Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Marina Cay, The Baths and The Bight - Sailing the BVI's (Chapter 2 of 8)

The sun rises early this time of year in the BVI's so most of us were up by 7 am.  It is nice to get out of bed, walk on deck still wiping the sleep from your eyes, seeing the gorgeous views and having to pinch yourself to prove you are really there.  Whoever woke up first would start a pot of coffee and prepare the second pot but not start it yet.   
So began the routine of coming out of my stateroom, passing through the galley for my cup of coffee, complete with sweetener and hazelnut creamer, then step out into the cockpit to relax and enjoy each other's company and the views.

We would relax for an hour or so, maybe jump off the back and swim, or just relax.  This particular morning a nice breakfast of egg's,  sausage and fresh cut fruit was prepared and consumed.  We would talk about what we wanted to do that day and plot a quick course.  The navigation is really easy in the BVI's, since you can see land all the time and the water is so deep, you can pretty much sail by sight until you get close to your destination.  We decided we would sail east and visit "The Baths" on the southwest portion of Virgin Gorda.  This is a park where you can't spend the night so our plan was to grab a national park mooring ball, dinghy to shore and tour the area.  We grabbed the mooring about 300 yards from shore.
Everyone but Robert loaded in the dinghy to head to shore.  As we approached we realized you can't get to shore by dinghy, you have to tie your dinghy to a mooring ball in twenty feet of water and swim to shore.
Mary was concerned she couldn't swim that far, so we looked for another place to land the dinghy, none existed so we took Mary back to the boat and we moored the dinghy and swam to shore.  It was quite a swim as the tide kept wanting to take you back out.

Then we got the bright idea of using the lines to mark the no dinghy access area to pull ourselves to shore and make it easier.  I got to shore and realized that my underwater camera had the side door open.  Not good, I pulled the battery and dumped way too much water out and figured i would see if I could get it to work later.
This is where you enter.  It was a 'turn sideways
and crouch' type of walk but not too tight

Once ashore, we walked a short distance to the giant granite boulders that formed this natural creation of paths, pools, caves, etc.  We crouched through the first tight squeeze (squat and turn sideways).
Once through, it opened up to 20 foot height, beach sand on the ground and some areas with a few feet of water pooled there.  We walked a few steps and saw a tour guide talking to some folks in front of us.

Deb and OBarr swimming over some coral to continue
(Look how clear this water is
We stood back and listened for a few minutes and figured he was pointing them in the right direction to get to Devils Bay.  There was a wide area where you could swim in waste deep, crystal clear water which was pretty cool too.

From here there was a spot where you would swim/drag your body over a bed of very smooth rocks into a larger pool of water.  From there you could see a long trail of water where the surf was working itself in and out of the rocks.

As we stood here talking and
checking it out we kept hearing these loud splashes.
It turns out it was the guide in front of us taking people through a unique route where you had to climb up one rock,sort of lay on the rock, squeeze between the rock you were on and the one above and to the right of you and just sort of fall off the rock in to a pool of water below.  You almost couldn't do it without belly flopping.  It was fine, it was only a three foot drop but it was fun and that was the way we decided to go.  One at a time we splashed into the four foot water below.  I attempted to get video of one of us making this move, but was not able to capture any that looked good.  This picture was taken right after OBarr had come up from under the water.  The opening to the right and above his head is where we dropped from.

It was at this point that we passed the tour guide and just wandered our way through this giant boulder maze.  In areas where it would be very difficult to climb the face of the rocks, make shift wooden stairs had been built to make it easier.  At some points you would climb up the granite and be on a trail in the woods, then right back into the rocks. In area's that were a bit open, there would be a sign indicating the way.  

At this point we walked along the beach with rocks blocking the view of seeing out to sea.  We did find a place where we could see our boat anchored off the shore.  It is easy to spot with the very large Texas flag on the left spreader.  

From here it was back over some rocks, climb some steps, crawl over one part and then drop onto a little beach cove that is unbelievably gorgeous.

This is likely one of the most photographed and magazine featured slices of beach there is.  It was simply magical to be walking toward the water for a dip in this crystal clear water.

To show how clear the water is, this is a photo I took by just placing the camera under water.  You can easily see 100 feet or more under water.  It was truly amazing to see how clear it was.  (When we got back to the boat, I jumped in and you could easily see both hulls crystal clear and the bottom and we were in 35 feet of water where we were anchored.

After a refreshing dip, we started to walk back and found an alternate route back,  the good news is that we got to see some additional portions of the path and we actually had a way around that drop off portion which we would not have been able to climb back up the opposite direction.  Once back at the entrance there was a little beach bar serving cold beer and selling shirts and such.  We all had a cold beer and Oday picked up a nice bandanna for a do-rag.  After a cooling beer, we prepped for the swim back to the dinghy.  Here is where i started to worry a little.  I didn't figure I was going to be able to jump back in the boat from water deeper than I am tall.  We all swam back, Oday and OBarr and T got there first and boarded.  Deb used a looped line over the side to help step up into the boat.  I did the same but made the loop a little deeper.  I was able to boost myself up, but not far enough to kick a leg over the side, so my friends just gave me a pull. I am a big guy, coming in at just over 300 pounds, I know this had to be a funny sight for anyone watching.  As I was getting pulled up, I kicked my left leg over the tube and someone grabbed my left leg to help pull me in.  I flopped into the bottom of the boat laughing hysterically.  In an effort to provide a visual, have you ever seen the show "Swamp People" about people that hunt alligators.  If you have ever seen the way they pull these things into the boat, that is exactly what I imagined this looked like to anyone that may have seen it.  The good news is, I was in the boat, which is better than hanging on the side which I thought I might do while we went slowly back to the boat where I would use the boarding ladder.
Once aboard, we used the shower on the aft deck to rinse off the salt and sand and lather up in another layer of sun screen.  

We planned our general course for The Bight on Norman island which would be our anchorage for the night.  It was going to be a general southwesterly sail down the Sir Francis Drake Waterway
with the wind behind us.  It was a series of gentle gybes to get there. We sailed at about 6-7 knots in 10-12 knots of breeze.  During the trip, sandwiches were made and served in the cockpit while under way.  While on our way we heard a series of calls on Channel 16 about a boat on fire that had been seen, but must have sunk as it was no longer visible after the fire was spotted.  There were several boats in the area that were looking for people in the water.  They did find some floating debris but we could only hear the VHF traffic of the closer boats and not all of what was happening. It was several miles ahead of us and there were already boats on the scene so we were not needed to assist.
We continued our sail to Norman Island.  As we passed Peter island to our port side, we turned In to the cove and found a place toward the outer edge of the anchorage to take advantage of the nightly breeze to cool the boat without having ourselves get back winded along the shore.  When the wind comes over the land masses it tends to sort of "jump" over the land and curl back toward land for a few hundred yards or so.  Boats close to shore will often be pointing away from land and barely get much breeze.  If your are further out we face bow to the wind and it all scoops right into the open ports and just blows right through the boat like a cooling wind tunnel.

Once anchored we had our sundowner in the cockpit along with another great dinner.  I believe it was marinated grouper that had been marinating since that morning.  Brocolli and salad as sides rounded out another great meal.  Dinner time was cleaned up and we planned our evening.  Deb and I and T and Oday wanted to go to the "WillyT".   This is actually an old boat anchored in "The Bight" that has a resteraunts on one side and a wild bar on the other side.  We dinghied over to the small floating dinghy dock attached to the WillyT.  There were already 8 or so other dinghies there and 2 power boats one was a 45 footer.  
I didn't get a good picture at night so pulled this one from the web
We went to the bar side and ordered a few drinks, people were dancing and drinking and generally partying.  The WillyT is known for a practice they used to have where if you were willing to strip naked in the bar, climb the spiral stairs to the roof and jump off, swim to the dinghy dock and come back to the bar to get dressed, you would get a TShirt.  Now they don't give you a shirt and generally state that you are not supposed to do this, but it is still a common practice.  So it is a bit of an odd sight, but fun to watch.  It usually starts with a small group talking, then a round of shots or drinks, then all of the sudden there is one or two people standing buck ass naked in the bar.  They run up the spiral staircase and out of sight.  Everyone goes to the back of the boat and watches as they prepare to jump.  Then two bodies drop past the lower deck and you hear the splash.  Then all the gawkers go to the side to watch them climb the ladder and come down the dinghy dock and back intto the bar naked to get dressed again there in the bar.  We only stayed for two drinks each and saw two 20 something girls do it, them a couple do it.  The good news is the Deb and T got to see a dude do this as well so there was something for everyone.  The funniest thing for me was that one of the guys that was there with the two twenty something's put her bikini top on and was dancing to "Gangam Style" and he was fully committed to his dance.  It was hilarious.  

Deb and T considered the jump but when they found out that they would not get the T-shirt for doing it, they opted out.  It did appear that the twenty something's did get tshirts (to be fair maybe they bought them, but that was not what it looked like).  Deb was a little offended but in the end, they are trying to attract the twenty something's to come drink and party all night, and they want to see other naked twenty something's.  We are no longer in that category. :)

We dinghied back to the boat and enjoyed a relaxing time in the cockpit then turned in to sleep a sound sleep in a beautiful anchorage.

Below is a video capturing a 3 minutes run through of our day.  If you are not viewing this online, you may need to click on the following link in order to view the video.

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