January 3, 2015: White Bay, Guana Island BVI
We headed west toward Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke Island. The Christmas Winds were now blowing between 25 and 30 mph. Seas had increased from 6 to 8 feet.
One of the great features of Buoy Weather is that it allows you to pick any spot and it will give you a seven day forecast for the spot. I had checked Buoy Weather before leaving, the seas between Guana and Jost Van Dyke, north of Tortola were from the ENE, and between Jost Van Dyke and Tortola they were from the ESE. I thought there must be something wrong with the formulas that the drive Buoy Weather's predictions. There is over 3 miles between Jost Van Dyke and Tortola at the closes point. How could the seas turn 45 degrees in this relatively short distance?
Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke opens to the south with steep hills on its three Island sides. We had picked this location, as surely it would give us protection from the ENE Christmas Winds and seas. Buoy Weather was right and our assumptions were wrong. As we arrived at Great Harbour the Seas and the Wind were from the ESE blowing into the Harbour. As this was Saturday of New Years Week the Harbour was full, not withstanding the strong winds and a 3 foot swell rolling directly into it. We turned and headed south to West End on Tortola. We went through Thatch Island Cut, between Great Thatch Island and the east end of Tortola, and turned east to Soper's Hole in West End Tortola.
The Harbour was packed and the wind was funneling between Frenchman's Cay and Tortola at 30 mph as we entered the Harbour. We turned again and headed first south and then west through the Narrows to Francis and Maho Bays on St. Johns Island in the USVI. As we turned into Fungi Passage we could see the first relatively smooth water we had seen since leaving White Bay. Francis and Maho Bays combined comprise a large anchorage area with nearly 60 moorings. This is the only bay on St. Johns that allows super yachts to anchor, and there were several.
The anchorage is protected from all but north and west swells. Although it was windy at the north end of this anchorage we only felt occasional gusts above 15 mph at the Maho Bay end where we anchored. The beaches in both Francis and Maho Bays are part of the National Park Service. Maho is particularly beautiful with its bent palms and mangroves overhanging the beach. There are no dingy docks. The Park Service has designated where you can bring dinghies ashore with red and green buoys marking the channel. No anchoring of dingies is allowed. For the super yachts with crew this is not a problem. The crew drops them off and picks them up. Smaller boats have a smaller dingy they can drag ashore.
Our primary dingy, which has a significant range, weights 1200 lb. which is too much to drag ashore. As we don't have crew we have a second beach dingy for this purpose with wheels and an air cooled engine allowing us to start and stop the engine onshore (which particularly helps if there is a surf). Island hopping we carry this second dingy on removable stern davits. We carry it on deck making ocean passages. Others solve this problem with kayaks an or paddle boards.
January 6, 2015: Maho Bay, USVI:
Greg headed by dingy to Red Hook on St. Thomas Island a distance of about 6 nm. Although it had been blowing 25 mph-plus for the last two days, less in Maho Bay, winds had decreased to the range of 10 to 15, and seas were relatively flat at our anchorage.
Seas picked up as Greg rounded Hawksnest Point but still looked relatively mild across Pillsbury Sound which separates St. Johns from St. Thomas Islands. The plan was to take the 8:00 am ferry from Cruz Bay to Red Hook if the seas were too much in the Sound. As the seas looked okay, Greg proceeded. By mid Sound they were 4 to 6. At this point it was too late to turn back to Cruz Bay to catch the 8:00 ferry. Greg pushed on.
The mission to Red Hook was to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, and fresh vegetables at the new market. As the return trip would be into the seas Greg rode back across the Sound in a ferry wake which helped to smooth the ride. On return we lifted the anchor and headed for Cane Garden Bay on the north side of Tortola. Cane Garden Bay is surrounded by steep hills on three sides with colorful houses poking out of the green landscape. At the base of the hills is a sand beach with restaurants and concessions in colorful buildings under palms, behind. After anchoring we went ashore with Jackie to explore.
We had also brought Jackie ashore with us at Maho Bay and had been reminded by beach goers, who had arrived by car, that one of the many Park Service rules were no dogs. With this encounter only two days earlier we decided walk with Jackie down the road behind the beach buildings and not down the beach. The road lead us to the Callwood Distillery, the only remaining rum distillery in the Virgin Islands. Callwood has been distilling rum, from locally grown sugar cane, at this location using the same equipment and the same recipes, for 400 years.
Seeing this as an opportunity to taste the real pirates brew, and perhaps better understand what gave them the courage to set sail across oceans without chart plotters, AIS, radar, wind instruments, weather forecasters and sat phones, we purchased a bottle. The bottle says "cane rum, distilled from pure cane juice and aged in oaks." We are waiting for the right group of would be pirates, to better understand their courage. Having seen the road we decided to break the rules, if there were any, and head back with Jackie to the dingy dock on the other end of the beach, along the shore.
The sand was filled with umbrellas, chase lounges, woman in bikinis, some without tops, waiters and waitress serving drinks on the sand, and patrons speaking european languages. And yes, dogs and cats wandering between the patrons looking for handouts and attention. What a delightful place!
Active Captain provided great reviews for Myett's Restaurant. We left our dingy on the dingy dock at sunset, and walked by the bars and restaurants along the beach. As we approached Myett's we could hear Jimmy Buffet singing for happy hour. We were in the right place. The bar was filled with dancing cruising couples enjoying the music. Beth ordered the local lobster and Greg the New York steak. Both were excellent.