Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Happy Days at Saba Rock (7-8 May 2013)

Most of our first day in the BVIs was taken up with paperwork - signing in with immigration, then finding Wifi to confirm our shipping place and sort out payment.  We needed to print and scan some forms for the shipping company, and it took a while to get everything sorted - helped by a friendly estate agent who let us use her office.  Finally we were free and could relax.  It was the 7th May, and we were shipping from the USVIs, slightly later than scheduled, on the 14th.

At the dinghy dock, we were delighted to finally meet Fiona and Iain on their Sadler 34 Ruffian - they knew several of our friends, including Oliver and Carlotta of Troskala, who were now anchored just the other side of the island.  We hadn't seen Troskala since Madeira, and it was time for a reunion.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Heading North (5 to 7 May 2013)

Limbo's rendezvous with a ship arranged, we were to head back round the corner to Jolly Harbour to regroup and get some provisions in, before hurrying to the BVIs.

Except the engine wouldn't start, leaving us feeling vulnerable in the fairly exposed anchorage. Normally switched separately to guard against exactly this eventuality, except when I forgot, our batteries had both been drained by our heavy laptop use courtesy of Dickenson Bay resort's wifi.  Not a good moment.  But for the first - and almost certainly last - time, we were grateful for jetskis: they use starter batteries. Lugging a heavy battery ashore in the dinghy, we asked nicely and it was soon hooked up to a charger for a few hours' boost.  We had a drink in the bar and wandered along the shore for a swim.  We couldn't help noticing the deadly bored demeanour of the holidaymakers there.  Perhaps they were disgruntled to find themselves on this rather scrubby outpost of a beach rather than among the gleaming white sands and reef-blue waters the Sandals brochure, no doubt, had promised...

We waited a decent amount of time, headed back, re-installed the battery, and were on our way.  Anchored again in Jolly Harbour, we told Bella of our plans and dinghied into the supermarket.  Hailed by a late middle-aged couple from their Legend on the way back, we went over for drinks and a chat.  A happier evening than the one before.

Rain off Antigua

We couldn't have asked for an easier trip north (or, from a sailing point of view, a less satisfactory one).   We left Antigua the next day with a nice breeze, and soon some heavy rain.  I waited outside the customs hut for more than an hour to clear out - the customs lady, totally unapologetic, explained she'd been doing her shopping. 

The plan was to head to Nevis, but it was straight to windward and we altered course for a more comfortable sail to St Martin.  But the often-boisterous Caribbean soon slept, and before long we were motoring over a sea calmer than we had seen for weeks.  Natalie, as Chief Dolphin Spotter, duly saw just those on her early evening watch.  The islands of Kitts and Nevis stood hazy-blue on the horizon to the west towards dusk, and we carried on through the night.  Shooting stars and lightning flickering silently on the horizon. It was a while since we'd done night watches.

Not long after dawn, we approached St Martin and dropped anchor in the large harbour. I had a swim. We slept. Later in the day we found the uncomfortably high-walled fuel berth where a friendly Rastafarian refilled our tanks, ready for the second half of the trip.  We got away without signing in.

At anchor off Saint Martin
We had a beautifully still afternoon sail along the well-developed, well-heeled coastline where jets come in to land just feet above the heads of sunbathers.  Saba was visible on the horizon, a stunning island I had glimpsed during a night passage on Trompeta years ago, and had vowed to visit. Maybe next time.

It was comforting to have islands in sight all the way on these two passages: Nevis, Kitts, Saba, St Barts...  For some time it was just us, the wind and the sound of the waves.  Sadly, inevitably, the wind died and it was back to the drone of the engine. We raised the BVIs early the next morning.

BVIs from the south
It was a stunning approach, sandy-green hillocks emerging as we came closer in the early morning light.  We passed through the high cliffs of the deserted, rocky chain of smaller islands to the south and into the shelter of the Sir Frances Drake channel.  An hour or so later we dropped anchor off Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda. In lieu of sleep, we jumped in and swam in the invitingly clear water.

Final morning approach to Spanish Town, and the end of our 300-mile dash north.