British Virgin Islands
Stony Bay

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  • Day163

    The Bitter End Virgin Gorda

    March 1, 2016 in British Virgin Islands ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    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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Stony Bay

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