19 April 2010

Sailing from Tortola to Bitter End Yacht Club, Day 4/10

My wife was really sunburned yesterday, so we decided to delay visiting the Baths. Instead we set out early for the Bitter End Yacht Club in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda. Winds were 15-20 mph this morning, so we motored out of Maya Cove, and when we were about a half mile out from the tip of Beef island, we raised sails.

Northeast winds meant we could sail close-hauled all the way up the gangway to Virgin Gorda's Mountain Point. There were only a few other boats out this morning because we got an early start. (I had set my alarm for 6:20am, but was awake earlier.) We decided to put off breakfast until we arrived. It was a very exciting sail, we were frequently doing over 7 knots and occasionally putting the rail under.

I have to admit, I was a little envious of the catamarans we saw out there, that weren't heeled over with their crews hanging on for safety's sake. It was good though, I think I can talk my wife into the ASA Catamaran course now. I'm going to ask at Conch whether the course is necessary though. It seems like sailing a 40' catamaran really wouldn't be that different from a monohull. Maybe there's something I'm missing.

I raced a large trimaran much of the way up the sound. He was motoring under bare poles towards the Baths or Yacht Harbor on Virgin Gorda. With our full sheets to the wind he was barely out racing us. I want to get a video camera on the portholes along the hull in the main salon so people can see what its like to be sailing along when the portholes dunk under the waves occasionally. It's beautiful when the boat is in about 40 feet of water because you can see the reefs and fish down below. I can see it from the cockpit and its quite impressive. Of course, when the boat is heeled over that much, I don't have much time to come down and mess around with the camera.

My wife slept must of the way up the gangway, with one arm threaded around the bimini frame to keep from sliding off the cockpit bench. She wanted to go sleep down below, however that would leave me single-handing, and if I were to fall off no one would be able to rescue me, and no one would wake her up before running full steam into Virgin Gorda.

Christopher Columbus named this island Virgin Gorda (literally, "fat lady") because they thought its outline looked like a fat lady lying the sea. Noel and I agreed we couldn't see the resemblance, however to a ship full of guys sailing all the way from Spain, I suppose things looked very different.

Once we reached Mountain Point, I decided to drop sails and motor up to Mosquito Rock. I needed a few minutes to duck below and check the charts for the North Sound Passage past Colquohoon Reef, and I couldn't do that safely under full sails.

uito Island is actually Moskito Island, named for the Indians of the same name. On that note, we really haven't seen any bug problems down here, which is very nice. We do see bugs ashore, but only rarely, and they are usually bees or otherwise predisposed with the flowers.

As we neared Moskito Rock (a small rock outcropping north of Moskito Island), I saw a large cruise ship coming up behind us. I thought he might be heading into the North Sound, so I fell off and made a couple of big circles in the water outside of the passage so he'd know my intention of waiting for him. He passed in front of the opening to the sound, leaving every sailboat in the channel very confused. The boats scattered to either side of the channel, and then finally the cruise ship just dropped anchor outside the channel.

So we continued into the North Sound, headed for either Saba Rock or the Bitter End Yacht Club. There were more moorings available at the Bitter End, so we headed into the mooring field and picked up mooring #2 close to shore, out of the wind. By this time, we were exhausted after a long sail, no breakfast, and hanging onto the heeling boat all morning. It was about 10am, and we'd been on the boat and in the water non-stop since Saturday morning. So we took showers aboard, put on our best smelling clothes, and dinghied over to the Yacht Club.

The Bitter End Yacht Club is gorgeous. It's like walking around a Disney Land set for Pirates of the Caribbean, only this is the real thing. There are palm trees everywhere, the little huts along the beach house a quartermaster's store, a couple of gift shops, and a few restaurants. We picked up some supplies (aloe vera for the sunburn and some SPF 50 Million for the rest of the trip. Then we went over and ate the buffet lunch. It was way overpriced, but hey, its all about the location.

The fare was very light foods - vegetables and seafood. Excellent for a hot day. Crab salad, mahi mahi, cheeses, tropical fruit, lots and lots of glasses of cold ice water. We strolled up the waterfront and spent a half an hour crashed in a hammock at the edge of the water, watching Mes Anges swing peacefully on her mooring. We stopped by the Quarter Deck on the way back to pick up a couple bags of ice for our fridge and the cooler, then dinghied back to the boat.

The wind is slight this close to the island, so we're running the fans for the first time this trip. Most of the time the temperature is perfect. When the temperature hits mid 80's in the afternoon, we just open the hatches to let the breeze blow through. Most of the hatches open forward, and the boats swings bow-to-wind on anchor. The hatches then scoop a fair amount of breeze through the boat all night long. I'm ready to go snorkeling in Eustacia Sound, but I think it will be a while before Noel's sunburn is up to that!

A few years ago I wondered why anyone would want to sail across an ocean. Then about a year ago I thought I could understand that desire. Now, after three days of constant sailing, I realize that the only way I could pull that off would be on something b
igger and more stable than a 36 footer. Its an easy size to sail, but if I were to spend days heeled over through the trades, I'd sure like a bigger boat or a catamaran.

The last two times I went to drop the main, I had to go up to the mast and pull her down the last 15 feet by hand. There is no downhaul for the main, so I am going to see if the onboard toolkit has some dry lubricant I can spray on the sail slugs before I forget.

For dinner, we took the dinghy over to Saba Rock. There's something very nautical about a restaurant that is only accessible to sailors in their dinghies. We got a table out along the dinghy dock, and enjoyed the view as the sun set and night fell. At night, there are several underwater spotlights along the dinghy dock that attract fish. The show is incredible, as large fish (2-3 feet long) swim by the lights, looking for smaller fish to eat.
Saba Rock was my favorite place to eat on this trip. We arrived at dusk, ordered dinner, and relaxed as night fell over North Sound.

With a forest of masts out in the mooring fields around Saba Rock and Bitter End yacht Club, the view is really magical with all the mast lights lighting the sky like stars. Looking across to Bitter End Yacht Club, we could see the lighted palm trees and hear a band playing at the restaurant along the shore. I'd like to spend more time here, maybe two full days next time.

Because of the sunburn we didn't get to go snorkeling in Eustacia Sound, around the corner from Saba Rock. There is a place there where old pirate canons are encrusted in the reef in about 10 feet of water. I'd really like to see those.

Above Bitter End Yacht Club is a point with visibility out to Anegada. Anegada is Spanish for "drowned", a reference to the hundreds of ships wrecked there over the centuries. Anegada is surrounded by difficult-to-navigate reefs (especially in a square rigger without a gps), so the pirates would sit on the hill where Bitter End Yacht Club now stands, and watch for cargo-laden merchant ships to run aground near Anegada, then head over at their leisure to pick up the booty.

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