The Great Snorkling and Beach Bar Tour

The blog is waaaayyyyy behind. A lot has happened since Jackie returned. Here is a quick run through of the first half of the story.

St. Thomas, USVI
I had a mooring in Honeymoon Bay because it was convenient to get people to and from the airport. We stayed there for a while after Jackie arrived, because it was easy to get to various stores, a laundry, and the safari buses to downtown Charlotte Amalie and the east end of the island.

When Jackie was flying down, someone on the plane told her about the sailing match races that were going to be held along the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie. We took a safari bus down the first day to see what they were like. A match race pits two identical boats against each other at a time. Much different from fleet racing where you have lots of boats racing each other. The boats were IC24s – a modified J24. There was a five person crew on each boat. The racing was often very close boat to boat and sometimes very close to the spectators in the grandstands. The replica of HMS Bounty was anchored in the harbor and came into play when the wind shifted a certain way.

right-click and open in a new tab to get the full effect

Did I mention that seaplanes land and take off in the harbor?

There were not many spectators from the general public, so it was mostly us, the racers, and their friends and family in the grandstands. During the first day someone from one of the support boats came around asking if anyone wanted a tour of the Bounty, so Jackie and I went. The ship is pretty impressive – especially when you consider people sailed boats like that around the world. Then we found out this replica is one third larger than the original vessel.

Jackie steers HMS Bounty

We later saw the Bounty in dry dock at the old submarine base.

HMS Bounty in dry dock

And speaking of repairs, we returned to Compass Rose one day in a hurry to get settled because Teri and Britt from Sea Otter were coming for sundowners and they were right behind us in their dinghy. As I got aboard I realized that something wasn’t right. The starboard bow for the bimini was bent in as was a stanchion.

The stainless steel tube in the center of the picture should be straight

Brit and I made a couple stops in the anchorage and found that a fellow nearby was single handing and trying to pick up his mooring. He missed and ran into Compass Rose with his bow sprit. Luckily, I found someone nearby to straighten the bows. So after a day’s labor and $10 to straighten the part Little Rosie was back to normal.

St. John, USVI

Once we got the boat together, we headed east to Coral Bay, St. John. Coral Bay is a large body of water with that encompasses many smaller bays. We anchored in Coral Harbor, in the NW part of the bay for a night. That is where I stayed with Dave and Mark for Thanksgiving. We could do a little provisioning there and take a bus into Cruz Bay to the “big” grocery store.

The next day we moved to the east side of Coral Bay and stayed in Hansen Bay for a couple nights. The bottom was hard and there were odd rocks here and there, so the chain clunked all night as the boat moved. After a couple nights we moved to Long Bay, the next bay over. Much quieter. This part of Coral Bay is very picturesque and is not real popular, so it’s not crowded. There are a couple nice beaches that vacationeers come to and a little lunch place, but that’s about it.

Compass Rose in Coral Bay

Francis Bay, St. John

Christmas Eve Day. We pulled anchor and moved counterclockwise around the east end of St. John. We had to start out motoring, but eventually rolled out the jib for a lazy sail to Francis Bay. Here we met up with about 20 cruising boats whose crews were there for Christmas. This was a big event for us, because we were finally hooked back up with Dave and Trudie on Persephone and Steve and Janice on Sailacious – people we hadn’t seen since early in the year in the Windward Islands. We met a lot of other cruisers there, but came to hang out with Bob and Debbie on Chimayo. Soon Compass Rose, Persephone, Sailacious, and Chimayo became known as the four Cruzateers.

Francis Bay and Maho Bay are next to each other and each has a nice beach. Francis Bay also has a hiking trail that goes around a salt pond that is home to a lot of interesting birds.

A ruddy duck - one of the many cool birds we saw in and around the salt pond at Francis Bay

Lee and Sharon on Allegro planned two Christmas events. The first was a great Christmas Eve dinner at the Eco Lodge high up the hill overlooking Maho Bay. The long hike up was well worth the effort.

(l to r) Eric, Jackie, Trudie, Dave, Janice, Steve, Debbie, and Bob - the Cruzateers (right-click and open in a new tab for the full effect)

The second was a dinghy raftup on Christmas Day. Twenty or so dinghies tied up together around a bouy and everyone passed around appetizers. Trudie brought a guitar and led us in a few songs. Dave put together a little video of the dink raftup.

Leinster Bay, St. John
Chimayo took off to meet friends in Culebra, but Compass Rose, Persephone, and Sailacious moved to Leinster Bay, the next bay east. There is a small island and reef that protects the bay and provides nice snorkeling.

Sopers Hole, West End, Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Dec. 29. The three boat fleet sailed across to Tortola and checked in at West End. We picked up some provisions and made the mandatory stop at Pussers for Painkillers.

Why do we like Dave? He wears a Mount Gay Rum hat to the Pussers Rum bar

Cane Garden Bay, Tortola
The next day we moved clockwise around the west end of Tortola to Cane Garden Bay, so we would be there for New Years Eve. Dave had fond memories of going there some ten years ago. Things have changed a lot since then lots more beach bars and beach chairs lined up everywhere. Quito’s is still there and we listened to the owner, Quito Rhymer and his band play on the evening of the 30th.

Jackie visits the pelicans in Cane Garden Bay

Chimayo joined us there and the four crews did sundowners together on New Years Eve. Everyone went back to their boats to rest, but only Persephone and Chimayo actually made it ashore New Years Eve.

White Bay, Guana Island, BVI
We all rested and provisioned and continued east around the north end of Tortola to White Bay, Guana Island. We managed to anchor there in the rocky bottom, but it was difficult. We have never before tried so many times in so many spots to get the anchor to hook. The problem was that the bottom was very hard so the anchor wouldn’t dig in. As it turned out we stuck it in a hole and had trouble getting it loose the next day. White Bay has a nice beach where we gathered for sundowners, but just to the south is Monkey Point, a nice snorkling spot.

One of the neighboring boats in White Bay

Marina Cay, BVI

We were on the move again the next day to Marina Cay, just north of Tortola, where we celebrated Bob’s birthday. There is a small island and reef that provide protection from the waves, but leave a nice view to the east. Marina Cay has snorkling nearby, a restaurant and Pussers store on shore. Also there is the White House, a bar on top of the island. We spent the days snorkling and the evenings at the White House listening to Eric Stone play his brand of Virgin Island music. There is a bar tender, but he mostly hands the drinks to Kim, Eric’s lady, and the waitress for the bar. The place is small and it becomes like a party hosted by Eric and Kim. The rest of the crews moved on to other places, but we spent a third night there.

Four Eye Buttyerfly Fish

A ray sitting on the bottom

Manchioneel Bay, Cooper Island, BVI

We had a nice sail (the first since we left Coral Bay) to Manchioneel Bay, Cooper Island, on the south side of the Sir Francis Drake Channel. We capped the trip off with me approaching a mooring too fast and Jackie having the boat hook pulled out of her hands and into the water. We had a spare on board, so we were able to get moored and retrieve the other one. There is a fancy restaurant and guest lodging ashore, but we were there for the snorkeling just south of the bay at Cistern Point.

Jackie retrieves the boathook

Blue Tang

The Bight, Norman Island, BVI

Off we went the next morning. We had a nice downwind sail to Norman Island and picked up a mooring in The Bight. Norman Island is spitting distance from Coral Bay, St. John. Just around the point south of The Bight is a snorkeling spot with some small caves.

Glassy Sweepers in the cave on Norman Island

We try to pose for underwater pictures

We met back up there with the rest of the Cruzateers here. The Bight has Pirates, a bar and restaurant ashore. Afloat is the Willie T, a ship converted into a floating bar that is known for navel shots and nude diving off the roof of the boat for free tee shirts. We opted for Pirates, where we celebrated Janice’s birthday.

The Bight is a popular first destination for charter boats, because it is close to the bases, is easy to get to, and has good snorkeling and entertainment. The place fills up fast on a Sunday. Once the mooring balls are taken the charters have to try to anchor. One boat tried to anchor in front of us and drifted back until their anchor caught on our mooring line. After much ado and head scratching by the charterer, I finally dove in and unhooked the anchor.

Close encounters of the charter boat kind - the white thing next to their boat is our mooring ball

Trellis Bay, Beef Island, Tortola, BVI

The group split off again into different directions. We picked up a mooring at Pelican Island, just west of The Bight, to take advantage of some great snorkeling.

Coral at Pelican Island

Jackie and Compass Rose at Pelican Island

Then we headed for Benures Bay on the north side of the island. The bay is small and the anchoring area was crowded and we didn’t really want another close encounter with another boat, so we headed north around Peter Island.

We tacked northeast up the Francis Drake Channel and eventually decided to go to Trellis Bay, Beef Island. We had planned to go there a day later for the Full Moon Festival, but decided to go early. It was a good decision because there were few mooring balls available and not many places to anchor. Watching the charter boats come in a look for a place to drop the hook was very entertaining – especially after our experience at Norman Island.

Trellis Bay is a protected anchorage with a strip of gift shops, beach restaurants, and tiki bars. It is also right next to the Tortola airport. Part of the bay is marked off with bouys to prevent the masts from anchored boats from interfering with planes taking off. Spread out along the beach and just in the water are metal spheres. The locals fill them with wood and cardboard and then light them on the night of the full moon festival. The festival is a family friendly party with a buffet, music, and Jumbi dancers. It was a lot of fun.

Filling one of the metal sculptures with firewood and cardboard

Jackie dancing under the full moon

A Jumbie dancer

Francis Bay

The next day we got an early start and sailed to Sopers Hole to check out of the BVI and then sailed across the channel to Francis Bay. We took a mooring along the east side of the bay and Chimayo took the mooring right behind us.

We did a lot of snorkeling and saw lots of cool fish and coral.

Barred Hamlet

Parrotfish swimming in front of fan coral

A red hind hides behind coral

A trunk fish swimming over a ray

This turtle didn't seem to mind me swimming next to him

One morning Jackie called me up on deck and pointed out a dark spot in the water that was moving. It turned out to be a Manta Ray. Then we realized that there were at least three Mantas. We watched from deck and then took turns taking the kayak out to look at them. They seemed to be swimming back
forth between our boat, shore, and Chimayo. Once it appeared that they would stay around and not eat us, we got into the water and swam with them. We found that if we followed at a distance, they would eventually turn around and come back down their course. They must have stayed for at least an hour before they swam off. It was pretty awesome.

Manta ray with remora

Manta ray feeding

Next: we get visitors.

One Response to “The Great Snorkling and Beach Bar Tour”

  1. Joan Drnek Says:

    Good to see your post. The snorkeling looked wonderful. Did you look for Carol Morley in Trellis Bay? I remember the bar on Marine Cay from Jackie’s & my trip (5 years ago!!!). Willoughby got it’s 1st significant snow of the season this weekend so it was fun to see your pictures. I’m looking forward to driving to St. Simon’s GA at the end of the month & then meeting D in FL after his adventure. Take care. J

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