Sailing in the BVI – Again – but “in comfort”

Part 1 – Getting settled on the monohull, “Paradise Found”

After a long break from sailing due the pandemic, (last captained out of Naples in 2019), it was time to get back to the beautiful British Virgin Islands and charter a bareboat yacht for us and friends. We decided to go for adventure and comfort, and chartered a 54’ Jeanneau monohull with 3 large cabins, (each with their own head with walk-in shower), generator, and air-conditioning, for a 10-day adventure. Our friends, Nikki & Peter, and Juju & Craig were excited to sail with us. We arrived on Saturday, a day early, with Peter & Nikki at the local Nanny Cay Resort on the BVI island of Tortola to settle in, collect provisions, inspect the boat, and meet with locals at the bar.

Nanny Cay Marina & Resort in Tortola

On Sunday, we enjoyed breakfast at the Island Root Café before completing paperwork and boarding our yacht, the “Paradise Found”. We checked all systems, unpacked, loaded provisions, and welcomed aboard Juju and Craig before heading to the famous “Pusser’s” restaurant located In Road Town. That night we had drinks, caught-up with each other, and slept aboard in harbor ready to disembark the next morning.

The 54 foot Jeanneau “Paradise Found”
Rocky and Craig on the rear Swim Deck

Monday morning, after a quick breakfast at the Island Root Café, we left port and sailed across the Drake Passage to The Bight, a protected harbor at Norman Island and the home of a floating restaurant, bar, and club known as “Willy-T’s”. After hitching-up to a mooring ball, we took the dingy over to Willy-T’s for lunch and drinks, We then motored around the corner of The Bight to The Caves where we picked-up another mooring ball with the intent of snorkel-exploring the caves. Unfortunately, the ocean current and wind directions and the size of our vessel made this untenable, and we soon left for other harbors.

Willy-Ts Bar & Grill at Norman Island
Paradise Found on a Mooring Ball near Willy-Ts
The Famous Caves where Treasure was once Found

Norman Island also has a history of pirate booty being stowed upon the island. In 1750, part of the treasure from the Spanish treasure galleon named Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe was buried on the island by mutineer Owen Lloyd. Lloyd was later arrested, but word of the treasure spread, and residents of Tortola went to Norman Island and dug it up for themselves. Part of the booty was later recovered by authorities, but much of it was not. Since then, rumors or local treasure discoveries in and around Norman Island’s caves have persisted.

After leaving Norman Island, we sailed to Little Harbor at nearby Peter Island, a private island with a distant small resort and little development. Here we anchored and enjoyed a quiet night with no other boats or people visible until morning. Several of us went snorkeling near a broken-down dock where rays, turtles, and fish congregated. That night, we grilled shrimp, salmon, and veggies on the barbecue  and enjoyed each other’s company before calling it a night in our air-conditioned cabins.

Tuesday morning, we kept an eye on the weather, and hurricane Philippe as it was skirting past us 200 miles away. After breakfast on the boat, we pulled anchor and set sail along the Drake Passage towards the island of Virgin Gorda, so named by Christopher Columbus because the island’s profile on the horizon looks like a fat woman lying on her side. Along the way, Rocky caught a 4’ King Mackerel while trolling behind the boat, which we let go. Virgin Gorda contains two of the best harbors in the BVI, and the city of Spanish Town was once the capitol of the BVI. Of particular interest is the unusual geologic formation known as “the Baths” located on the southern end of the island.  At the Baths, huge granite boulders lie in piles on the beach, forming isolated grottoes that are open to the ocean’s waves. This landmark is a popular tourist attraction as well as a National Park and offers an adventurous hike/scramble through them to a trail leading up the hillside to the Top of the Baths. In order to access these from our boat, we picked-up a National Park mooring ball offshore, then took everyone via dingy to the beach’s swim limits roped-off area, and let them swim to shore. The dingy must be tethered to a mooring ball outside of the swimming area as this is the only method of access from the sea. Once ashore, we hiked to the restaurant at the Top of the Baths where we had lunch and enjoyed the view. Soon, an enormous influx of tourists showed up by bus having arrived on an excursion from the Disney ship in harbor in Road Town. After lunch, we hiked back down to the Baths and explored the trail through the granite boulders before arriving at the final beach, and swimming back to our dingy. From there, we returned to our boat and sailed to the protected harbor of Marina Cay, where we picked up a mooring ball anticipating a night of degrading weather from Philippe. Through intermittent rains, we enjoyed a dinner of salad and pasta with meatballs before our generator suddenly stopped working and would not restart. We contacted our Charter Company’s Manager on Duty, but with the winds reaching 30-knots and driving rain, it was not possible for them to come to us that evening. That night we endured high winds and torrential rains from Hurricane Philippe with no air conditioning before awakening to slowly improving conditions in the morning.

Rocky with a King Mackerel caught in the Drake Channel
The Granite Batholiths at Virgin Gorda
A View from inside the Baths Trail
The Group at the Top of the Baths Restaurant

Wednesday morning it was still raining and the generator was still down. We had breakfast on-board and called back to the Charter Operator at the marina at Nanny Cay. After much discussion, we finally decided it would be best to return the boat to the marina where personnel and parts to potentially fix the generator could be readily available. In 30-knot winds, we left the safety of our mooring ball and proceeded to motor our way back to Tortola. Unfortunately, halfway there, our diesel engine displayed a sensor error, and once it was turned off would not restart. We raised the jib and continue to sail towards Nanny Cay without any power, while talking with the marina on a plan to get the yacht safely into harbor.

When just outside the harbor, the marina captain, Henry, and the Charter Company owner came to meet us and we onboarded Henry. Captain Henry sailed us into marina and landed us at the fuel dock with assistance from the support boat that pushed “Paradise Found” into position. Once safely docked, an engineer boarded to fix the engine. Since we connected to shore power, we again had air-conditioning and electrical systems. While in harbor, Nikki and Julie bought additional groceries for the boat and then went to Captain Mulligan’s restaurant for drinks and a snack. As the weather slowly improved, and since the engine had not yet been repaired, we all went to Peg Leg’s Beach Bar for drinks before returning to the boat for a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, and a quiet night’s sleep.