18 April 2010

Sailing from the Indians to Maya Cove, BVI Day 3/10

The hull portholes have salt water residue on them from being dunked underwater yesterday. I want to clean them off so we can shoot pictures through them. The Beneteau is really nice boat. Very well though out and luxurious inside.

Beautiful morning in the Bight at Norman Island. Light winds and lots of sun. I have the greatest dreams sleeping on a sailboat. It must be the gentle rocking motion all night that unlocks the farthest corners of my imagination. I feel so rested when morning comes.

Caribbean laziness is setting in. The pressure of work and the real world are losing their grip on me. I find myself asking the question "What if THIS is the 'real world'?" Breakfast of bacon and eggs, then we're headed over to the Indians to pick up a mooring and spend a couple hours snorkeling. We'll be testing a new Flip Video camera with waterproof housing while we're there. After that we're sailing up Sir Francis Drake channel to cooper island, where we'll pick up a mooring for the evening at Manchioneel bay, and spend more time snorkeling, walking the beach, and watching the sun set.

We could see that the moorings at the Indians were all taken as we left the Bight, so we started circling the area waiting for someone to leave. A Frenchman was ahead of us in line, and took the first open mooring. The Indians are a national park, so there is a day-use-only mooring system, identified by red mooring balls. After a few moments, another boat joined the wait. And then someone left, so we started motoring towards the mooring ball. Just then the second boat sped in to the mooring ball, apparently unaware of the 'wait your turn' rule. As they took the mooring ball, the Frenchman started yelling at them. They signaled to me apologetically and made ready to leave, but just then another boat raised sail to leave, so we just took that ball.

The Indians were fantastic. We ended up on the south-most buoy. Noel was a little hesitant about jumping in, so I offered to swim over to the Indians and see if there was anywhere to stand. I had to swim clear around to the other side to find the main snorkeling area, which is in 5 to 15 feet of water. I came back to get her, and we decided to take the dinghy over and tie it off at one of the blue mooring balls in the snorkeling area.

It was fun snorkeling around and watching all the fish and the fantastically shaped coral. I could spend hours snorkeling. S
norkeling is probably the closest man will ever come to free flight. Practically weightless in the water, and propelled by fins, its so relaxing to swim along the coral reefs, suspended just inches above the rock or swimming through schools of brightly colored fish.

We snorkeled around for about half an hour, and then decided to set sail for Manchioneel Bay on Cooper island.

The sail to Cooper Island was fantastic. We took several long tacks up Sir Francis Drake Channel. The boat was heeled over nicely in the steady 15-20 mph winds, and the windows along the hull were underwater several times. I took very long tacks, not being in much of a hurry. Noel laid down on the leeward cockpit bench and slept during the tacks. I only woke her when tacking so she could move to the new leeward bench. I don't know how she slept, the sailing was incredible. When we arrived though she was thoroughly rested, and we were both very content.

Sailing conditions such as these are what make the British Virgin Islands the premier cruising grounds in the world. Long leisurely tacks up the Channel, thinking what it must have been like to sail here during pirate times and in the colonial era.

Speaking of Pirates, we sailed past Dead Man's Chest, an island where Blackbeard marooned 27 of his crew as a punishment. Leaving them with only a sword and bottle of rum each, at the end of 30 days only 15 men survived. This island was named by Robert Louis Stevenson in his pirate shanty of the same name, "Dead Man's Chest." The island is uninhabited now, which somehow adds to its mystique.

When we finally reached Manchioneel Bay around 4pm, all the moorings were taken. There was one unoccupied mooring ball at the south end, but when we picked it up, it had a "Do Not Use" sign on it. So we motored out of the mooring field and called Cooper Island Beach club to inquire about the mooring. They said the bolts were coming loose at the bottom, so the mooring was not secure.

The cruising guide indicated a small bay to the south around Cistern Point, which we decided would have to do for the night. When we got there we noticed the boats in the anchorage were really swaying, and the only available spot was against a low rise on the island which would not afford enough wind protection.

So we went to plan C, which was to sail across to Maya Cove on Tortola. As we entered the cove, we could see with binoculars that there was only one available mooring ball in the harbor. Instead, we headed into a small cove between Tortola and Buck Island. Good choice, it was absolutely beautiful. Whoever owns Buck Island has done a fantastic job along the shore planting palms, and making the place look fantastic.

There were 3 mooring balls, and only one was taken. As we approached the mooring ball, Noel noticed that it said PRIVATE on it. Darn, have to head elsewhere. But the other boat in the cove, a Norwegian couple, hailed us and said they'd been moored there 3 days and no one had said anything to them. It was getting late now, so we decide to take our chances and tied up to the private ball.

A few minutes later a catamaran came in and took the last ball. As we barbecued steaks off the stern barbecue, we noticed that the Norwegians' dinghy was drifting off. Because the cat's dinghy was up on the davits, the rescue fell to us. I dinghied over and towed their launch back. They hadn't realized it was missing.

Excellent steaks tonight, we sat coveting some of the gorgeous beachfront homes around the cove as we ate dinner.
Tomorrow we're going to get an early start for the Baths at Virgin Gorda, and then head up to the North Sound to unwind at Saba Rock and Bitter End Yacht Club.

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