Virgin Gorda, BVIDecember 3, 2016 in British Virgin Islands
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!!Read more