Eight Eagle Rays

Clearing out of Anguilla cost the same as clearing in. Nothing. Even better, you complete both the forms on arrival so when you leave there is just a small note, which the customs officer fills out and you are done. You just need to go in to pick it up within 24 hours of departing. Couldn’t be much easier and they all asked how our visit had gone and hoped we’d be back. We certainly will, if the winds allow it, in March and late April.

Calm Passage Once Again

Typically, another boat came into the bay the evening we were leaving and dropped anchor just in front of us, ending up close to where we thought our anchor was. We planned to depart at 2300, so thought best to check the actual position just in case we had issues raising it in the dark and needed to let them know we would be waking them.

Rob snorkelled over it and then came back to the boat in a state of great excitement. He had been incredibly fortunate to see the rare sight of eagle rays in a group of 8, gliding over the sand in shallow water, looking for molluscs to eat. Shame he didn’t have the camera! The anchor was fine as well.

Approaching The British Virgin Islands

Next excitement was leaving the bay. We had seen a green channel marker buoy, well off the position on the charts and knew there was a matching red lurking in the darkness somewhere. Rob sat on the bow and shone a torch to the starboard side of us, where the buoy should have been, according to the chart but not far out of the anchorage, we passed it some 3 metres off our port quarter and I thanked our lucky stars we had not hit it, as it wasn’t exactly small and light. No reflective tape on it, let alone a light, so a big hazard.

Apart from that we didn’t have any other issues through the night. No fish pots initially and within a couple of miles the water was 300 metres deep anyway. There were a few small fishing boats around but all had white lights. The seas were flat and the sky was blue, so it was another easy passage. We were motoring again and as the wind didn’t get over 8 knots the entire 75 miles to the British Virgin Islands, we sadly didn’t get to use any sails at all. We motored at 1800 revs for a while, cruising at 5 knots, then upped the engine to 2200 revs and made over 6 knots. We can rev to 4500 if necessary and the boat can then do 10 knots, very quick for a sailing boat. Naturally we have been using up diesel and will have to replace the cheap Trinidadian fuel with much more expensive diesel soon, probably in Puerto Rico. Will be interesting to compare the costs between Trini, PR and Antigua. We tried our luck with fishing again but only caught a clump of weed resembling a cartoon character.

Richard's Pad

As we sailed through Virgin Sound, we passed Necker, Richard Branson’s private island and noticed that the 3 palm trees on the sandy spit looked suspiciously fake with the leaves a very strange shade of green! It is very shallow around the island, with stunning turquoise water as a result but you can anchor there if you feel the urge. Perhaps a good place for celebrity watching!

Our Only Catch Of The Day

We haven’t been to the BVIs for almost 3 years (see Archives for January-March 2012 for photos and more information) and back then we were very cautious and new to it all. I used to freak out if we got into water shallower than 5 metres but now we anchor with just 1 metre under the keel. We frequently sail through passages we used to be scared of but that’s the benefit of a few years in the Caribbean, being comfortable with the shallows and reefs and trusting your eyes and to a certain extent, the electronic charts.

We didn’t clear in this time, as we’ll be back in May to drop a friend to the airport after his 3 weeks with us and will spend some time there then. We anchored overnight in North Sound on Virgin Gorda, a huge bay with lots of protection from reefs and small islands and a variety of beautiful anchorages. We chose the peaceful one just under Prickly Pear Island, dropping the hook in 3 metres of clear water over white sand and holding fast. Several huge turtles surfaced from time to time and we cooled off whilst checking the anchor.

Flying The Flags

Early the next morning we headed out of North Sound, passing the sad sight of a small powerboat, high and dry on the sharp rocks outside the entrance. All the BVI SAR resources, including a helicopter, were searching for a missing person. Looked like the boat hit the rocks at speed, given it was quite high out of the water and the impact would presumably have thrown the occupant/s out of the boat. A squall hit us all around the same time, hampering the search but after it cleared we gently sailed down the Sir Francis Drake Passage under our cruising chute and then genoa until we arrived at the United States Virgin Islands.

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