|Dog Island anchorage, sadly not tenable.|
Having enjoyed a final iced coffee at Roy's Bayside Grill, on the beach in Road Bay, Anguilla, we set off to register our departure with the local Customs and Immigration authorities. When asked for our next port of call I offered Tortola (BVI) but mentioned in passing that we might visit the deserted island of Sombrero whilst en route. Wham! I was immediately presented with a bill for another $80 for a cruising permit to allow me to visit a deserted island, with no population or facilities, 30 miles NW of Anguilla;
needless to say my enthusiasm
for visiting Sombrero declined instantly. Thereafter, for the sake of
the authorities, I declared it was to be a “direct passage” to
the BVI. That said our actual plan was to anchor overnight in the
anchorage on the SW side of Dog Island, 12 miles from Anguilla, and
then sail on to Sombrero for a second night at anchor before finally
heading to the BVI.
|Virgin Gorda Boatyard|
In the event our passage from Anguilla to the BVI went anything other than according to our plan. Our intention to anchor overnight at Dog Island became increasingly unrealistic the further we sailed North West, away from Anguilla. With every mile the swell from the west became bigger and as we arrived off Dog Island it was evident that the only anchorage was completely untenable;
|Virgin Gorda marina buildings, all but destroyed|
|Virgin Gorda marina|
We picked up a buoy in the bay, (I did not trust the depths in the entrance to the yacht harbour to be sufficient), and used the dinghy to get ashore. The administration was dealt with reasonably quickly and efficiently and thus we were now officially in the BVI; from here we set off to find the “Flow” store to purchase a data SIM card. A brisk 10 minute walk brought us to the remains of the store, still trading but heavily damaged, where for $180US we bought 15Gb, three times the price in Antigua!
|Gorda sound at sunset|
The damage in Virgin Gorda was clear to see, very many houses were completely flattened and those still standing were severely damaged, no windows, no roofs and in many cases walls gone as well. What was amazing was the spirit of the people, having had their lives all but destroyed they were all cheerful and welcoming and this was the same welcome we received in every part of the BVI that we visited. Where-ever we went the situation was more or less the same. Buildings flattened, roofs missing but life returning to normal. Businesses were trading from what they had left of their premises or were busily rebuilding ready for the return of the tourists.
|Wickham's Cay, near Village Cay marina|
Our first days in Virgin Gorda were spent relaxing, at anchor, in Long Bay and Virgin Gorda Sound. It was from here, two days later, that we sailed across to Road Harbour, on the main island of Tortola to pick up Stephen, a friend from London, who was joining us. We berthed in the remnants of the marina at Village Cay, once a smart marina complex and hotel but now trading from what was left after Irma. The marina was severely damaged with several sunken vessels still obstructing berths, the hotel had a very few rooms to let that were still wind and weather proof ; fortunately the least affected part seemed to be the bar/restaurant.
|Wickham's Cay, Village Cay marina|
|A ship load already!|
|The lucky ones taken home for repair!|
A heartbreaking sight! Many other yachts, motor boats and several ships still lie on the beaches where they foundered, awaiting salvage and/or disposal. We spoke to some people who were making a business out of buying wrecks from insurers and “turning them around”, a good profit to be made apparently!
Having successfully picked up Stephen the night before we commenced a tour of the other bays and islands.
I will not take you on a detailed day by day tour of the BVI, suffice to say the in every bay or island that we visited the damage was horrific and the people fantastic.
|Pusser's Landing, Soper's Hole, not quite as I remembered it!|
|Little Harbour, Garner Bay, Jost Van Dyke|
|White Bay, Guana Island.|
Anegada is the only low coral island in the BVI, so low in fact that it has 'Tsunami evacuation route' signs along the roads.
We anchored for the night in the anchorage just to the west of Pomato Point and not in the main Setting Point anchorage; the reason for this was that I was unsure what effect Irma had had on the depths in the main anchorage; a large part of it is charted at between 2 & 2.5m; Kurukulla draws 2.1m.
|Devastation in Anegada|
Here too there was plenty of evidence of the damage Irma did but again the prevailing impression was of rapid reconstruction and evident determination to get back into business.
|Anegada - Pomato Point Museum|
|Pomato Beach, Anegada|
|Kurukulla at anchor, Pomato Beach, Anegada|
From Anegada we enjoyed a downwind sail back to Virgin Gorda Sound where we spent the next two nights at anchor. First night in the lee of Prickly Pear Island and the second on a mooring near Saba Rock.
|Leverick Bay, Gorda Sound|
If we thought the destruction we had seen so far was devastating then Saba Rock bar/restaurant and the Bitter End Yacht Club set new standards. In the case of the latter virtually nothing was left standing!
|Bitter End Yacht Club, Gorda Sound|
Next morning we sailed off the mooring and set sail for Dog Island where we anchored for lunch followed by a return to Village Cay Marina (aka Wickham's Cay 1) for the night. Our reason for this was twofold, we wanted to top up on fresh victuals and secondly we needed to deliver the No2 Genoa to the sailmaker for a minor repair to the leach. Doyle Sailmakers experience of Irma was also interesting, the building had been stripped to just a frame by the 200mph winds but they had luckily managed to retrieve and store much of their machinery before the storm hit.
|Saba Rock, Gorda Sound|
|Sand Sharks at Gorda Sound|
|The rescue of "Willie T"|
|Norman Island sound|
Stephens departure day arrived and we decided to drop him as near the airport as possible. With a NE wind the best option was on the south west shore of Beef Island itself (after which the airport is named). Anchored 100m offshore we were able to put him ashore with the dinghy, depositing him at the end of the runway and 250m from the terminal building. Not bad so far.
|Sunset over Saint John, USVI|
Stephen dispatched, Christoph and I set sail for Peter Island, another of the almost unpopulated southern group of islands, where there are several south facing anchorages. Here we anchored in Key Bay, and settled for the night.
|Another casualty awaiting rescue and repair|
Our time in the BVI was drawing to a close and so the following day we opted for a night back in the marina at Road Town; this gave us a chance to dine ashore for a last time, re-victual and do battle with Customs and Immigration to get our departure approved.
|Not quite my idea of Bliss.....|
Fortunately, although it was Easter Saturday, the offices at the ferry/cruise ship jetty were functioning. By mid day we were ready to depart and set off on a 18 mile beat to windward to reach Gorda Sound again. Our preferred setting off point for a Sunday departure for Saba. Ideally we sailed into the sound and on to the anchor just in time to pour a Pina Colada for sundowners, fantastic!
Just to conclude, I would not wish to dissuade anyone from visiting the BVI at this stage. It is very quiet, probably the least crowded you will ever see it, but that makes it all the more desirable.
available, fuel, water, food, restaurants, bars; perhaps it is not to
the usual standard but the people and the atmosphere are still there.
It is a great place to go and needs people to return to help them
rebuild their economy, their infrastructure and through that their
|Kurukulla alongside one of the pontoons but no services.|
|Some of the damaged pontoons.|