Saturday, March 30, 2013

BVIs - Spinnakers and Snorkleing

We left North sound with the Super yacht regatta in full swing, we had been lucky enough to see the boats the previous day when we were heading back from our dive and they were really impressive, they didn’t fail to impress the next day and seeing the J-boats with full sail is amazing.

Wow look at them go

They look so beautiful

Race on!
No racing for us and a leisurely sail along the coast whilst watching the racing, we headed to Mountain Point/Long Bay which is only 6 miles away, by the time we were about to anchor our friends on Persephone were speeding along with spinnaker flying.  Nigel is a very keen racer and was desperate for the opportunity to use his spinnaker.

Persephone under spinnaker
We had a lovely lunch stop, shame we didn’t take our camera snorkelling as this was some of the best coral we have seen, it was like an underwater garden, amazing.  Next stop for the night was Savannah bay, we crept in behind the reef and anchored along miles of sandy beach with a handful of other boats, no hotels/bars just beach.

Lovely beach
We were up early for a visit to “The Baths” these are the big tourist attraction on Virgin Gorda, this is a lovely beach surrounded by huge granite boulders, as it is part of the national park you not able to anchor and must take a buoy of which there are a limited number so you must arrive early.    By 8.15am we were in the water snorkelling and this time we took the camera.  There were lots and lots of fish, the water was beautifully clear and swimming in between the rocks was fantastic.

One of the many blue tangs

Amanda saying hello to the Blue tangs

The amazing granite bolders

Houndfish coming for a closer look

Stingray going about its business

Amanda swimming through the deep crevice
On our return to the boat we actually had a look at our fish guide so we could provide an indication on the volume of different fish that you actually see – Foureye Butterflyfish, Spotfin Butterflyfish, Sergent Major, Blue Tangs, Ballyhoo, Silver Porgy, Jolthead Porgy, French Grunt, Bluestripe Grunt, Yellow Snapper, Dusky Damselfish, Cocoa Damselfish, Yellowtail Damselfish, Blue Chromis, Rainbow Parrotfish, Queen Parrotfish, Bluehead Wrasse, Yellowhead Wrasse, Slippery Dick, Squirrel fish, Goby, Trumpet fish, Yellowgoat fish, Smoothtruckfish, Southern stringray, Sand Dollar, Bearded fishworm – Yep lots!

As we were warming up with a cup of tea at 10am the anchorage started to fill up, we had luckily only seen one other snorkeler in over an hour in the water.  So we decided to head off, next stop Cooper Island, Hollovers Bay although this ended up being a quick stop as too rolly, so we had move to Manchioneel Bay which was not ideal as had to pay for a buoy for the night L

Virgin Gorda - Superyachts and Superstars

The time at Gorda Sound was really amazing, it does get a bit crowded but with the run up to Easter this was not surprising.  We did move around the sound and anchor in a few different spots but time was mainly spent popping ashore for short walks, snorkelling in different places and socialising.

On one of the islands is the Bitter End Yacht Club, this is a well known yacht club but actually it is more of a resort, with gorgeous little huts/bungalows dotted around the hillside and fantastic watersports for guests to enjoy.  The resort is more than welcoming to visiting yachts and there is a small shop and bars and you can walk around the beautiful grounds.

Bitter End resort
The other yachty location is Saba Rock, again this is a small resort but was actually a bar established years ago by a diver who bought the island and then welcomed the yachties.  Now it has happy hour between 4pm and 6pm and is packed with people guzzling rum cocktails and watching the sun go down – the also do some fantastic bar food.

Saba Rock Resort

Sungoing down from Saba rock - Magnum us at anchor within those boats
We were also lucky enough to bump into some other cruisers who we have met along the way and share a few drinks/cup of tea with, we hope Moonbeam and Persephoney enjoy the reminder of their time cruising this year.

Time seemed to rush past even through we were there for almost 5 days, we had 1 day walking from Leverick Bay, which provided some beautiful views.

That is Magnum all alone in that beautiful blue sea

Gorda Sound

The reef at the entrance of Gorda Sound - look at the colour of the sea!
We then had a day snorkelling of Saba Rock – we saw a shark, pretty scary when you are snorkelling, we also had an evening walk around the grounds of the Bitter End, we could admire the Super Yachts moored at Biras Creek, there was a Regatta due to start and lots of beautiful boats.

Superyachts at Biras creek - bit dark as on an evening stroll
The next day was up early and off diving, shame no photos but we dived off Salt Island at the wreck of the RMS Rhone which sunk in 1867, it was a mail ship which was originally commissioned in Southampton.  We did 2 dives and during the first dive there was not a huge amount of sealife but it was really cool to be able to swim through the hull of the ship, it felt a bit creepy. The 2nd dive there were more fishies for us to see, with huge schools of giant fish and again we swam into the wreck this time in the propeller shaft where we were joined but lots of fish.  We had a fantastic time with Kilbrides Sunchaser Scuba, who are based at the Bitter End, very professional.  The day was finished off with a superb massage for Amanda at the Bitter End Spa – yes she still has a dodgy back! Then dinner at Saba Rock, yum!

Amanda enjoying rum punch

mmm chicken burger with brie and caramalised onion, can tell we don't eat out much as very excited about our delicious food!
 The final day was also full of excitement with the news that Johnny Depp’s boat was also anchored in the harbour and Amanda knowing that the person she had seen early in week and thought wow he looks like Johnny Depp but couldn’t possibly be him, was him! And what a lovely boat.

Johnnys Boat

Johnny boat through the palm trees at Bitter End
It was difficult to drag ourselves away from such a beautiful spot.

Friday, March 22, 2013

British Virgin Islands - Beautiful landfall

After island hopping since we crossed the Atlantic we now had a 90 mile passage which would involve an overnight crossing to ensure we arrived in daylight.  We left from Oyster Pond and sailed to the west coast of St Martin for a lunch stop, as we started the engine to anchor it cut out, so our first challenge was to anchor under sail, thankfully Grand Case is a big bay and we did so successfully.  Thankfully Mark then managed to resolve the problem with the engine, so we were ready to leave that afternoon.

Grand Case Bay

Started off with Force 3-5 bit gusty but sea state good so were having a nice sail, as the sun went down we had our chickpea curry and prepared for the long night ahead.  

Saying goodbye to the sun and getting ready for a long night
Unfortunately the sea grew along with the wind and we both started to feel a bit dodgy, funny after only a week in the marina and our tummy was not used to being at sea.  We then avoided near disaster when a large Cat decided to tack straight in front of us, in the pitch dark as we ploughed along at 6 knots, Mark took avoiding action as Amanda who had been resting jumped up and turned all the lights on, some boats are such a danger to others!  Not long after we were hit by a number of squalls the rain so heavy the visibility is completely destroyed and then once these had passed the wind died and it was engine on – so much for a relaxing little sail! The wind did return and we continued to sail but neither of us rested much and we were both shattered on arrival at Virgin Gorda, but the landfall is amazing with lots of little islands dotted around in the distance – the landscape is different here with granite boulders scattered along the shoreline.  Arriving into BVIs - it is a little grey and windy.

We anchored, checked in at Spanish town and then we were off again.

The masts in the marina at Spanish town, plus the rolling waves that help your arrival at the marina!

7 miles along the coast is Gorda Sound where you can head in between the reef and again shelter.  We could see Necker island on the horizon, yep this is the place of the rich and famous, the island belongs to Richard Branson.

Sneaking in behind the breaking reef

Necker Island
Anchored and finally able to relax again.

St Martin/Sant Maarten - Split Personality

They say that the island is the smallest area of land which is split between 2 nationalities, French and Dutch.  The split between the land is slightly odd and runs at a funny angle across the island and where we were staying, Oyster Pond was on the boarder, walk out one side of the marina to a French shop and the other to a Dutch.  

Where there photo is taken is French and Magnum is on pontoon in French side but building on otherside of water are on Dutch side
The split means different languages, different currency and in lots of ways a different culture.  The Dutch side has been very built up, the capital Phillipsburg was popular with the US tourists and cruiseships with their designer shops, casinos and KFC/McDonlads.  The French capital Marigot was a lots less developed.  In Marigot we walked to Fort Luis to admire the view and you can see the marina in Marigot (French), the lagoon in the middle which is split both French and Dutch and the spit of land in the distance is Simpsons bay, Dutch.

Marigot bay, the lagoon and Simpsons Bay

We did enjoy visiting a number of the French resorts, Marigot was quite pretty, Grand Case was a nice village with a few touristy shops and a beautiful little beach.  Orient Bay is a gated complex with lots of hotels/apartments, not our sort of place as super busy but the beach is long white sandy with lots going on and loads of beach bars.  We also visited Galion beach which was definitely the local beach and on a Sunday is was great for people watching and listening to the local music – shame no photos as couldn’t risk leaving camera on the beach! We did also manage to visit the beach nearest to the marina, Dawn beach (walking distance from Oyster Pond) although backed by hotels/timeshare you could find a spot to lay you towel.

Amanda at Grand Case beach

Amanda at Dawn Beach with St Barts in the background
One of our best days out was to the Zoo! Yep only small and mainly birds but we love our birds so it suited us. Shame it is a little run down but they obviously get limited visitors and little outside funding but most of the animals look very happy.

Green winged macaw - very pretty birdy

Mark and his friend the tortoise

Iguana lounging in the tree

Mark and another friend

Mark waiting to get his finger bitten

Amanda making friends with the Scarlett macaw

Could have taken him back to the boat

He looks very pleased to be sat on Marks shoulder
It was also really nice being in Oyster Pond for the week whilst our friends Penny and Peter were also there, we original met the P’s when we were in Madeira in September last year, we then saw them in Tenerife very briefly but they crossed the Atlantic a month earlier than us,  we bumped into them again in Antigua in Jolly harbour.  Since then we have seen each other in Nevis where we had a nice sundowner on their boat, St Kitts, Statia and now here, they had friends visiting but we did manage to have a really nice evening together, it was shame to say goodbye as we headed in opposite directions.

Also the main reason for visiting Oyster Pond was Magnum had been based here before being shipped to the UK and bought by us, funny that so many people recognised Magnum when it must have been at least 7 years since she had been here!  It is a funny marina as it is 90% full of charter boats, lots of Sunsail and Mooring boats, almost like being at Port Solent (home),

St Martin did grow on us but definitely not our favourite place which was also topped off by having to pay $500 for our Fridge to be fixed, having problems with our engine which delayed our departure, Mark being ill and some sleepless nights through partying charter boats.

Sorry so photos of the disasters!

Friday, March 15, 2013

St Barts - Beautiful beaches

Our sail from Statia to St Barts was the most leisurely sail we have experienced since arriving in the Caribbean, the winds were light and swell was small.  As it was not much over 20 miles so we were in no rush, we drifted along at 4 knots.  The visibility was fantastic and we were surrounded by islands, we could see Nevis, St Kitts, Statia, Saba, St Martin/Sant Maarten and St Barts, typically I wanted to take a video but the video camera was out of battery but did manage this on the normal camera.

After coming from Statia with a handful of boats in the anchorage, Gustavia in St Barts was quite a contrast, it was packed with boats! But we found and spot and thankfully not too rolly.

Look at all those boat & somewhere in there is Magnum

St Barts has an odd history in the 1600’s the French settled on the island but in the 1700’s the French gave the island to the Swedish and some reminisce of this time is seen in Gustavia but by the 1800 the island was back in the hands of the French.  St Barts has not seen the mass tourist development that some of the islands have seen as there were laws put in place in the 1950s to limit development which has lead to an island dotted with beautiful villas and small resorts which blend into the surroundings and do not spoil the beautiful beaches.  Funny that it is so close to Statia but couldn't be more different!

Gustavia harbour

St Bart museum

Amanda hot at the top of the hill, Magnum is in the distance

Busy Gustavia harbour
After we had explored Gustavia we spent a couple of nights in Anse De Columbier, a nature reserve, just relaxing and enjoying the snorkelling and some amazing sunsets - there are 3 different nights and all just as spectacular.

We headed back round to Gustavia so we could hire a scooter and see the island.

The mean machine
Basically this involves hopping from one beach to the next - think after the Saline pond, the first was Grande Cul de Sac.

Little birdie at salt pond

Yep a beautiful caribbean beach and it is empty!

The he next was St Jean, this is the most built up resort on the island although mega exclusive, I think the Eden Rock hotel is over 1000 euros a night but the beach is very chilled and you don’t have to use the luxury loungers at Nikki Beach.

St Jean is a fantastic beach for kids as shallow and beautifully clear

St Jean

Relaxing at St Jean
Next was onto the small village of Flamands which was very cute, with the Anse des Flamands at one end which would have been great for snorkelling

Anse Des Flamands
We then had our picnic and a dip in the waves at Anse a Galets.

Anse a Galets - it was almost deserted!

Anse des Flamands and Anse a Galets from the view point
Great view

It was getting a bit hot on the mean machine

Amanda's knees were getting burnt!
The other attraction at St Barts which cannot be missed is the airport, the planes have to drop in over a hill or over the beach and land on a tiny airstrip, it is great watching them fly in and it is actually busy all day with inter island flights.

Tiny airstrip at St Barts

Airport at St Barts
Won't torture you with any further photos of stunning beaches but we really loved St Barts, definitely could not afford to holiday there and it does feel like a little bit of Europe in the Caribbean but it is am amazing island.