A Travellerspoint blog

Virgin Gorda, Spanish Town

N1826.977 W64 26.199

semi-overcast 80 °F


The evening before we left, I took the dinghy out for a bit of a ride. I had tested it before we got underway and it started OK, but I wanted to give it a workout. It ran very rough, needs work, but it ran. There is a restaurant at the head of the Bight that had done some landscaping which I liked. From this picture you might expect to find Paul Gaugin sitting at his easel.

Had my first cruiser's shower at Norman Is. Down went the swim platform and into the water I jumped. This was deeper water, maybe 70-feet, than at the beach, so much cooler, but not bad. We brought along one of those camp showers, a plastic pouch with a hose and nozzle, and had set it out in the sun to warm the water. It was hot shower hot, almost too hot, but it felt good. Then the hard part: lifting the swim platform back into the closed position. That thing must weigh close to 200-lbs. or more. It got back up but my thought was that the lifting line was not properly rigged.


We saw this sunset over St. Thomas in the USVI. Not spectacular, but nice. Scientists tell us that the earth is 4.5 billion years old. If true, then the earth has made 1.6 trillion rotations of 24 hours. Homo Sapiens has only been around about 200,000 years and for most of those years the setting sun meant only darkness, danger and, possibly, death. Beasties walked at night. Sometime in all those years there was a first person, he, or she, that looked at the setting sun and saw something for which a word probably did not then exist: beauty. That person was humankind’s first poet. I have not the words to be a poet, but I love sunsets, more than sunrises, though I could not say why. I have seen so many wonderful sunsets sitting in the cockpit of our boat. I look forward to a few more on this trip.

Our next stop was going to be Virgin Gorda. There is a clinic there where Carol can have her stitches removed. I did not want her to have to worry about the dinghy ride which could be very rough. So, we opted to stay in a marina for a night or two. We never got much of a sense of this place those decades ago, and there are supposed to be some interesting things to try to see.

We got underway at about 0700 and had the sails up by 0730. Only one snag of batten to jack line, easily fixed, much better than yesterday. I used the autopilot and we two did fine. The functional course from Norman Is. to Virgin Gorda probably runs about 85o and we would be heading almost due east; the wind was coming straight on from 90o, directly from the east. My prediction was a long slog with a lot of tacking, not a Jeopardy question I wanted to get right. The route was not much more than 15nm. We must have traveled at least 25nm, probably more, to get to the harbor. Along the way we mastered the 5-minute tack, not a competitive advantage except when compared to the 10-minute tack which we perfected in the afternoon.

In truth it was a hard day. I do not recall ever having sailed in such winds, consistently running 15-20 knots with gusts much higher. We ran close hauled the entire way. This is a fun point of sail, the boat flies, spray breaks across the bow, the downwind rail is close to the water. It is also a tough point of sail to control, demanding exacting helm control. Auto pilot was not an option; the wind direction was bouncing around. At one point today we were well heeled over to port; a gust came along and knocked us further over and came quite close to putting me over the side. Seemed like a freak thing until it happened again a few minutes later. For only the second time I put on a safety harness and tether while at the helm in daytime; it was mandatory for ant nighttime passages The boat had to be manhandled every foot of the way. It was hard work, and I am tired.

Carol got her first turn at the helm today. In the first few minutes she must have turned 6 or 8 doughnuts, not a maneuver recognized by the U.S. Sailing Assn. Eventually she got the hang of it.

I may have learned something new today. Our first leg was a starboard tack, the wind coming from the starboard side. I was on the port helm, not much reason for that other than that is where the chart plotter is. We were moving along quite nicely until the next tack, to the port side. I was still on the port helm and for some reason the boat and I were badly out of sync, sailing poorly. Not having any better idea, I moved over to the starboard helm. Huge difference, everything was working again, and we were sailing along nicely. I am prepared to believe that this was the placebo effect, and it may have been. However, I kept the rotation from side to side all day and handled the boat well.

Sailing today had an interesting aspect to it. We were never able to know where we were. We could see a position on the chart plotter screen but could not place that position in context. Out here with no local knowledge all these islands look alike from the water: green/brown blobs, nameless and shapeless to our untrained eyes. It wasn't until well after noon that I was able to know with assurance where Spanish Town was on Virgin Gorda.

The first time we recovered the mainsail I just opened the clutch and let it drop, as I have done in the past. Today I tried a slower lowering, maybe a little better than yesterday, but not by much. I still had to go out onto the deck to get the sail down and stowed. Were this my boat, I would have had a can of Sailcoat which I would have applied liberally the guides and the mast. I think that there is a fundamental difference in chartering from the Mooring. The other boats we chartered were all privately owned and used by their owners. The owners would notice issues and have them repaired. Here, a charter captain might mention something to the folks at the docks but there is no pressure to fix things. This boat is not a mistake, but it does not seem well maintained. In that vein, there must be a battery issue; the screen read 12.0v this morning, a silly low number if it is accurate. On balance, I have to say a good thing about the Moorings: they have great towels, big and thick, and they feel good.

We had our nightly G&T's in the cockpit after supper as dark, low thick clouds rolled in beneath higher dark, thick clouds. These were definitely weather clouds, the first we have seen since our arrival. Sure enough, about 1900 the rain started, a serious rain not a passing shower.

I have been consuming huge amounts of fluids, mostly Gatorade, some iced tea. It has been warm but not hot. The perspiration must be insensate, the wind drying it before awareness, because I have always been thirsty so far on this trip.


This the vegetation that covers all these islands. It is not much to look at. Scraggly is a kind word to describe it. These trees and shrubs have to be the cockroaches of the plant kingdom. There is no topsoil in which to grow, they survive hurricanes and get by on little water.

We're only a couple of days into the trip, maybe too early to say, but it looks like our preparation was good. We have not had any obvious oooops moments. One question I did not research was a freezer on the boat. Of course a 38-ft. boat has a freezer just like our did. So we have adapted with an igloo ice chest. Ice lasts about four days and a freezer would not have held the three bags of ice we are carrying. So, probably a neutral trade off.

When Carol called this marina to make a reservation, she got a message, more or less saying that the call could not be completed due to non payment of the phone bill. They were doing email so everything worked out. As we approached the marina I saw a lot of masts, probably 50 or so, and thought that it must be a big deal. Turns out that all those masts were in two boatyards, all of them out of the water, perhaps in anticipation of the hurricane season. They may not be paying the phone bill but they must be paying the electric bill; we are on shore power.

We got up this morning, after last night's rain, to a surprise. This was the first day that the sun was not visible due to the clouds. It looks like the weather is blowing by.



There is a National Park on the island that we never got to see: the Baths, so named for all the boulders on the beach that make small pools, ergo Baths. I had thought that we could walk there; the chart had the distance of about 1.5 miles. A good thing we didn't try; the actual route was much longer and we would not have found it anyway. The place is a literal jumble of boulders. I thought that our mountain home had rocks, and it does. But this place is so much more boulder-ous. It was clear that many of these gigantic rocks were granite, an igneous rock. But the entire chain of islands that goes from the tip of Puerto Rico to the coast of South America lie on a fault line. There are Caribbean volcanoes so, of course, there is igneous rock.

Carol went to the clinic this morning to have her stitches removed. They took some out and left others in; told her to come back in 4-5 days and the rest may be ready to come out. Tomorrow were are off again, to the north side of the island and Gorda Sound.

Posted by sailziveli 18:59 Archived in British Virgin Islands Tagged islands sailing british boating virgin bvi

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