na Birtaniya, Britanski Djevičanski otoci, איי הבתולה הבריטיים, ब्रिटिश वर्जिन द्वीपसमूह, Britanski Djevičanski Otoci, Brit Virgin-szigetek, Բրիտանական Վիրջինյան կղզիներ, Kepulauan Virgin Inggris, Virgin Insuli Britaniana, Bresku jómfrúaeyjar, Isole Vergini Britanniche, 英領ヴァージン諸島, Kapuloan Virgin Britania Raya, ბრიტანეთის ვირჯინის კუნძულები, Visiwa vya Virgin vya Uingereza, Британдық Вирджин аралдары, ಬ್ರಿಟಿಷ್ ವರ್ಜಿನ್ ದ್ವೀಪಗಳು, 영국령 버진 아일랜드, Ynysow an Wyrghes Predennek, Virginis Insulae Britannicae, Britesch Joffereninselen, Bizinga ebya Virigini ebitwalibwa Bungereza, Britse Maagde-Eilen, Isoe Vergini Britanneghe, Bisanga bya Vierzi ya Angɛlɛtɛ́lɛ, ບຣິທິດເວີຈິນໄອແລນ, Didžiosios Britanijos Mergelių salos, Lutanda lua Vierzi wa Angeletele, Britu Virdžīnas, Nosy britanika virijiny, Британски Девствени Острови, ബ്രിട്ടീഷ് വിര്‍ജിന്‍ ദ്വീപുകള്‍, ब्रिटिश व्हर्जिन बेटे, ဗြိတိသျှ ဗာဂျင်း ကျွန်းစု, Britain Virgin Kûn-tó, De britiske jomfruøyene, Britsche Jumferninseln, बेलायती भर्जिन टापु, Britse Maagdeneilanden, Dei britiske jomfruøyane, Britani Virja Isles, Illas Verges Britanicas, ବ୍ରିଟିଶ୍ ଭର୍ଜିନ୍ ଦ୍ବୀପପୁଞ୍ଜ, ਬਰਤਾਨਵੀ ਵਰਜਿਨ ਟਾਪੂ, Brytyjskie Wyspy Dziewicze, برطانوی ورجن جزیرے, Ilhas Virgens Britânicas, Inslas Verginas Britannicas, Ibirwa by'isugi by'Abongereza, Insulele Virgine Britanice, Британские Виргинские о-ва, Ibirwa bya Virigini Nyongereza, Âzôâ Viîrîggo tî Anglëe, බ්‍රිතාන්‍ය වර්ජින් දූපත්, Britské panenské ostrovy, Britanski Deviški otoki, Zvitsuwa zveHingirandi, Ishujt e Virgjër Britanikë, Британска Девичанска Острва, Kapuloan Virgin Britania, Brittiska Jungfruöarna, பிரிட்டீஷ் கன்னித் தீவுகள், బ్రిటిష్ వర్జిన్ దీవులు, หมู่เกาะบริติชเวอร์จิน, Kapuluan ng Birheng Britaniko, ʻOtumotu Vilikini fakapilitānia, İngiliz Virgin Adaları, ئەنگلىيىگە قاراشلىق ۋىرگىن تاقىم ئاراللىرى, Віргінські острови Британії, برٹش ورجن آئلینڈز, Đảo Virgin, thuộc Anh, Duni Virgin, Orílẹ́ède Etíkun Fágínì ti ìlú Bírítísì, 英屬處女羣島, 英属维京群岛, i-British Virgin Islands

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