Iridium TEXT messages…

You will need my sat phone number which you can get by emailing me. Although the screen will say 160 chars - I only get the first 108 (...its the usual IT screw up)

Archives

Radar

 

 

 

Limin….

Treasure Island..

We anchored in The Bight. It provided great shelter and we stayed at the outer edge away from the motor boats and pleasure vessels crowding round the beach bars and the mock pirate ship… away from the hideous soca music – what sort of torture is that ? ! ,….. Time for a swim off the back…. lovely….may be a Tanqueray … or two….

The 610 acre island is privately owned, uninhabited, and features dozens of hiking trails, world famous SCUBA and snorkelling spots, as well as a stunning beach on which "Pirates Beach Bar" is located.  Featuring renowned chef, Patrick Williams, and his unique take on "Caribbean Fusion" food.

image image

 

Norman Island got its reputation in part to pirates hiding their booty in the many caves that line the coast.  The most well documented case of treasure trove comes from the 18th century account of the vessel Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe.

“In 1750, the crew of the Spanish treasure galleon, Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, dropped anchor at Okracore, North Carolina to seek refuge from a terrible storm. The Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe was loaded with tons of silver bars when she was badly damaged during the storm. Her captain, Bonilla, was forced to hire two English bi-landers to take his precious cargo and finish the voyage to Spain. The treasure was transferred to the bi-landers, and while Bonilla was dealing with taxation issues in Cape Fear, the crews of the bi-landers absconded with the silver and sailed away. One of the ships never made it out of the harbour in North Carolina, but the other was successful in the escape, and that double-ended brigantine ship was captained by Owen Lloyd.

Captain Lloyd was very familiar with the Virgin Islands and considered Norman Island to be the perfect place to divide the ill-gotten gains among his crew and himself. After three uneventful weeks at sea, Captain Lloyd and crew arrived at Norman Island. On board, their cargo manifest included 55 chests filled with silver dollars, 3 large chests full of silver plates and wrought silver, indigo, tobacco and animal hides and furs. The cargo was worth $200,000 at the time; tens of millions today.

Captain Lloyd and his crew buried the treasure on Norman Island, and possibly Tortola before sailing to St. Thomas to clear customs. They left very few pieces on board–mostly conchineal (dried bodies of Mexican insects that produce a bright red dye) and a few animal hides, which they claimed at customs. However, Captain Lloyd made a fatal mistake–he left three crew members behind on Norman Island to finish burying and guard the treasure. The crew members weren’t secretive about what they were doing, and soon the residents of Tortola were swarming Norman Island, digging up buried treasure. The pirates were all captured and jailed and when the frenzy subsided, only a small portion of the treasure had been recovered.

Since then, many have attempted to recover the remaining treasure and there has been limited success. In the 1900’s, a group of English treasure hunters formed “Norman Island Treasure Company” and began blasting holes in the island with large charges of gunpowder to find the lost treasure, but they had no luck. Their activity is believed to be the inspiration for the story “Treasure Island” written by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Part of the booty was discovered by Gilbert Fleming, the acting Lieutenant General of the Leeward Islands, who commissioned two companies of soldiers to travel to Tortola in search of the loot. A proclamation was issued whereby the treasure would be returned to Spain and the finder would receive a 1/3 share as a finders fee. Treasure was found, but only a portion of that listed on the cargo manifest.

Soon after, it is rumoured that a descendant of a poor, local family named Creque found one of the treasure chests in a cave on Norman Island while stranded during a storm. The Creque family later became significant land owners on St. Thomas and St. John. Creque’s Alley is a well known shopping area in downtown Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas today.

The Virgin Islands still holds millions in buried treasure, just waiting to be discovered.”..

Peter Island…

 

We sailed on Monday morning. It was a cracking sail on a beautiful sunny morning, across a blue blue sea.

We had been told to get to St Thomas by 14th so we planned just one stop en route at the famed Norman Island – slightly better known as the being the inspiration to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

It was a shame to sail right past Peter Island with its many deserted beaches and great anchorages.

image

 

image

image

US Visa Waltz…

 

We did the US Visa Waltz yesterday.

I can honestly say it was the most annoying and bureaucratic process we have experienced to date – get ready to write off a day. I am writing this as advice for any travellers following in our footsteps.

I am guessing that our first mistake was to go on a Saturday. A day when a lot of villa clients were ending/starting their holiday… so first tip is don’t go on a weekend.

One thing we did get right was to get the largest; fastest; and most stable ferry of the ones on offer. It’s the "Road Town Fast Ferry" the kiosk nearest the entrance doors to the ferry terminal.

Image result for Road Town Fast Ferry tortola

The ferry departs at 0700 and 1000. Naturally we went for the 1000. Actually we thought it was 0900 so we waited an hour for the ferry to arrive. The ticket including departure tax was $100 US for two people. You then queue to clear “formalities” (30 minutes). Then you wait for the arriving ferry to disgorge passengers and luggage (45 mins).

The journey itself was pleasant. Inside the ferry has great seats and a/c – on the top deck you get the breeze and a great view. We took the top deck. What struck me as we sped past the islands was how beautiful the anchorages looked and what a fantastic sailing area – I wish we had more time !

On arrival (journey time 60 mins) we waited 30 mins to get a berth at the dock – another ferry was unloading. Eventually we docked. MOST important tip – get to the front of the queue on the ferry before it docks. It will probably dock on the portside. Ignore the public address system that tells you to stay in your seats. Start a queue at the door. You will find out why.

The ferry insist on unloading luggage first – before the passengers are allowed off. So luggage unloading (45 mins). Then you are allowed off, to queue for “formalities”. How long this takes depends on passenger numbers of course, but it took us 60 mins. On the immigration form where it asks for address in USVI put "Day Trip – Providence III" or whatever is the name of the ferry you are on.

When you eventually get out the terminal don’t get a taxi. Just walk to the main road (if you can manage it). Cross to the eastbound carriageway. And get a "Dollar Taxi". Yes – flat fare $1 each. These are large open single decker mini buses – you can’t miss them and they are very regular. Go two stops. And get out in the old quarter where there are many tiny alleyways and restaurants. Very quaint – we ate at Gladys Café as the guide book tells you too. Very enjoyable. Nice area to window shop in.

image Related image
Image result for gladys cafe st thomas Image result for gladys cafe st thomas

We then thought we would try and make contact with the shipping agent – who remained determined not to answer any emails. We got a Dollar Taxi to Crown Bay. Ask the driver to tell you when to get off – it’s not obvious. There is then a 10 min walk from the bus stop to the marina.

Crown Bay Marina is a typical overpriced and well-heeled marina. On the plus side, the office staff were extremely helpful. Allowing us to sit in their office, use their Wi-Fi and their desk phone to make contact with Stuart – the shipping agent on the ground. His office is very close by and he appears to operate out of Crown Bay. Unfortunately for us it was Saturday and he was at home on Water Island. But we had a chat on the phone and we hope that our arrangements are working out to plan. We shall see.

The return ferry journey to Road Harbour, Tortola was pretty much the same as the outbound in terms of queuing, waiting, more queuing, more waiting. With the added twist that we wanted to “check out” at Road Harbour so we could sail on Sunday. This meant we had to officially "arrive" with the usual 1 hour queue etc…clear formalities then wait outside the terminal to be called back in when all the ferry passengers had been cleared – so that we could “depart”. This was another 30 mins. Then we went back in to the terminal and "checked-out" as cruisers.

What a ridiculous rigmarole…still we had a glimpse of St Thomas – our final destination…

Road Harbour, Tortola

From Trellis Bay we had another superb sail in some of the most beautiful cruising grounds I have ever seen.

The weather was beautiful, the wind was beautiful, the islands were – yes – fantastically beautiful… some of the best sailing conditions ever.

Just half a day sail to Road Harbour, and to anchor.

The purpose of stopping here was to get the ferry to the US Virgin Islands in order to get a US visa…. but that is another story….

Luckily – although the guide books all play Road Harbour down – we found it quiet and welcoming… we also bumped into old friends from SV Betsy – last seen in Antigua and also heading to St Thomas to get their boat shipped back to the UK.

 

Map
Anchorage
Idyllic sailing grounds of the BVI’s…..
BVI-3
BVI-2
BVI-1

..next stop…The Last Resort…

From North Sound we sailed in beautiful weather and light winds towards the north coast of Tortola, our destination by nightfall would be Trellis Bay.

Located within Trellis Bay there is a tiny island called Bellamy Cay. Here the Last Resort Bar and Restaurant was founded in 1972.  Bellamy Cay gained its name after the infamous "Prince of Pirates" Samuel Bellamy, who used the island as his base of operations from 1715 to 1717 largely due to the 12-15 foot draft of the Trellis Bay which provided protection to Bellamy's fleet during bad weather. 

Until the 20th Century, Bellamy Island, remained uninhabited until it was bought by Władysław Wagner, Europe's "First Polish yachtsmen" who built a boatyard, marine railway, and many of the buildings you can still see today. 

The Last Resort Bar and Restaurant was opened by adventurer Tony Snell who prior to his arrival in the BVIs had lived a life of adventure.  During WW2 Snell had been shot down and captured by Axis forces, both times escaping from imprisonment with the help of beautiful women, a real life James Bond.  After returning back to the States, Snell experienced success in both music and film. Then, while sailing off to another island, Jost Van Dyke in the 1970's, he and his family stumbled upon Bellamy Cay and decided to take up residence upon finding the remnants of Wagner's structures.  He moved his business to the Bellamy Cay and began The Last Resort which has been greeted by on going success largely due to their great food and fantastic live performances by local musicians.

We met one of the young guitarists – from the UK – in the Last Resort bar and it was his band that had played for Obama on Mosquito Island just a couple of weeks before.

image

..the Bitter End..

The entire North Sound is a safe haven for even a large fleet. It is here that many pirates like Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins, sought refuge and cover. The connection with pirates went on to modern times. Roland "Pop" Symonette was one of nine children born in poverty in the Bahamas. Although he had only six years of formal education, Symonette became one of the wealthiest men of his generation. A lifelong advocate of education, he was a school teacher early in his career, but, during Prohibition, Symonette transported whiskey to the United States. With the profits from bootlegging, he invested in real estate, hotels, a shipyard and and eventually a wide range of philanthropic interests, including Camp Symonette, originally built for the youth of the Bahamas. The Symonette family's holdings have never been publicly confirmed, but public speculation has placed it between $700 million and $2.5 billion USD. One of his sons – Basil – who was a keen yachtsman found himself in North Sound one day and established the The Bitter End pub.

Originally comprising five rustic cottages, The Bitter End Pub was originally meant to house charter captains and adventurous sailors, when Basil was feeling sociable he would encourage boats wanting to come ashore to sound their airhorn and he would use a megaphone to tell prospective patrons to come ashore and enjoy a meal.  By the 1970’s the area passed into the hands of the Hokins family who developed the resort that exists today. They have adopted an eco friendly design by the use of solar panels, rain collection, generators, and irrigation of the surrounding landscape by grey waste shower water.  The resort is celebrated for its world class watersports amenities as well as stunning natural surroundings.

We certainly had a lovely break here and would not hesitate to recommend the area to yachtsmen or landlubbers.

IMG_0963 IMG_0964
IMG_0982 IMG_0974
IMG_0969 IMG_0973
Enterprise at anchor … dead centre  

Happy Arr!…

It was a nice respite to enjoy the Leverick Bay Restaurant with its beautiful views, a small sandy beach, and very friendly staff.  The steaks and mahi mahi were great too, and after a few cocktails the totally over the top evening entertainment provided by Michael "Bean" Gardner's "Happy 'Arr," was bearable and even enjoyable at times. Mr Bean’s real claim to fame is that all proceeds from show go directly to the Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti, which strives to bring food, water, medicine, and education to Ile a Vache, a small island off the southwest coast of Haiti where. It was here, as a boy, that Gardner was abandoned by a shipwreck salvage company that went bankrupt.

Anyway – we joined in with gusto – and when we left it made for an interesting dinghy ride back to the boat!

11,000 Virgins…

Columbus “discovered” the Islands in 1493 – some centuries after the native Ciboney, Caribs, and Arawaks had forgotten to plant a flag on their homelands. Columbus named the Island chain after the mythical story of the 11,000 virgins of the 5th-century Christian martyr St. Ursula. As an aside, my eldest sister went to an Ursuline convent school for girls in London. I am sure she can testify to the saintliness of her teachers and fellow students. Our own arrival off the coast of Virgin Gorda, at the head of the Island chain was magical. As dawn broke, and the philosopher slept, I slowed Enterprise down until, with no sail, we gently glided in the current between the north shore and the famous Necker Island. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of Branson or one of his guests jogging along the beach – but all was quiet in billionaire land. I was keen to avoid entering the North Sound until the sun had risen further – there was the small matter of reefs and a reasonably complicated entrance channel that “may or may not be marked” by marker buoys that “may or may not be” in the correct place. In the event – and as is often the case – the entrance was not as tricky as forecast – and we motor sailed through, in the company of a glorious sunrise.

North SoundNorth Sound is a large inlet protected by hilly islands which are virtually joined by reefs except in one place where a narrow entrance skirts the second Branson island – called Mosquito Island. We later discovered that ex President Obama had been a guest of the Bransons only the week before and had been happily dancing on the bar showing off his moves. Oh well, if he couldn't be bothered to wait for us it was his loss.

 

We motored in to Leverick Bay and dropped anchor some way off since the anchorage had been planted with 3o or so mooring buoys. The mooring field occupied the prime position near to the dock side facilities. We decided. to just get sorted and check in the following day. The dinghy had to be launched; the outboard fitted and the boat tidied up – and I needed some sleep!

The Oh-My-God-A Passage…

We planned on crossing the Anagada Passage in daylight. That way we figured we would be able to see whatever nature threw at us. The chart plotter was showing that at our current speed of 2/4 kts our ETA at Virgin Gorda would be 0400. We would be arriving when it was still pitch black, but I planned on “heaving to” and just waiting till dawn before approaching any reefs. 

The wind was light and fickle – the sun was relentless – we sailed, or more accurately flopped, along with a high pressure zone fixed directly above us. Eventually I had to give up with the genoa and sail with just full main and engine purring along at 1000 rpm. It was perfect cruising chute weather. But I just couldn’t muster the energy to haul the massive chute up from down below and spend the 30 minutes or so configuring sheets; furling line; leaning over the bow to clip it on to the spinnaker pole etc etc…. Perhaps if I had had just one working crew mate (Pete is never there when you need him..) … but I decided against it in the end. I was sad about that – this may well be the last chance to use it.

 But what was most remarkable was the sea state and currents. At least 3 different wave patterns – and although none were more than 2 meters – it was enough to make the journey one of those washing machine experiences. I had to use the engine to make any progress. For those of you who have slid down the Alderney Race, you will be able to imagine the sea state – except this was going to be home for the next 24hrs at least. Still, it was 300C and the breeze was like a gentle hairdryer.

I settled down into my solo watch rota – setting the iPhone alarm to go off every 30mins and arranging the cockpit cushions into as comfortable a fashion as I could. Around midday I heated one of the three packets of bolognaise that the Mathematician had made in Antigua and stored in the freezer. Luxury indeed. The Mathematician joined me on deck, but on taking one spoon of food decided that another nautical mile should be marked in the time-honoured manner – we had started to run worryingly low on sick bags.

The sea became eerily calm for a few hours – not a ripple and as if by magic we were joined by a pod of dolphins –  yes, I know I said I wouldn’t write about dolphins or sunsets, but….here is the sunset… – the dolphins came to visit too!

P1060025

 

The Mathematician stood watch while I got 3hrs sleep from 1900 to 2200. Then she was despatched to the bowels and lay down in the saloon. Or did she go down to the saloon to despatch her bowels. Its academic. I took the night vigil alone. We were only half way across the Passage. The high pressure meant that the night sky was peppered with star upon star, on and on into the depths of space; the planets were clearly visible as if their orbiting plane was a ring encircling the Earth, a shooting star careered into the atmosphere and flew into dust. The wake of the boat was shattered by phosphorescence. An inky black sea merged seamlessly with the sky at an imagined horizon and then, rising to a glorious arc above, it challenged me to truly consider those familiar questions that have engaged mankind for generations. I put a towel over the chart plotter to remove the annoying glare of man-made technology, and lay back on the cockpit seat, mesmerised. The work, and the intention of God was clear to see. At moments like this you have to balance the knowledge of your incredibly minute existence with the your love for life itself and all it has to offer. You can relax; meditate even but also be alert and ready to take on whatever your puny body can handle; constantly monitor your thoughts and fears about the project you have taken on. As Tony Robbins said “life is found in the dance between your deepest desire and your greatest fear..” 

Having pondered these weighty thoughts – I went below to eat the Philosopher’s share of the bolognaise – cold with some pitta bread – it doesn’t get much better than this.