Sailing the British Virgin Islands

January 2014

My friend Dan Longacre and I rented a 32 foot sailboat in Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands for 8 days in January 2014. This was a first for me. Dan has sailed for years and last year received certification that allowed him to captain his own boat. So when he called in the fall of 2013 inquiring if I'd be interested I said yes after he assured me we'd always see land and that it was nearly impossible to tip the boat over.

I have been on a sailboat exactly 2 times prior to this. Once in San Francisco Bay and once on Dan's boat on a small lake in Nebraska. So this was a new adventure for me.

We arrived in St. Thomas (from the frigid north) and had a first night acclimating to the heat (poor souls back home were in single digits and lower). The next morning we took a ferry to Road Town where we met our boat, Chablis. She was a nice accommodating boat. Two small state rooms each supposedly sleeping 2 people greeted us nightly. There was a head barely wide enough (the handle on the pump would goose you if you were not careful). Nothing was tall enough to totally stand up. Oh, and did I say, "do not flush paper down the head" otherwise you risk plugging it up and a trip to home port to have it unplugged for $75. So we had a plastic bag for that stuff that had to be dumped back on land. The other debris was hand pumped to the fish. Oh boy!

After meeting the boat, we were briefed by Chris on its operation. Then we walked to the grocery and stocked up with provisions. We had too much stuff to walk back but lucky for us the grocery offered free delivery. We fixed our first dinner on the boat (spaghetti). The rest of our dinners were at little local restaurants where we moored each night at mooring balls. Our dinghy took us to shore for dinner and exploring. Lunches consisted of cold cut sandwiches which we made daily. Breakfast was either scrambled eggs and toast or cereal. It worked well.

Since this was my first sailboat trip I was given real time instruction by Captain Dan on the operation of the ropes that controlled the main sail as well as the genoa sail. Ok, I didn't do too bad but once when he only wanted 4 feet of sail he got it all. Dan exclaimed: "I said, just 4 feet!" - - - yes, well.....we survived and I continued to learn how to control the both the out and the in ropes (my terminology).  halyard (red rope), sheet (white with red and black dots), port and starboard traveler, two reefing points, vang (black), Genoa (downhaul line, port and starboard lines) and there is the clew, tack and the luff. And watch that you don't get the main sail caught in the lazyjacks. I was finally getting it and it was time to quit.

I had an absolute awesome time. We snorkeled every day but one. I looked at Dan on about the second or third day while sailing along with a silly relaxed smile on my face. I had totally given in to the ship, the sea, and the moment. I conquered what little fear that remained when I boarded Chablis. I was ready to enjoy the rest of the trip. Did I say it was an awesome trip. Thank you Dan!!!

Now here are 334 images (out of 1365 I made). I hope they allow you to imagine this 8 day event. I keep trying to reduce the number but can't do it. I had a few challenges with photography but none that could not eventually be overcome (once the problem was understood). The key problem was my battery charger not liking the excessive moisture in the air. But once I figured it out I baked it in the sun and kept it secure in a ziploc bag and all was good. I was worried I'd have to ration my images on the remaining charge in my batteries. Whew!!!

Sunsets and Sunrises were out of this world. The weather was near perfect. The winds were constant - great for sailing. The food was outstanding and sometimes expensive. But after all both food and fuel need to be boated in to these places. While the sea was not flat, it did not pose any huge threat. One day I estimate were were rolling in 10' swells. It's especially strange to be at the bottom of a trough trying to see the horizon when your boat is tilting (in my humble opinion nearly 35 degrees). One day we were escorted for a few minutes by a dolphin off our bow.

The snorkeling was awesome. Lots of interesting sea residents. Some of them are curious and come to visit. Others keep their distance including the turtles that swam near us one day. The oddest creature was this thing that looked like a caterpillar as big as my thy lurking on the bottom. In retrospect should have bought that underwater camera I looked at. Maybe next time.

Here are the visited locations in order of appearance: St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands - Road Town, Tortola - Privateer Bay, Norman Island - The Indians and Pelican Island - Salt Island and the HMS Rhone Marine Park (ship wreck) - Manchioneel Bay, Cooper Island - The Baths at Virgin Gorda - Marina Cay - The Dogs - North Sound, Sabo Cay, and Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda - Guana Island and Monkey Point - Trellis Bay and Bellamy Cay - Jost Van Dyke, Great Harbour and White Bay - Peter Island - Road Town.

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Day 1

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

Day 2

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands - Road Town, Tortola and first sail to Privateer Bay, Norman Island (snorkel and overnight)

Day 3

Norman Island - The Indians and Pelican Island (snorkel) - Salt Island (snorkel) - Cooper Island (overnight and dinner)

Day 4

Cooper Island - The Baths at Virgin Gorda (snorkel) - Marina Cay (dinner and overnight)

Day 5

Marina Cay - Great Dog Island (snorkel) - North Sound Virgin Gorda (dinner and overnight)

Day 6

North Sound Virgin Gorda - Guana Island and Monkey Point (snorkel) - Trellis Bay and Bellamy Cay (overnight and dinner)

Day 7

Trellis Bay and Bellamy Cay - Josh Van Dyke Island and White Bay (Ivans Stress Free Bar) and Great Harbour (overnight and dinner)

Day 8

Josh Van Dyke Island Great Harbour - Peter Island (overnight, snorkel and dinner)

Day 9

Peter Island (glorious sunrise to end the trip) - Road Town, Tortola, and return home

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