British Virgin Islands
April 12-23, 2007
Irreverently called "The Fat Virgin" by Columbus because of the resemblance of a corpulent woman lying on her back, Virgin Gorda was once the capital of the British Virgin Islands. The BVI were declared a British possession in 1672 and in 1773 had its own constitution providing for some degree of self-governance. It remains to this day a British colony, with a colonial government that remains essentially unchanged from the 1700's.
This is the view of Virgin Gorda as we approached it from the East in the morning after our overnight trip from Sint Maarten. We planned the trip to arrive with the sun behind us, which made it easier to see the coral reefs that are scattered around these islands.
The eastern windward view from Virgin Gorda
Looking north-west from Virgin Gorda to the Dogs Islands
The Bitter End Yacht Club in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda is a high end resort, where we were anchored in the well protected east end of the North Sound. A short dinghy ride away is Eustatia Sound with its barrier reef, where we snorkeled shortly after our arrival once again meeting up with the Lahaina crew!! Within minutes we had seen a nurse shark chasing after a lobster, sting rays, and clouds of colorful fish. Also just laying on the bottom where old anchors and cannons. It was the first of many dives that we would make while passing through the BVI.
Taking it all in at the BEYC
Marieke and Sannah from Lahaina
A nesting humming bird
The Baths at the south-western end of Virgin Gorda is an unusual area with huge granite boulders piled together. Between these rock formations are great pools of super clear water which make for some great snorkeling.
The Indians near Norman Island are a great dive site, and Holly and I took full advantage. It is unclear if the rock formation is named after the Indian headdress or because they look like teepees. With Dalliance securely moored in the Bight of Norman Island, we went by dinghy and tied up on one of the convenient moorings. The water was extremely clear, and the entire western side of the Indians is essentially a wall dive which ends onto a sandy plateau 50 feet deep. During our dive we heard a loud tearing and scraping sound under water. The sound was unlike anything we had heard before, and totally different from the engine noises of passing boats. Later we found out that there had been a mild earthquake in the area.
As luck would have it, we were able to meet our friends Charlie and Richard who we knew from the Newport to Bermuda Race, while they were chartering in the BVI. Here were swapping sea stories at a beach bar on Cooper Island.
Even though we were relaxing in paradise, the orthopedic ten year recertification exam was only a month away. It has turned out to be a great way to keep up with the orthopedic knowledge during this year away. I was lucky to be able to take the exam at a testing center in St Croix, which saved us a flight home.
Eric from Lahaina joined Holly and I for some great SCUBA diving on the wreck of the Rhone. In 1865 the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company launched the all iron 310 feet RMS Rhone. The ship was the most modern design of its day, being powered by a huge steam engine which was propeller driven instead of the more common paddle wheels, in addition to twin masts. The Rhone was used as a trans-Atlantic steamer which transported mail, passengers, and cargo between England, the East Indies, and South America. On October 29, 1867, the Rhone was anchored when the wind started to increase significantly. Captain Wooley initially attempted to move to a more protected harbor, when his 3000 pound anchor snagged on a coral head, forcing him to abandon his anchor and to head out for open water to have enough sea room to ride out the storm. As the storm turned out to be a late season hurricane, the winds changed direction after the eye had passed throwing the Rhone on a reef of Salt Island. The ship broke in two, and the hot boilers exploded as the cold sea water rushed in. The wreck is now protected under National Park status, and is amazingly well preserved.
This Brown Pelican seemed entirely fearless when it sat down for a rest on the pulpit of Dalliance.
Our owl which has been pretty helpful in keeping the sea gulls off the boat, proved to be entirely ineffective here in the Caribbean.
Looking out on Dead Man Bay, Peter Island, with Dalliance the fourth boat on the right, and Lahaina on the far right. Peter Island was described by Captain Thomas Southey in his history of the West Indies: "In May 1806, the author with a party visited Peter Island, one of those which form the Bay of Tortola, a kind of Robinson Crusoe spot, where a man ought to be farmer, carpenter, doctor, fisherman, planter; everything himself." The island has lost some of its remoteness since that time. The manicured Peter Island Resort now takes up the entire south-west section of the bay, but it still remains a very, very nice place to visit. The bay's bottom has lots of sea grass which attracts the sea turtles. Especially in the afternoons and evenings, we have seen numerous turtles around the boat.
Some of the best memories while cruising the BVI are with the crew from Lahaina, (Eric, Marieke, Mirre and Sannah). We ended up spending a lot of our time together in the BVI's. Several nights we would have potluck dinners aboard Lahaina. Marco found a girlfriend with Mirre after she realized that he had access to the appetizers.
It takes some work to pick out the best snacks in the party mix.
Story time on Lahaina has been entertaining for Eric and Marieke's kids, and helpful for Holly's Dutch lessons.
Planning the day's trip and anchorage. Our friends André and Ester from Sandettie, whom we crossed with from the Azores to UK and rode out the gale with, gave us all of their Caribbean Cruising Charts as a going away present. We used them all of the time. Thanks you guys, we sure do miss you!!!
Sunset at the BVI's
Off to St. Croix and the rest of the USVI's where Marco will take his exam and Mom and Dad come out once again for more fun!!