Sunday, June 9, 2013

Virgin Gorda, Virgin Atlantic, Fat Virgin… and Virgin Cruisers?

I have titled this “Virgin Cruisers”, because, although we are on our fourth trawler and between us both, have traveled the waters of Florida’s Gulf Coast, the East Coast and the English Channel and French coastlines – we have never ventured this far – or cruised for this extended period of time. And although we have enjoyed every nautical mile and every exotic island along our route - we are truly “Virgins” in our zeal for these beautiful Virgin Islands – Spanish, British and US! We are also virgins at the navigating of these islands – and so are very careful and respectful of the tricky waters – with deceptive depths due to water so clear, and reef and rocky prominences scattered about as well as the famous Trade Winds that can be both delightful and cooling natural “air conditioning” - or can kick up a strong wave chop and create periodic squalls at any turn.
Yes – we do have a healthy respect for the sea – but we also have great electronics and resources to teach us about the areas and anchorages as we travel along and this has helped us to enjoy our travels without getting into the danger that we know is possible – so far! As I’ve said before, we subscribe to Chris Parker’s weather service, as well as weather grib files and numerous other computer sites detailing weather, wind, waves, traversing anchorages and locations of current security alerts. There is much out there – if you can get internet – which we can’t always do – so we have the HF SSB radio for those other times.
The Virgin Islands are just fantastic! They are the quintessential cruising ground for sailors and cruisers alike, as the winds are terrific, and the islands are in close proximity to one another – making for short hops and beautiful sights along the way. Nowhere else have we seen such a concentrated collection of rental yachts and catamarans – with the cats being the most popular choice by far! Cap and I have watched these tenants storm into an anchorage at a speed we are not used to, and it can be quite the hilarious sight watching them try to pick up a mooring ball! As much as they are enjoying the cruising life – even for a week or two – I am amazed at their spunk – which can cover a myriad of catastrophes due to lack of experience! Then they all load up in the dinghy and get to the bar! Getting to know these people is not the same as befriending fulltime cruisers and we are looking forward to catching up with our full-time cruising friends.

 I can imagine us returning here after hurricane season - when we have the luxury of time - to slowly meander around and delight in exploring more of these beautiful anchorages and moorings. For now- we have been on a mooring at Bitter End Yacht Club for a week – waiting for that “weather window” to take us across Anegada Passage (7000 feet deep water – open expanse) and like the Mona Passage it can be tricky if the weather is not good. Unfortunately we won’t be stopping at Anegada or some of the other islands along the way to Trinidad, as the weather and some boat repairs have delayed our passage making south, and we are now running short of time to complete the journey.
But this area has supplied us with many different locals to visit and explore – from BEYC with its 75 acre complex and multiple restaurants and bars, to Saba Rock – a small rocky outcrop having a nice bar, restaurant and hotel complex - and it is very posh and quite busy – even in the “off season”. Biras Creek resort is also here and is very beautiful and the famous “Fat Virgin Café” is right around the corner from us and is really neat! They have recently completed a huge Super Yacht Club – YCCS - boasting a fabulous huge dock space catering to an abundance of Super Yachts, and a gorgeous complex – the buildings are beautiful! And then there’s Necker Island and Mosquito Island – both being privately owned by Sir Richard Branson – British entrepreneur and owner of – among many other companies -Virgin Records and Virgin
Atlantic Airways and Virgin Galactic! Our daughter Bryony once worked for Branson and has met him personally, as he believes in being involved in the day to day running of his businesses to some extent. Sir Richard (not Cap) was in residence at Necker Island when we arrived at Bitter End, as he was hosting a summit for ecological protection of the Caribbean called “Caribbean Challenge”.  We hoped to get a glance or chance meeting with this magnanimous entrepreneur, but alas – it was only to occur in our minds! We did get to be docked right next to his Mega-Cat – 105 foot catamaran called “Necker Belle” at the Bitter End – but still did not see the elusive Sir Branson…
When our weather window finally arrived – it was not a perfect one – but we decided to suffer some rough seas and winds so that we could continue down island towards our summer home –Trinidad. After Cap and I secured all the “stuff” and prepared her to make way, we slipped our mooring lines and motored out towards the red and green markers showing the inlet. Well – that’s as far as we got when Stonewall Jackson quit! It seems we still are getting air in the engine after all the work Cap has done at an attempted “fix”. In the course of thirty minutes – the engine quit four times and with our heads hung down, we limped back to a mooring ball and hooked back up. We planned on getting some more parts sent from Lehman to us so Cap could troubleshoot the problem and proceeded to wait for their arrival.
We carried on having a great time exploring our surroundings in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda, and were having heaps of fun traveling to Gun Creek, finding a larger grocery store with better provisions, going to Leverick Bay to see the Annual Poker Run, meeting and having drinks with some wonderful residents who helped put it on; taking walks and hikes around the area; going to Saba Rock for dinner – and just generally enjoying the cruising life. The parts had yet to arrive – but we couldn’t really control that – so we were okay waiting…..until our A/C quit one evening and upon inspection of “Genny” found her to be overheated – paint “melting”; all the antifreeze gone and a huge oil leak -  leaving a “pond” of black goo on our bilge floor! We both felt like crying and in the next few days to come we experienced a whole spectrum of emotions just thinking and communicating to the various service people about it. We took turns flying from rage to self-pity to depression to defeat and then to hope – and round again to rage and the whole track again! We were never on the same point of this invisible continuum at the same time – therefore when I was sad, Cap tried to cheer me up with a positive outlook and when he was sad and ready to call it all quits – I bolstered his spirits with gentle reasoning. And so it went, until finally we just became resigned to the facts – this is what’s happened – past tense – No crying over spilt milk now – we’re just going to get this resolved – no matter what it takes- no matter how long it takes. So here we are – waiting for Monday and all the workmen to arrive to give us a hand to get the old girl’s sea legs back and make our way for Trinidad as fast as we can……

The Bitter End Yacht Club


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