2013 Caribbean- BVI and USVI plus Puerto Rico

British Virgin Islands - BVI

There is more to Virgin Garda's Saba Rock happy hour Painkillers at 3 bucks a glass - there is the free WiFi but there is even more and that is the large granite boulders scattered along the sea shore and piled high further inland. The Baths as they are know are very like Clifton Beach in Cape Town but here they are a nature reserve tightly controlled to save the environment. You are not allowed to anchor only pick up the limited number of mooring buoys and only permitted to stay 90 minutes. You are not swayed to take the dinghy ashore but must tie it off on a buoy and swim ashore. If a red flag is flying you are not supposed to go ashore although most people are colour blind. I picked up a mooring ball on the north side of the field off Spring Bay. With fins I swam shore only to find a private beach with a sign indicating the direction to the Baths. I set off through the boulders but missed the path and soon found myself high up on top of these massive boulders. The drop down was a long way. I carefully tried to get round the boulders both going up and then down but there was no way out. I could hear the sea rushing between the boulders and headed towards the water but I was too high to get down so back again but this time try at a lower level. Finally I was on the sand as the water rushed in between the rocks... I had to get out of here because there was no way I could dive under the rock against the waves and get to clear water. OK retrace my steps, slowly. It was more than an hour and a half when I climbed down off the boulders through the bush and onto the beach. A very stupid adventure to undertake alone but I was safe, calm and only a few blood spots. I jumped into the water. It never felt better. Now to find the right way to get ashore. I took the dinghy south and tied it to the mooring buoy along with others and swam ashore through the large waves. The trail is very well set out with wooden stairs where they are needed and chains and ropes to assist you. A very tame experience from my earlier experience. Enjoyable and a must see part of the island. Now it was time to see the other island in the channel and maybe dive on the Rhone wreck. A magical moment on Malua

Malua is at 18:23.133N 64:30.84W on 28/02/2013 on Cooper Island. Manchioneel Bay.

After my adventure at The Bath I was a bit subdued furthermore my left eye seemed to have something in it or may be while scrambling on the boulders I had got some of the juice of the Manchineel tree which is very poisons. There was a black shape foaling along with many tiny bubbles. YouNevaKnow had picked up a mooring ball so I dropped my anchor astern of them and let out the usual 40 m of chain. It held fast and I was some distance off if the wind maintained its direction. We both went ashore and had a drink in the bar along with Jack Tar who arrived later announcing there plans to all at the bar because the speaker system was connected to the vhf CH 16. It was a very pleasant evening and we all retired to our vessels. The wind had by this time completely dropped off. Malua and the large cat YouNevaKnow were dancing with each other but not coming close enough for me to get concerned although I do think there was some concern on their boat. We spend a very quiet night with the two boats close but not touching. I had to go over the following morning to apologise for not moving the previous evening. Not a great show of seamanship. I dived at Cistern Point which is sup post to be a great spot but I found it rather ordinary. I also investigated the cost of diving on the wreck of the Rhone - 80 bucks for a single dive plus hire of equipment. Well I will snorkel over it and see if I will return for a dive. A magical moment on Malua

Malua is at 18:26.94N 64:31.86W at Trellis Bay BVI

Virgin Gorda is a very secure and pleasant harbour but it is surrounded by high hill, bars and boats. It was time to move on and a recommendation was to attend the full moon party on Trellis Bay. I left in the late morning and sailed down wind along with Jack Tar however he chose the course close to the land and soon dropped back through lack of wind. I came round the north of Beef Island and dropped the main and motored into the entrance of Trellis Bay. The bay is at the end of the airport runway. It has an island in the middle of the bay surrounded by mooring buoys. The local retail community has got together to promote their community, the central theme is the full moon party held once a months. It draws many charter vessels and a good compliment of cruisers who try to find anchoring space between the moored boats: yachts, catamarans and cruisers. I was fortunate to find an opening and dropped the anchor, pulled back and I was set just ahead of a very large charter catamaran.
Along the shore are a number of shops and guest houses, The Loose Mongoose bar, the art centre and the main attraction the Hiho. They put on the show and party centred around a few large steel sculptures created by artist Aragorn. On Liams recommendation the Aussies would form a party, have the dinner and enjoy the evenings entertainment. As the sun set we had a brief chance to catch up on Gone with the Winds news and what they had been doing before YouNevaKnow,Jack Tar and Malua took up a postion at the end of a long table with the other group at their end. After a very ordinary dinner - we were served first so got hot bland food. I would not have liked to wait in line to be served at the end. Well the festivities begins. What we were all waiting for. A fellow wades out into the water and lit the wood in the three sculptures of tall people. It took about half an hour for it to flame up and burn sending embers high into the night sky. Then a drum roll and we turned our attention to a back lit screen where two women turned and tumbled from a trapeze to the sound of the thumping beat of loud music. This was followed by a number of dancers on stilts. A good time was had by all. A great marketing success and I am sure lots of rum was consumed.
I woke early to be intimidated by the boats swinging around me. I was abused by some woman on a cruiser insisting to have a large swing room as I pulled up my anchor and tried to find my way out of the mooring field.
Across the bay is Marina Cay a good anchorage but full after the party. I headed to the west of Great Camaroe to Lee bay hoping to find a quiet spot but only found strong swell and breaking waves. It was time to head out to sea and the calm of the open ocean.
I found myself on course to the Anegada Island which was only 20 miles away. My stay there is a story in itself
A magical moment on Malua

Malua is at 18:43.37N 64:22.93W on 23/03/2013 at Anegada

The Caribbean island change is not coral but a line of volcanic islands rising out of the sea. Most have little sea shore on which one can anchor so the cruising is confined to a few beaches and harbours. It is therefore crowded and the only attraction is the land and the few towns and cities.
Now Anegada is different because it is a true coral and limestone island, rising only 10 meter above the sea level. Around the island is the horseshoe reef which extends 10 miles to the SE is close in shore on the north but the south it is almost 2 miles from the land and shallow.
One approaches Anegada from the south west hoping to find the port and starboard channel markets as indicated on the chart but no most are missing. You must remember that one is in the region b red right returning.
As I was approaching the channel a charter boat raced ahead of me hoping to get in first and get the last mooring buoy. I waved him ahead and followed him in. There are as of the above date two red and two green marks at the inside red mark the depth was only 30 cm under the keel but it get deeper - that is up to 2 meters under the keel as I got closer to the dock. Meanwhile the charter yacht raced ahead and right onto the reed extending saw from the dock. It went right up out of the water under full steam. No amount of stern drive was going to get it off. Two or three dinghies tried to assist but it was stuck. I had concerns of my own so I did not go over and help. Eventually after more than an hour someone tied a line to the mast head and pulled the yacht on its side and it came off the reef.
Now I had to find a place to anchor in sufficient water and with some holding. The fetch to the fringing reef was almost two miles away and the wind was increasing along with short waves. Not a great place to be if the sea really got up but I secured Malua and went ashore.
There are about six restaurants - Anegada Reef Hotel, Lobster Trap, Reef Lobster and Neptune's Treasure all offering the same menus.... Grilled lobster at 50 dollars plus a 12 service charge. Believe me they were all full from crews off the charter catamarans. Eight in a party placing their orders by 4:30. At one place I counted in excess of 40 lobsters cleaned and cut in half ,no legs ready for the grill. I don't know where they come from but I do know that that rate of consumption can not be sustained.
In the morning the waves had maintains their size and direction from the SE so it was time to get out of this shallow anchorage and head back to Virgin Gorda.
A careful exit at a very slow speed had me out the channel but not out of the shallow water which continue for more than 5 nm. Not a happy feeling sailing at 6 knots with only 8 m under the keel. I passed about 15 to 20 charter cats on their way to Anegada to have their fill of lobster.
A magical moment on Malua.

Rhone Wreck BVI Islands Salt Island

After the previous evening I found a wide open bay and dropped the anchor a long way from the shore and YouNevaKnow. I put the right in the water and motored about a nm round the south east headland to the wreck of the Royal Mail Steamer Rhone which went down in October and1867 when a hurricane suddenly blew up from the NW. They weathered the initial onslaught but when bringing up the anchor it got caught and it parted. They steamed off through the islands and the channel almost making it but hit the eastern tip of Salt Island. The vessel broke in two and sank taking most of the crew with her.
The wreck is on a slope so the stern with the large propeller and rudder is easily disable from the surface as is the drive shaft but the bow is in deeper water. I was able to dive down to look close up at the stern but the real scuba dive must be in the bow. 20 years ago it would have been a great dive but now it looks like a fattened hulk. I must saw I have been spoilt diving on the wrecks around the Cape of Storms so I was pleased I saved my money.
Salt Island it self is very interesting having two large salt lake in the centre from which in the past salt was collected. The hill overlooking the wreck and bay is an easy climb so I was up and down before the sun set.
Tomorrow I am off to seek pirate treasures.
A magical moment on Malua

Malua is at 18:19.13N 64:37.19W in the Bight on Norman Island in the BVI on 02/03/2013

The BVI is the closest place to tropical heaven an American can get if he wants to charter a yacht. They leave the cold of the northern winter and come south to the sun and wide open spaces of the US or BVI. They sail from one anchorage to the next BUT when they get there they anchor right on top of each other or pick up a mooring ball. The charter companies promote the use of the moorings as do the retail outlets and restaurants along the shores of the bays. The more balls the more potential customers who have holiday dollars to burn. At 30 dollars a night that is quite expensive if you are a long term cruiser so you have to anchor but where. Anchoring in a mooring filled bay is difficult because a yacht at anchor swings differently to one attached to a ball. The people who put the moorings down do to to optimise the number in a given space. When it get to deep they stop so for a cruiser there is only deep water in which one can anchor. Often a difficult decision to try the deep water or trust that the wind will stay in the same direction all night and drop the anchor between the moored boats. The Bight on Norman Island is a large almost enclosed bay just half a day sailing from the major charter bases. It is filled to capacity with moorings. On the day before and the day after the charter fleet change boats - the old crew leave and the new crew arrive The Bight is filled to capacity. There is not a single ball free and not enough room to swing a cat let alone a anchored yacht. At night the Pirates Bight and the William T floating bar thump to the music all through the night. You may well ask why did I go to The Bight? It was in the middle of the week and the place was empty. The ships bar closed soon after sun set and Malua was able to drop and anchor in the mooring field and swing without a concern in the world. However I would not return and would not suggest any cruiser visits the place. A magical moment on Malua

Malua is at 18:25.86N 64:39.49W at Cane Garden on 5/03/2013

The island of Tortola has by far the best anchorages of all the islands in the BVI. No matter from which direction the wind blows one can sail to a beautiful anchorage. Cane Garden must rank in the top three BUT if you read the small print in the cruising guide it will warn you about the northerly swell. If you see the boys surfing off the point leave the bay immediately. Great who surfs at night? Malua and Jack Tar had on this occasion moored on the shore side of the mooring field. The wind was off the land and we both had sufficient swing room and what's more a good strong WiFi signal. The first night was great and most of the second but I woke at 3:00 am to find the wind had come up from off the sea and both boats had swung round onto the lee shore. I was concerned but not worried until I saw some navigation lights appear out of the rain coming in through the dangerous channel entrance. They let comment and to my horror the yacht turned into the wind between Jack Tar and Malua and was about to anchor when I let out an almighty shout. You can't anchor there. My voice woke Pedro and he'd added his concerns to the circling yacht. He came between Malua and the beach. Heaven knows how he did not go aground. I suggested he pick up a mooring buoy but no he dropped his anchor some way down the beach. When the boat settled the surf was just off his stern so he up his anchor and started to circle again finally coming to rest in the middle of the mooring balls. I was back to bed in an attempt to sleep but no sleep came as the swell built at the point. Soon after dawn I was up but Jack Tar beat me out of the anchorage. It was raining, the wind was blowing on shore so while the waves where big at the point there was not a surfer in sight. Was that a magical moment?

US Virgin Islands

Malua is at 18:20.38N 64:55.76W at Charlotte Amalie on 9/02/2013

The only thing one can say about this town is that it has evolved from a pirate den to a den of pirate retailers catering for the patrons from the cruise ships that dock here each morning. Yesterday there where four large cruise ships in the dock with one just out side. Each must have at least 8,000 people on board who stream off as soon as it is along side. Half get into the local truck buses for a tour of the island while the rest move from shop to shop looking at what is on offer. It has no attraction to me although I did purchase a watch to replace my Longines not one the same for that would have cost me almost 1,500 us dollars but with a Citizen analog. It works and I now know the time!
The other thing that is good is that one can repro vision with all American food and things. Malua is not back up to cruising readiness and I am about to move west.
The real reason I spent so long in the harbour was I was waiting for Budget Marine to order in a C-Map chart module from the states. "It will take 3 to 5 days". Little did we know the package was sent off to China then back to the states and finally 10 days latter it arrived. I left the next day.
A magical moment on Malua.

Puerto Rico

Malua is at 17:56.94N 66:17.56W in Salinas Bay on the south coast of Puerto Rico 19/03/2013

I had a very fast ride from the island east of the main island Vieques and then along the south coast because the wind was from the east and the swell was up. It is quite disconcerting to sail towards a coral reef with the wind behind you knowing that you can't see the channel opening amongst the waves and therefore have to depend totally on the waypoints and the chart plotter. Scary but you are ready to act if the chart is wrong.
I made it through the channel and behind the reef in to a very large bay. Bahia Rincon. Salinas is at the eastern end up a shallow entrance into a bay surrounded by mangroves. The wind was still blowing above 20 knots so I deceiced to drop the anchor and stay the night outside but behind the le:-) e of the land.
Once the sun was up I entered the channel which I knew to be shallow but full of mud. At less than 2 knots I nosed my way in, at one point the depth below the keel was only 20 cm. Anyway I am use to that from the French canals. The channel opened up into a wide bay with a number of boats on mooring balls and a few at anchor. I dropped the anchor, made Malua ship shape and went ashore. Just outside the marina entrance is a sail maker. She gave me lots of good information about the area and put me in touch with Sydney who is the local car rental fellow. I am to rent a car from him tomorrow.
I set off to walk to the local town. Very run down with lots of people just hanging around. I stopped in at the local library. Not very many books, a few old reference books and lots of empty shelves. Three librarians and a few computers connected to the web.
Next day no Sydney with the car. But after a phone call he appeared with a Hertz car and all the paperwork. When I suggested that was not what I wanted he said wait a minute and appeared with a more modest vehicle. 35 dollars free use of all the tolls and no paperwork, just leave the car unlocked with the key in the glovebox. Right just what I wanted.
Get out the map. Select route 1 then 52 and I will find myself on old San Juan. Almost two hours latter after a nerve racking drive I was in the old city. The traffic is heavy and many cars don't have break lights but if you keep your wits about you and follow the signs you'll reach your major destination.
I headed towards the old fort at the end of the peninsula and found a car park. I took a few pictures of the car and its location just in case I got lost or could not find it at the end of the day.
On with the vhf radio - Jack Tar can you read me. Yes Malua where are you? In the park near Customs. OK we will meet you for lunch in a few minutes. How good is that!
We had a great lunch of Tapas in a Spanish style restaurant then set off to walk through the old city towards the fort. The fort has been restored. It is large with many levels dominating the entrance to the port of San Juan. We could see the open sea from the look out and both masters agreed today was a good day to be at anchor.
We returned to the car and I gave Pedro and Carol a lift to the marina where they had anchored off. I then set off along route 22 or 123/10 westwards and then south back to Salinas. Quite a challenge but again follow the signs and you are on your way.
I stopped in at a chemist to fill my Australian prescription because I was running low. I spoke to the chemist and yes they had the two sets of pill I required. How may did I require. I normally pay in Australia about 73 dollars for 30 of each. These would be 300 us dollars for the same quantity. I would not like to be a private patient in Puerto Rico or the USA. I paid the money, read all the does and donots and made a decision that I will have to cut down on these pills.
After negotiating the toll roads, the byways and the highways of the PR I would skip the city of Ponce and drive straight back to Salinas with a short stop at the large supermarket to pick up some essentials.
I arrived back at the marina well after dark. Dropped the car in the car park and back to Malua for a well earned rest.
A magical moment on Malua.

Malua is at. 17:56.36N 66:57.46W at Playa Santa on 21/03/2013

I left the anchorage of Salinas Bay in the early morning at the top of the tide. I followed my in path out on the chart plotter knowing I would easily make it out. Once outside I negotiated the reef out into the relatively deep water and we sails went up and I was on a down wind run to cover as many miles as I could before dark.
The bottom of Malua is quite dirty with all the warm water growth plus the fact I don't think that the EU anti fouling paint has much effect here in the Caribbean.
I made it behind the cape into Playa Santa which is west of the city of Esenda. It is a shallow bay with one dive boat moored in the bay. There are two large tower blocks of apartments right on the shore and what looks like a bar. I did not take my evening walk but retired to bed early hoping that the swell would drop off during the night which it did.
The next day I sent off a few emails and pulled up the anchor to sail round the south eastern cape of Cabo Dojo.
The wind was not strong so I had to motor most of the way and reached Boqueron about noon. Dropped the anchor and went ashore.
This is a holiday town set along a wide sandy bay. Even at mid day the music was thumping. The dinghy dock was run down and the phone at the town square had not worked for three years so I had to ask a shop keeper if I could use his phone to contact Customs to tell them of my arrival and departure. they took the info but were not interested. In the DR I used my entry form as my departure. They never look at which box is ticked.
I then set about drawing money out of the two ATMs in town for use on the island west of here. I soon exceeded my withdrawal limit so I will have to be carefully as I go west.
That evening a Canadian yacht arrived having crossed the Mona passage from the north of the Dominican Republic. They had a great time. I gave them all my charts of PR plus the maps and tour literature I had collected. I hope they have a good time.
I set off to cross the infamous Mona Passage tomorrow starting at midnight. The planned anchorage is 100 nm away which I hope to make before the sun sets.
A magical moment on Malua.
Im off to tackel the Mona Passage and westwards to the Dominican Republic
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