22 January 2011

Saba Rock, BVI Day 4/10 Cont'd

 Sailing up the north side of Tortola one glimpses hundreds of miles of open blue ocean, a horizon uncluttered by that dirty substance we call earth.  With 2/3 of its surface covered by water, surely our planet should have been called "Ocean", not "Earth".   

Pointing over the horizon, someone asks, "What's out there?"  "England," was my answer, "and if I squint, it looks like Big Ben is running a minute fast this morning."  I was about to comment on seeing the Eiffel Tower too, but that's clear across the Channel, I don't think I could see that far.

Sailing along, we saw a pod of dolphins playing in the water a hundred yards off to port.  We hoped they'd come swim along the bow, but they apparently had other appointments today.  I did get to see one jump clear out of the water though.

We sailed all the way to Rogue Point without so much as a thought of trimming sails.  Passing Lee Bay the winds shifted slightly foreward, so we swung north towards Anegada, beginning a series of long tacks that would take most of the afternoon as we zig-zagged toward Virgin Gorda.

Crossing above the Dogs, a series of small uninhabited Islands renowned for their snorkeling and diving, the wind picked up and we frequently crossed 10 knots, bounding along in the waves.  Occasionally waves would crash into the hull, sending water spraying up and over the boat's deck.

It was around this time that something funny happened, funny to everyone but my wife.  The women had been sitting in the cockpit reading all day as we sailed along, and now in the warm afternoon sun my wife dozed off.  A moment later the breeze suddenly freshened, heeling the boat over at a fairly steep angle.  Before she could wake up enough to grab something, she slid right off the bench onto the cockpit floor.  She wasn't hurt, and we all couldn't stop laughing about it.

This trip was a good test of the crew - and the makers of their scopalomine patches. We were all tired by the time we passed Moskito Rock and dropped sails outside Colquohoon Reef late in the afternoon.  Sails encrusted with salty scurf and decks glistening in the warm afternoon sun, we entered the quiet waters of Gorda Sound.

We planned to pick up a mooring at Saba Rock, which includes a free water refill and bag of ice with mooring fee.  I should probably skip telling this anecdote, it will no doubt bruise my ego every time its read.  If the reader has any respect for the writer at all, the reader will skip the next 6 paragraphs.

Clearly, you have no respect for me.  However, in the interest of humor, and since my version will certainly be more respectful of the Captain than the versions by my Wife, Randall, and Michelle, I'll include it.  As a precursor, and in my defense, I point out that in my BVI travels to date, I'd only ever missed a mooring twice, and each time we picked it up on the second pass.  However, as we rounded the corner to Saba Rock today, things were going to change.

As we approached the mooring ball the first time, the wind was increasing, perhaps as a result of being funnelled between the islands.  In a 50 foot long sailboat with as much freeboard as this, there was very little room for course correction when moving slow enough to grab the mooring ball.  So long story short, we missed on the first try.  My ego was bruised slightly at this point.  

I swung the boat around and approached again, and this time we picked it up.  Once Randall signalled we were secured on one line, I ran forward to help him with the second.  As he was passing the line over the anchor roller, I noticed that the bow line was a little short, so I decided to loosen the line and let it out a little.  This was a bad idea.  As soon as I loosened the line, it started slipping fast.  Although the line was wet and slippery, I didn't think there should be much pull against the mooring as the boat was just being pushed by the wind.  I quickly tried to throw another wrap around the cleat but it was too late.  We (meaning I) lost the mooring.  I ran back to the idling engine (I always leave the engine idling until we're completely tied off) and circled around again.  My ego proceeded from "slightly bruised" to having a headache now.

At this point, the crew of a neighboring liveaboard had come on deck to watch the charterers' circus.  As we passed their boat I called out, "We're doing our darndest to entertain you all, but third time's the charm."  They laughed.  At this point, my ego felt sharp pains in its arm and chest.

So we swung up into the wind again, and wouldn't you know it, missed hooking the pendant.  My ego rolled over and died.  I though about simply careening the boat on the beach at Bitter End as pirates of yore had done.  The hull probably needed a good cleaning anyway.

Finally, on the fourth time, we secured the boat.  My ego needed a few minutes to stop being mad at the boat's captain.  It was while sitting there that I noticed the current rushing past the boat.  With the wind out of Eustacia Sound, there was quite a current being pushed through Saba Rock.  That would explain some of the difficulty we'd had.  But mostly, it was that fool Captain's fault.

We dinghied in to Saba Rock to pay for the mooring and look at the menu, then took the dinghy over to Bitter End Yacht Club to look around the shore, check the restaurants, and see the shops.  It was getting dark and we were all hungry.  We decided to eat over at Saba Rock, mostly for the atmosphere of a dockside table looking out over the mooring field and nearby islands.

Saba Rock is my favorite restaurant location in the entire world, and once you eat there you will likely agree.  After sunset, you dinghy through a forest of masts in the mooring field, with all their anchor lights swaying gently amidst the deep blue night sky's millions of stars.  The warm lights of Saba Rock reflect across the water, with distant music from Bitter End Yacht Club's beach band drifting through air.  As you approach the dinghy dock, you pass over large spotlights on the seafloor just 4 feet below.  Dozens of large fish cruise back and forth, exploring the lights in a dark sea.  Once tied off at the dock, you step onto the dock, just 5 feet from your table. The view is mesmerizing, sitting at a candlelit table in comfortable wicker chairs, looking out over the sound.

I haven't been able to take a picture yet that really does this view justice.  Every little detail adds to the ambience, the swaying anchor lights, the breeze in the palms, warm lights from the beach across the water, the living aquarium at your feet, the deep browns of the woodwork in the restaurant behind you.  You have to experience it.


  1. Thanks for the mooring confession, it gives the rest of us hope. Now, how do I get my husband to read this...

  2. That's a beautiful night photo. I'm putting Saba Rock on my list of places to visit. Thanks for the great blog!

  3. We're going bareboating for the first time in Feb 2015. Your blog is invaluable! Thanks