Trip Report, 6/16 - 6/26 (2024)

We (me, wife, and 3 kids) just returned last night from a fantastic trip that was a lot of firsts for us. First time in the BVI, first time on a boat for more than a week, first bareboat charter, first time sailing a boat over 30 ft LOA and with a wheel(s) instead of a tiller, etc. You get the idea. We were newbies.

6/16 Flight from Miami (where we iive) was uneventful. Cab from STT to Charlotte Amalie. Was surprised that skies were overcast and somewhat gray, then learned it we had arrived during a Sahara dust event. Ate lunch at Petite Pump over the ferry terminal. My mahi sandwich was unremarkable at best, the BLTs were good, and the burgers were barely edible. The view and the drinks were good though. We enjoyed the ride on the RT Fast Ferry, sitting on upper deck but not too hot with the overcast skies. Somehow got lucky as the first family through immigration/customs at RT and then cab to Nanny Cay to board at Horizon Yacht Charters. Boat had one of two water tanks not completely full but otherwise was clean, provisions were in place, A/C was cold, and we got unpacked and ready to leave the next morning. Ate at Omar's that night. Food was good but there was not much wind in the marina and it was hot.

6/17 Located a couple of other items we needed, like an extra cooler for the co*ckpit and ice to fill it with. Our check-out skipper Tom arrived on time and we cast off. We let him motor us out of the marina and then we took over. Both my wife and I took turns motoring, turning, backing, etc and Tom reviewed some seamanship basics with us. He then taught us the best way to raise handle the sails after warning us about in-mast furling systems. (His warning were well founded). We sailed to Norman and our mooring ball awaiting us that I had already reserved through the Dockwa app. Wife made sandwiches for lunch and then Tom gave us the thumbs up and we tried to pump as much knowledge out of Tom as we could before dropping him off in time to catch the 3 pm ferry at Pirate's Bight, and then we were on our own. Took the dinghy over to the Caves and had a wonderful first snorkel. Enjoyed seeing Caribbean squid and tarpon as well as the Caves themselves. Then we headed over to the Willy T and wife and I had our first Painkillers (yum) and rum punch. Kids (13, 11, and 9) all jumped off the 2nd level multiple times and then the wife and I did too. Fair to say I was the only one disappointed by the lack of nudity lol but it was still family friendly at that time of day. Ate a baked ziti we had made at home and brought with us frozen. This was Friday and could hear the noise from a party at Pirate's Bight when on deck but in the A/C below we all slept like babies.

6/18 As was usually the case, I was up by 5:30 or so, and we were the first ones on a mooring ball at the Indians (our first mooring ball without any guidance from the check out skipper). Again, great snorkel and a lost noodle and GoPro camera (floating) were recovered by dinghy. By 10 am we were off the ball and headed for North Sound, our first "long" sail. Conditions were perfect, with 10-12 knot winds out of the SE and we made it all the way past the Dogs on a single tack (ok we briefly cheated a little with the motor to get past Beef Island). Just a lovely sail. On our F27 trimaran at home, we find sailing at less than 10 knots boatspeed to be ho hum, but we were quite happy with 5 knots on our big comfy monohull. The sailing was one of my favorite parts of the trip. We took the advice of a poster here on TTOL and once we got past Moskito, opted for the engine rather than taking our way to the North sound channel entrance. Picked up a mooring ball at Leverick that turned out to be a Blunder Bay mooring. So we made our way to the Blunder Bay Marina / North Shore Bistro were we had drinks in the pool overlooking the sound and the best tasting conch fritters I had ever had. They were super friendly and helped us arrange a rental car the next day to be picked up at Leverick. Ate dinner on the boat again.

6/19 picked up our rental car and stopped at every scenic overlook along the way to the Baths. One of the hottest hikes of my life hiking down to the Baths. The saharan dust was gone by this point and was not expecting it to be so arid. But boy were they worth it. We took our time. Then hiked back up for Father's Day lunch at Top of the Baths. Everyone's food and drinks (kids became smoothie connoiseurs) were really good, but not cheap! And then we hiked back down for a swim in Devil's Bay. Too difficult/dangerous to make it up the jump rock, but kids loved playing in the surging surf (this was a windy day, glad we weren't sailing) and my son didn't want to leave. We did another pass through the Baths and then hiked up and out. Picked up some more provisions, then visited the old copper mine, the sugar mill ruins, the Virgin Gorda sign, and then had late afternoon/early dinner bbq sandwiches at Hog Heaven. The food there gets mixed reviews but I liked the caribbean twist on the BBQ with the ginger. Got pictures of our boat from way above! This was meant to be our night having dinner at CocoMaya but it was a Sunday and wasn't aware that they aren't open on Sundays. Next time I guess.

6/20 Woke up at Blunder Bay (only place we spent two nights on same mooring) and meant to top off our fuel and tanks at Leverick because it was nice easy open dock (we were nervous about this) but for some reason the water to the docks was turned off so we headed to the Bitter End YC. Fun time just swimming off the boat at our mooring before heading to the resort. Beautiful place, my wife loved it. Swam a bit and tried volleyball but it was too hot. Drinks were good but very pricey. Took the dinghy over to Saba Rock and had more drinks/smoothies, shot some pool (a photographer for a magazine shot several pics of the kids) and watched tarpon feeding. Considered snorkeling at a relatively unknown spot nearby Tom told us about but it was too windy. Made our way back to Bitter End and had showers and ordered pizzas, which were excellent, and ate them upstairs at the Quarterdeck, their private events space that we had to ourselves for the sunset. Superb!

6/21 Up at 5 again (if not earlier, I was nervous) and headed to wife at BEYC for our first BoatyBall challenge. Got the third ball I tried, all were gone within 10 seconds, near heart attack but success! We are going to Anegada! Topped off fuel and water at BEYC. Winds were just perfect for our crew at about 10 knots out of SE so no bashing through waves. We had never pointed our bow at open ocean before and it was strange having no landmark to steer by. But there were lots of other boats sailing with us to ease my wife's concerns. There has to be a first time for everything! This sail was, again, one of my highlights. We navigated the channel and got on our mooring without issue - high fives! - we were only one of 3 monohulls in the mooring field - at one point my son saw 0.4 feet of depth under the keel! Were able to rent a truck and saw the flamingos, explored the sandy roads a bit, and had an incredible snorkel at Loblolly. Then back in the truck for just a criminally short time at Ann's Tipsy. She and her son were so friendly. Beautiful spot! Dinner at the Wonky Dog was excellent. I had the jerk lobster which was really tasty but I think I preferred my wife's simple anegada lobster. Delicious! The most money I have ever spent on a meal! My son dancing to the DJ on the beach drew cheers from the crowd. Then we got back to the boat, hot and tired, and the generator quit and the A/C went out. The lid on the strainer was seized up so I couldn't get in it to get the big wad of sargassum out. So I removed the strainer and McGyvered a long hook of twist ties to slowly draw the sargassum out. Reinstalled. No dice. Went to bed hot that night. Woke up next morning and managed to clear the intake hose of sargassum with the dingy pump. All told, this was a 3-4 hour sweaty ordeal. But I told the family ahead of time - this is sailing, this is cruising, there will be issues, and we will work through them. And we did.

6/22 And then we had more issues. I can not tell you how much I grew to hate in-mast furling, which I had never used before. I spent 2-3 hours once we left Anegada trying to clear the jam. Bad connection but got some more tips from Horizon and eventually we were under full sail again. At that point I understood what it takes to get a good tight furl and the problem never happened again. So we were relatively late getting onto a mooring ball at Marina Cay. Still early enough for a nice snorkel and Diamond Reef. Tacos on the boat for dinner.

6/23 Beer and ice at Scrub Island marina, and then off to Guana Island. Friends we had known in Hawaii years ago happened to see one of my wife's FB posts and said we are going to be in the BVI next week too! They were staying at Guana Island. We moored at White Bay and picked them up in the dinghy. Snorkeled Monkey Point, and had beers and laughs with people we hadn't seen in 15+ years and 6 kids between us. Was sorry to say goodbye when we left for our boatyball at Cane Garden Bay. CGB definitely had the sunset of the trip. Gorgeous colors, and loved seeing the lights come out around the bay at night. At this point, we met up with other friends who had scheduled an overlapping charter with ours. Hosted them for drinks. This was our social day!

6/24 walked the beach at CGB and the main street. Visited the old distillery as I had already become a fan of Arundel rum. Then sailed to Sandy Spit where we did our one and only anchor. Success, though I had to spend another hour on the boat before I was comfortable leaving it for Sandy Spit. Just a gorgeous spit. Timed my son running around the island: his best time was one minute. Then we had a short sail for our boatyball at Great Harbor, JVD. We did the hike to White Bay (I wasn't going to tempt fate by trying to anchor there). Wish we had had more time at the Soggy Dollar! We loved that place and shut it down! Incredible conch fritters from Gertrude's, and had a great game of volleyball with our family friends. The girls won. Took the taxi back to Foxy's where we had a BBQ dinner, which was good but not spectacular. We signed our Univ of Miami pennant that had been flying on the boat and stapled it to the rafters at Foxy's.

6/25 Arranged a mooring at Norman Island again on the Dockwa app. This time at Privateer Bay, so it would feel different. Another lovely sail from JVD, although we motored through Thatch Cut. Once on our ball at Privateer, fantastic two hour snorkel to the tip of the island there, then paddleboarding late afternoon. Then left the kids on the boat while the adults headed around the point for a final trip to Willy T's, this time with our friends. Somehow missed the topless girls when I went downstairs for another round. Then back to the boat for dinner and clean up. Sadly, it's coming to an end.

6/26 Off the mooring ball at 7:30. Windiest day we sailed - had the boat going over 8 knots for awhile in the channel (the wife did not like this so much, but I was grinning ear to ear). Efficient check in with Horizon, cab to ferry. And based on our RT fast ferry the first day, were not ready to be on top level of Native Son with no canopy, no sunscreen on, no clouds or saharan dust to protect us, and we baked. And karma got us back, as this time we were the last in line to go through immigration/customs. Finally make it to STT, where already long scheduled wait for plane got longer with multiple delays. Finally got to Ft Lauderdale airport at 10:30 pm (we were originally schedule to fly to Miami where we live). Then a ~1 hour Uber ride before home at 11:30 pm. Sun parched and exhausted. But still glowing with joy from a great trip.

Can't thank you all enough for all the tips that made our cruise such a success! Even the little things ... someone suggested bringing a watercolor kit for the kids, and they painted what they saw that day almost every night. These will be our most cherished souvenirs. Can't wait to get back! Much love to the TTOL community!

Trip Report, 6/16 - 6/26 (2024)


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