22 April 2010

The Baths, Sailing to Jost Van Dyke, BVI Day 7/10

The harbormaster at Yacht Harbor was very accommodating about our desire to leave early in the morning. They gave us a key and envelope so we could drop it in a mailbox there and be gone before anyone was up. (They usually make you wait to check out so they can charge you for the electricity and water you used, but we promised not to use either.)

It was light around 5am, so we got up, showered, and did our best to get underway quietly without waking the neighbors. Fortunately there were no winds to complicate navigating out of the slip. That's a very tight harbor, especially with a dinghy and a boat I've only been skippering for a couple of days.

Once we cleared the Yacht Harbor, we could see three boats already in position at the Baths. It had been a very settled night, so they might have anchored there the night before. We pulled into the Baths and took one of the moorings right outside the Baths - and closest in to the beach. We ran into a small problem though. In the light wind, the boat had drifted over and around the mooring ball, entangling the mooring ball in the keel. I could tell something was wrong, and worried that the rope had wrapped the propeller shaft.

I put on a mask and snorkel and dove overboard to have a look. Turns out the ball was wrapped around the keel, and didn't have anything to do with the propeller. I had to rig some extra lines to untangle the ball, pull it back around the keel, and into its proper position. I didn't want to simply untie and moor again, because there were several boats within a mile of the Baths, and in a few moments every available ball would be taken with boats circling looking for an opening.

While I was fiddling around with the mooring ball (I don't know what it is about boats - in many ways they're just like grown up toys and we like to make a bigger to-do about all things boat-related than we should). Anyway, while I was messing around with the mooring line, Noel made breakfast. We hurried and ate, and then climbed in the dinghy to go into shore.

Landing a dinghy on the bea
ch at the Baths is discouraged, because the swim area in front of the beach fills up with swimmers and snorkelers. Since we were the first to go ashore, I took Noel up to shore in the dinghy, and dropped her off about 10 feet shy of the beach. This kept the dinghy out of the breaking surf, and saved her a swim. I then ran the dinghy back to the dinghy mooring line and tied it off. I swam into shore, which was made fairly easy by riding the incoming waves.

We used the dinghy safety bag, a waterproof bag that holds emergency items for emergency use in a dinghy, to store my Canon EOS 7D camera for the trip to shore. I'd seen several of the more seasoned sailors using their dinghy safety bags as a waterproof general purpose purse like this, and I must admit that carrying it to shore made me feel about 10 years more experienced than I actually am.

After swimming to shore, I dried my hands off on my hat so I could hold the camera without getting it wet. Although its not conventional to swim with ones hat on, I've found it to be very handy at times like these.

On shore, camera ready, we headed to the rocky cave-like trail over to Devil's Bay, the next bay to the west. The trail is fantastic! It goes through small grottoes, some with surf and some with sand. The trail climbs old wooden ladders and uses rope hand lines in places to help you up and down steep rocks.

This is one place we'll spend more time on our next trip to the British Virgin Islands. There is also a restaurant/cafe above the Baths which is rumored to be pretty good. We still had a long sail ahead of us so we didn't hike up to the cafe.

We set sail for Jost Van Dyke, sailing down Sir Francis Drake passage. Along the way we passed several interesting boats, including this 3 masted ship. For the first (and only) time on the trip the tradewinds subsided for about an hour or two, so we motored for a bit. As we reached the west end of Tortola, the wind picked up again and we raised sails until we reached the Thatch Island Cut. Our charter briefing had mentioned that there were occasional williwaws blowing down out of Sopers Hole, and I didn't want to take any risks.

We didn't have time to visit Sopers Hole, but continued past and around Steele Point. There were some gorgeous cliffside homes built along Steele Point. Steep stairways bolted to the cliff connected the homes and led down the cliff to the water's edge. I would love to stay in one during a big storm, I'm sure the views are breathtaking. (I'd also like to be docking my personal yacht at one of the private docks next to the house.) But if wishes were fishes, the sea would be full.

I finished coveting as we rounded Steele Point and Jost Van Dyke came into view. There are a few different harbors on Jost van Dyke, and although I eventually want to see them all, we were tired from several hours of sailing and headed for Manchioneel Bay on the island's east end.

Manchioneel Bay is a very quiet, secluded bay that seemed like a good place to unwind. The bay is actually surrounded by 4 other small islands: Little Jost Van Dyke, Green Cay, Sandy Spit, and Sandy Cay. Sandy Spit is a popular anchorage, with a picturesque sandy little island and palm trees, it looks more like the South Pacific.

Clouds were building up, and it looked like a storm of sorts was brewing. Being unfamiliar with the local weather, we decided to take a mooring tucked up high in the bay where we'd be well protected if the anchorage became a little rolly. The rain came just after finished tying off to the mooring, so we sat under the bimini and watched the rain fall all around us for half an hour. It was a rare kind of peaceful you don't experience very often. The warm rain invites you to relax, making hypnotizing circles in the water as you watch the handful of yachts drifting lazily at anchor.

After a half hour or so the rain let up and we decided to take the Dinghy into Foxy's Taboo, a little beachside restaurant, for a late lunch. Foxy's Taboo is the only establishment on this end of Jost. It consists of a small open porch dining area and colorful little souvenir shop. The restaurant had actually stopped serving food until dinner time, but the friendly staff kindly agreed to cook something for us anyway.

After lunch, we walked past a beautiful shallow cove of mangroves up to Bubbly Pool. Bubbly Pool is a small opening in the rocks on the north side of the island. The incoming waves churn the pool into a foaming hot tub. I'd read in several guidebooks that one could get directions to Bubbly Pool from the staff at Foxy's Taboo, however the trail is well marked and easy to find.

This is a beautiful area to walk the shallow bay between Jost and Little Jost, watching the sand crabs play along the shore and the thousands of little fish forage in the shallow water.

When we arrived back at our boat, we watched turtles swimming along the mooring field, and box fish swim along beneath the boat.

That night we barbecued on the grill and sat and talked under the stars for some time. This is such a quiet anchorage. My wife took the dishes to the transom steps for a quick rinsing, as I took a few small potatoes left from dinner and tossed them into the water for the fish. I was surprised to hear loud thrashing in the water, and looked over the side in time to see this fish hungrily eating the leftovers. In the dark of the night, we were quite certain it was a shark. (Especially my wife, who had been hanging her feet in the dark water as she rinsed the dishes.) I pulled out a flashlight and dropped a few last pieces of potato and rice in the water. The large fish, 2-3 feet long, was only interested in the bigger pieces, but several smaller fish crowded in for the rice. I could see all the way to the bottom, 20 feet down. Fish were busy eating the rice all the way down, until the last of it was eaten before it reached the bottom. Because the fish were waiting so close to the boat, I assume they knew what happens when cruisers finish dinner each evening.


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