Snapshot – week 38 (and a bit) onboard

January 20, 2022

Reading time: 44 minutes

This week is the week we’ve not let ourselves get hopeful for. We’ve barely planned, and we’ve tried not to get excited.

With Covid, and Omicron in particular, we haven’t dared.

But it’s happening – our friends Mark and Livio are joining us for a week. We KNOW it’s happening because as I write this they’ve made it as far as Antigua.

We honestly never got our hopes up about too many friends visiting us. It’s not cheap to get to the Caribbean. We’ve already had Covid ruin two visits. But Mark and Livio were always going to try. We’ve had so many amazing adventures together that they couldn’t miss out on this.

Dutifully, as soon as it became more certain I’ve been in full-on planning mode to make the most of their, and our time in the BVI.

We start the week anchored off Prickly Pear Island, in the North Gorda Sound. It’s a peaceful anchorage and has been a good place to chill out and do some boat work. Unfortunately part of this was some routine engine maintenance, during which Colin found a fault he couldn’t diagnose. $300 later, and a mechanic has cleared our blocked fuel lines, but at least we know our engines are functioning as best as possible.

Sunday 9 January

When I get out of bed at 9am, Colin is already up and pottering. We defrosted our big fridge overnight, so while I eat cereal for breakfast Colin cleans that out and reassembles it. It’s a task we have to do every few weeks as the cold plate builds ice and makes the bottom uneven.

In the meantime, I’m trying to download the final episode of Dexter: New Blood so we can watch it tonight. We’ve been getting decent free wifi using our extender from Jumbie’s bar at Leverick Bay. Today, the connection isn’t playing, so we decide to just use Colin’s data connection. This decision made, there’s nothing keeping us so we’re ready to move on.

I’m about to remove the snubbing line from the anchor when we realise a paddleboard is still out, so we quickly put it away together. Colin gets ready at the helm, and the largest carpenter bee I’ve ever seen appears. We’ve seen them well out to sea, they are hardy creatures. This one seems almost intent on looking Colin in the eye. Once it’s had a good look and flown off, we get the mainsail up on anchor.

A perfect sail

We set off at 10:30, and keep the engines on while we pass through the narrow passage between Anguilla Point and Moskito Island. It’s a shallow stretch of water, so I stand on the bow and keep an eye out for obstructions. We get a good look at Moskito as we pass through. It’s a beautiful private resort owned by Sir Richard Branson that forms part of the Virgin Limited Edition collection. I try not to daydream…

Once we’re clear of the passage we get the foresail up and are soon moving along at over 6kts. We’re on a broad reach, where the wind comes from behind and to the side (think SE or SW if the bow of the boat was N). This means it’s a comfy and pleasant sail even though we’re surfing the swell at times. We manage a perfect gybe (where you turn the nose of the boat 90º+ across a following wind) and keep our speed. This feels great, we’ve had so many underwhelming sails where we’ve lost the wind on a manoeuvre like this.

We take the sails in as we get near Great Camanoe. We had considered anchoring overnight at Marina Cay and having lunch at Scrub Island. As we get close it feels like the anchorage doesn’t have many options, and the resort will lead to an expensive lunch. We continue on to Trellis Bay, where we need to be tomorrow anyway.

Trellis Bay

Anchoring in Trellis is not easy – there are lots of balls (not part of the trusted BoatyBall scheme), and we can see unmarked wrecks. The bottom is sand and weed, and on our first attempt we drag and the anchor comes up encircled in part of an old can. We’re successful on our second attempt, and a keen observer on a charter boat finally goes back to minding his own business.

Colin snorkels on the anchor, and checks out the wrecks. I haul some of our chain out of the anchor locker to do some overdue cleanup. We use coloured plastic inserts in the chain to mark it every 30ft. The 90ft marker, which is green, ended up badly covered in algae and almost invisible. A quick scrub has it gleaming again.

There are some annoying remote-controlled boats being driven by a group on the nearby beach, so we go ashore for lunch to escape the buzzing. We have lunch at Marche, which is perfect. Colin has a chicken burger and chips and I have shrimp tempura and a seaweed salad. The salad is one of my favourite Japanese dishes and I end up googling how I can make it myself. The playlist is also fantastic (from Gloria Gaynor to Richard Marx), and the service is beyond friendly. We’re so happy we stay for an extra drink after eating.

After lunch, we pop into the Trellis Bay Market, where we find a local IPA and some ripe bananas.

Ooops, a lazy one

It’s after 3pm and we can’t be bothered to do much of our planned housework when we get home, but we get some tidying done. The remote control boats are still going – how anyone doesn’t get bored after half an hour of playing with them is beyond me. I escape down below to watch some TV until they stop.

After a shower and some time mentally planning out our tasks for tomorrow we find we’re not hungry for a proper meal. We end up having an etymology debate. It’s something I love, even if I hate disagreeing because I think being able to still have these debates after 23 years together is important. We watch the Dexter finale (very good, much better than the original ending), and Colin fries up a block of halloumi as a small meal. After an episode of Dear White People I’m nodding off so we watch a Star Trek: Lower Decks and have an early night.

Monday 10 January

We’ve had a broken night’s sleep because the anchor alarm kept going off. We’re not too worried but we’re very aware of one of the larger wrecks not far from us. It’s one of those strange nights where Colin is awake then gets hungry. I hear the rustle of snacks and the click of a can of Diet Coke opening at 4am. At one point he tempts me outside to watch fish jump in the torchlight.

Chores chores chores

Despite the broken night, we’re awake before our alarm. I make an immediate start on laundry, as I need to get two loads done and dry today. I start chores between draining and filling the little 3kg machine. The plan for the day is to clean everything, bake banana bread, and get the guest cabin made up. It all goes to plan until I burn the banana bread and the laundry keeps getting rained on.

Ceramics and cats!

I make a ham and mushroom omelette for lunch to use up leftovers. Mid-afternoon we have a break and take a trip ashore to visit Aragorn’s Studio. I remember our last visit here – Aragorn makes beautiful metalwork sculptures and sells ceramics made on site. In 2015 I brought a mug here and it was my absolute favourite until it got chipped and had to be retired. I of course buy a new mug, along with a ceramic starfish to hang in a house, someday.

We figure out where we can take rubbish, and then head to the Trellis Bay Market to buy more beer and bananas. We’re waylaid by cats, of course. There’s one ginormous piebald tomcat, who isn’t that into fussing but very happy to eat the cat biscuits I carry in my bag. Then there’s a beautifully soft black female who also likes the treats but wants all the love. The tomcat decides that he does trust us and wants fusses after all. We finally escape and get back to Mirounga for the final push on cleaning.

Reunited at last

Mark and Livio’s flight was supposed to get in at 18:45, but it’s delayed. The flight tracker seems unable to make its mind up about whether it’s left or not. Colin goes ashore at 19:20, but it’s another hour before they’ve landed and through customs & immigration. I spring into action by laying out snacks and making cocktails. Colin greets them at the airport door with beer and hard seltzer, and when they’re finally onboard at 20:45 I hand over an Aperol Spritz. After a quick boat tour, we eat an aperitivo style dinner, then sit out on the nets under the stars catching up.

Tuesday 11 January

We’re all up soon after 8 and aim for a gentle pace for breakfast. My burned banana bread isn’t too bad, and we have a good stash of long life pastries. Once we’ve eaten, Colin makes a quick last run to the shop. Well, it should be quick. He meets the black cat again and is sucked into stroking her tummy while she purrs madly. He pulls himself away eventually, and we get underway by 10:45.

We have wind enough to sail, albeit not fast. We round the southern tip of Beef Island and head into the Frances Drake Channel, passing between Tortola and all of the smaller islands to the south. As we approach the western end of Norman Island an amazing superyacht comes into view. Its name is Artefact and it’s like nothing we’ve seen before. Beautiful walls of mirrored glass reflect the landscape and the layout is completely different to any yacht we’ve seen before. It’s stunning.

The Bight

I can only enjoy the view so much as I need to start taking the sails in. We arrive at The Bight at 13:30 and decide to pass through all of the mooring balls to anchor right into the shore near the Pirates Bight bar at the northeastern corner of the bay. We’re close enough to shore and a couple of moored boats that Colin lays out a stern anchor.

I set to getting the toys out, inflating Daphne the duck and Lulu the lilo, then I slice up fresh baguettes for lunch.

We spend the afternoon playing in the water. I kayak alongside Livio as he learns how to stand up paddle, and we all take a turn lounging on Daphne. Mark’s snorkel comes loose and sinks so Colin gets to show off his freediving skills. It’s a lovely afternoon.

The infamous Willie T

It’s dark by the time we pile into the dinghy and head to the Willie T. Named for the famous Quaker William Thornton, the Willie T is a BVI must. The original Willie T, a floating barge that formed a bar and restaurant, was terminally damaged during Hurricane Irma in 2017. It’s since been sunk properly beside Peter Island and is a popular dive site. This replacement is fancier than what we remember of the original but just as rowdy. The tradition is to jump from the upper deck into the sea below, where giant tarpons (completely harmless) circle in the lights of the boat.

After a few rum punches, the dives become naked dives. There’s a large flotilla group, complete with costumes, making the most of the traditions, and we enjoy their enthusiasm without joining in. The highlight might be watching two British lads trying to get back into their shorts underwater, whilst simultaneously a woman missteps getting out of a dingy and takes an unexpected dip.

We introduce Mark and Livio to the famous BVI cocktail, the painkiller. Dinner is conch fritters and extremely overpriced mahi-mahi burgers. When we’re surrounded only by pirates and people inexplicably wearing red woolly hats, we decide it’s time to leave.

Back onboard we play dominoes and enjoy the peace, with a very nice limoncello. We’re sensible after a lot of sun and fun and head to bed at 10pm.

Wednesday 12 January

Again we’re up at 8:30, and have another leisurely breakfast. Livio wants to swim before we make a move, so we make him jump off the bow. Once he’s done splashing around we’re underway by 10:30. It’s a 1.5hr motor round to Salt Island, so we’re there by around noon.

I’ve struggled to get fresh sandwich ingredients so I throw together a quick lunch of tuna and truffle mayo sandwiches while Livio swims again.

Salt Island

Salt Island is uninhabited and has been since the early 1980s. It’s named for its two salt ponds, which once formed a vital export for the island. Even though the 40 of so households are long gone, apparently someone still comes over from the mainland once a year to collect salt for the Queen. This tradition was revived in 2015 and the Governor personally presents it to the Monarch.

Just as we’re heading ashore to explore a squall comes in. We’ve decided to tie up to what’s left of an old dock, clearly destroyed during Irma. It’s far more dilapidated when we arrive than it looked from a distance. The dinghy is pitching all over but we still clamber onto the half-sunken dock and balance our way across big gaps. It’s a relief we all make it over in one piece.

Treasure hunting

As it patters lightly with rain we look at the two derelict houses, then we go on a treasure hunt. Apparently, a cruiser family left a box in the 80s and the challenge became to find the treasure and replace it with something of the same value, recording your boat name and details. We have no idea if the treasure box is still there post-hurricane.

We can’t initially see how best to explore the island which has steep hills, but we eventually figure out that we can walk around the edge of the salt ponds. I go on ahead and make it to the windward and leeward bays. I’m rewarded with stunning views. I’m saddened, however, to find a goat that met its fate in a fishing net. It clearly got its head stuck and just curled up to die. What’s left is glossy, beautiful fur over a pile of bones. I find no treasure, but lots of quartz.

We start making our way back soon after 2pm, with merman Livio swimming back to the boat. By 2:15 Colin and I are getting the mainsail up, then after a little motor, we get out the foresail. We plan to do a big tack to make the most of the wind to get to Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda.

A wet welcome

Just as we’re arriving a huge squall comes for us. I get my waterproof on but it’s no use – the rain comes down so hard and fast that it hurts my face and I’m drenched in minutes. With the wind and rain, it’s hard to anchor and our first set drags. We hold off until the rain eases, then consider our options. There’s not really enough room between the moored boats to anchor, and the only space left is too close to the rocky shore. There’s no choice but to take a mooring ball. It’s after 5pm and we can’t get anywhere else.

I warm up in the shower, and we sit in the saloon as the rain turns on and off like a tap. I even have a hot chocolate (with rum of course), and we all have a pre-dinner beer while we help Mark and Livio plan out their time on land. Eventually, there’s enough of a lull in the rain that we decide to make a dash for land.

The boys don’t want to get their shorts wet on the journey so all end up in fetching bin bag skirts. I kneel to provide a headlight when we drive in the dark so I’m fine. The rain starts to pick up as we creep into Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour, and tie up to an impossibly high wall. We’re within the fence of the marina, and the only way we can see out involves squeezing through a chained gate. What must we look like… We quickly walk along in the rain to the Bath and Turtle, relieved that we’re undercover before it starts pouring again.

The Bath and Turtle

At the Bath and Turtle, we drink the best painkillers ever, and delicious rum punches. Dinner is fresh fish with traditional Caribbean sides and it’s fantastic. We love the atmosphere and the service is so friendly. We’re even upsold a bottle of apple and guava vodka when our waiter brings us shots.

It’s a relief when we step out to dry skies, find a better route back into the marina, and stay dry on the ride home. We have another couple of drinks and snack on crisps before bed, in the cosy saloon as outside is soaked.

Thursday 13 January

We have no deadlines today but still wake up early enough. We had considered breakfast ashore but decide not to chance our luck with the free mooring ball we’re on so we have breakfast and then get moving. Nobody comes to collect any money.

Despite the fact that the wind is doing some weird things we have enough to sail and make decent time. We overshoot the north coast of Virgin Gorda so we can tack back down into the sound. We wanted to get a decent view of Necker but the wind thwarts us. At least I see a turtle pop its head out of the water, my second in two days. We make our way into the Leverick Bay mooring field and tie up to what we think is a BoatyBall mooring, and I dutifully pay online.

Blunder Bay

Soon after we’re moored, a friendly man called Barry comes by. He explains that we’re actually on a mooring for the Blunder Bay Marina. When we explain we’ve already paid BoatyBall he says he’ll happily let us stay free if we can’t get a refund. He also tells us that mooring at the new marina is the same $30 a night, and gives us the restaurant menu. I email BoatyBall and within minutes get confirmation that they’ll refund me. We decide that $30 a night to tie to a dock is a rare treat so we’ll do that later.

Mirounga at Blunder Bay Marina

Blunder Bay Marina has just opened, within the last two weeks. It’s very much half-finished, hence the $30 rate (a night at a marina here in high season for us would usually be more like $125). It’s far from a full-service marina – there are no showers and we can’t hook up to the electrical supply in our British boat. But it’s incredibly friendly and beautiful.

We had planned to pop to the grocery store then have lunch onboard, then eat dinner at Jumbie’s. Knowing now that we can step off our boat and walk to dinner at the North Sound Bistro, we flip that plan. We decide instead to go to Jumbies for lunch. the visit the gift shop and grocery store, then move the boat to Blunder Bay.


We’re delighted to finally get a chance to introduce Mark and Livio to roti. Between the four of us, we end up splitting two chicken roti and a plate of conch fritters. The service is slow but the setting is beautiful and the food is very good. After a quick look at the shop we get some provisions then get back onboard. We warn Barry that we’re moving and he’s ready to take our mooring lines. Livio and Mark head off for a swim, and even I take a quick dip.

North Sound Bistro

At 5pm Colin goes to collect the keys to our hire car at Leverick Bay. My darling brother had given me money to upgrade to a Jeep (a car he and I obsess over), but at the last minute, they told me none were available. We have a Suzuki Grand Vitara, which still makes me happy as I’ve owned a couple of the old 90s Vitaras. We get our bags ready for tomorrow, but otherwise, chill out for a couple of hours. I finally catch up with writing after a shower.

North Sound Bistro

After a homemade rum punch, we wander up to the North Sound Bistro a little before 7pm.

We are warmly welcomed by the marina manager (and possibly owner) Tom, and by Barry, as well as the restaurant staff. The setting is gorgeous – an intimate staggered terrace with a pool set into the hillside bedecked with fairy lights. We start with cocktails and then have plenty of time to mull over our options. We’re not too hungry after the late lunch, so we order three starters per couple to share. The food is okay, but not as good as we’d hoped to complement the atmosphere.

After dinner, we wrap up a little and take a drink out onto the nets. We don’t stay up too late as we know we know we have an early start and a busy day in the morning.

Friday 14 January

We fly out of bed at 7:15 and I’m too excited to even be tired. Because we got most things ready yesterday, and we’re bringing a bag of snacks for breakfast, we don’t need to do much. We all dress in swimwear ready for our adventures. A side of me known as Holiday Hitler (a nickname/term stolen from a friend who knows who he is), has had to come out to make this day happen. We know that Virgin Gorda’s main attraction, The Baths, opens at 8:30. We also know that it’s a cruise ship day, and we do not want to share our visit with hordes of tourists, especially not during Covid.

We’re in the dinghy at 7:45 and the car by 8am, exactly to my schedule. It means we arrive just before opening. There are two couples going in before us, but otherwise not a cruise ship tourist to be seen. We pay for one couple who don’t have cash – we’re quite happy to give up $6 to keep the experience a fun one for someone.

The Baths

The Baths are hard to put into words. The entire southern end of Virgin Gorda is scattered with huge boulders, brought to the earth’s surface in volcanic eruptions. These boulders litter the landscape and embrace a series of stunning white-sand beaches. At one point, a cave system has formed, making exploration feel wild and exciting. Colin and I came here in October 2015 with no knowledge of what we were visiting and were just blown away. I wanted it to feel the same for Mark and Livio, hence avoiding the crowds.

Skull rock

We start by walking through the national park along sandy trails between boulders and cacti. We pass a familiar rock that looks like something straight out of The Goonies, in the shape of a skull. Then we reach the beachside bar and changing facilities. We can skip the changing, as we’re already in swimwear and carrying dry bags. This is a must to make the most of a visit.

Into the caves

As we stand in the first bay admiring the translucent water, rain starts to fall. We make a run for the caves. Mark and Livio get a surprise to see me start to squeeze down a narrow passage between two boulders – I can remember the way. We pause, staying dry, squeezed in until a group comes up behind us. We move on, and the pouring rain only makes the next chamber more magical. Here you can wade up to your chest into a turquoise pool under a cathedral of stone. It’s unforgettable. And again, I half expect to find the way to One-Eyed Willie’s treasure here.

The path to Devil’s Bay

We continue on, using rope handholds, scuttling through passages, climbing the wooden platforms which aid the way. The rain eases off, and the glimpses of sky we get are the brightest blue. We meet some people turning back, unaware that the walk is circular. They decide they’ve seen enough even when we explain. Nuts. We keep going and end up with the spectacular Devil’s Bay to ourselves. It might be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

A lucky escape

Livio the mermaid stops for a swim, then we carry on the trail to Stoney Bay, and then through the desert-like park back to the entrance. This part reminds me a lot of Garden of the Gods in Colorado.

We’ve taken our time and enjoyed the park for over two hours. And my planning and nagging tactics worked – as we emerge we see dozens of cruise ship tourists huddled around about to start their adventure. There must be a couple of hundred people, at least. We’ve been lucky enough to get every beach and cave to ourselves at some point, only occasionally passing others. We were dressed to make the absolute most of it. And we got to have a perfect, personal visit.

If you ever visit the BVIs, I can’t emphasise enough how worth it it is to be at the entrance by 8:30!

The Top of the Baths

Because the cruise groups are heading into the park, the restaurant and shops are quiet. It’s early but we barely ate breakfast and we want an early dinner so we head to The Top of the Baths for lunch. We’re delighted that conch roti is on the special, and the eye-watering price ($28) is bearable because again we split two between four. The service is very fast and we avoid some more rain while we eat. We don’t bother with the gift shops, but I do grab a coffee from the ice cream shop.

Coppermine Point

We make the short drive to our next stop, Coppermine Point. This was, as the name suggests, a historical copper mine, operated by Cornish miners in the mid-19th century. There’s a short walk with great views, and we can look at a couple of old mining buildings and an old mineshaft. It’s a short visit because that’s really it.

We drive on, stopping in Spanish Town so that Livio can visit an ATM, and to get fuel. Then we start a slower-paced journey north.

Savannah Bay

Our next stop is Savannah Bay, a large stretch of pure white sand on the western shore. It’s a beautiful bay and we have it to ourselves. Almost, anyway. A group of chickens greets us and Colin decides to use our stash of cat treats to befriend them. Within minutes he has a chicken army that will beg for food from anyone who dares step near. A particularly persistent cockerel freaks me out – I have too many memories of having my toes pecked as a kid! Livio swims while the rest of us hide from the rain in a picnic shelter, enjoying the view.

Gorda Peak

From Savannah Bay we drive back towards Leverick Bay, and stop at a viewpoint we saw earlier in the day to take in the view. Then we walk along the road a little and hike up to Gorda Peak. It’s a 25-minute walk up through a dry rainforest, a little tough in flip-flops but not unmanageable. We’re very glad about the shade. On the way, we see a giant hermit crab and a couple of snakes. At the top, where we expected to find an open view from a platform, we find just dense foliage. The platform was taken out by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Luckily, there’s a large rock we can climb onto to get a good view of the west. We make it down the hill just before the rain starts again.

Once we’ve made our way back to the car, we turn back south briefly so we can drive around the northwest of the island. We stop briefly at a viewpoint, then again at a giant ‘Virgin Gorda’ sign. Otherwise, it’s a quiet 20-minute drive home.

We’re back onboard soon after 3pm and within minutes we’re moving Mirounga from the Blunder Bay Marina pontoon onto a mooring ball. We relax, winding down from a long day, hiding from further rainstorms. Our original plan had been to visit Jumbie’s after dinner for the calypso night but with the rain, we don’t feel much like it. Instead, we enjoy a night in after having BBQ Mahi-Mahi with rice and plantain for dinner.

Saturday 15 January

As usual, we’re all up quite early. Colin and I didn’t get back to sleep after waking up at 7am to reserve a mooring ball. Our destination tonight is one of the places where the only balls available are the ones you pre-book, at $40 a night. They tend to be filled up quickly so we don’t want to miss out. This is all possible through BoatyBall, and it’s a good idea, but it’s also frustrating that many good anchoring spots have been filled to the brim with balls.

Monkey Point

Instead of having a full breakfast before moving for the day, we have snacks as we motor to Guana Island. It should be a downwind sail, but there’s no wind. The water is so flat and still. We’re pleased to find a free mooring ball at Monkey Point. We all snorkel, but the visibility is poor. The boys at least see a big crab and conch. I get out of the water first and slather my hair in conditioner before frying bacon and eggs for sandwiches.

After lunch, we fire up the engines again and continue to Great Harbour in Jost Van Dyke. We had planned to get a water taxi from here to neighbouring White Bay, but the water is so calm that we decide it’s fine to take the dinghy. We could have anchored for the afternoon at White Bay, but we didn’t want to miss out on any of the fun at its main attraction. The Soggy Dollar Bar (so named because patrons swim ashore) is world-famous, and the supposed inventor of the Painkiller rum cocktail. Colin and I have a very strict no drinking-and-driving-the-big-boat rule. We could in this weather have probably anchored overnight at White Bay, which suffers from ground swells, but we had no guarantee of that before arriving.

The Soggy Dollar

In the end, the dinghy ride is fine, and we easily beach Dog and secure him with an anchor at around 14:30. The painkillers at Soggy Dollar are worth the hype, definitely the best we’ve had. The conch fritters are also by far the best. We find a picnic table with shade and alternate between painkillers, rum punch, and fritters. Once it’s cool enough, we switch to chairs facing the beach. Livio of course goes for a long swim. We visit the gift shop, and I emerge with t-shirts, bottle jackets and a rubber beer mat for the day we have a home.

The main thing to do at Soggy Dollar besides getting drunk is watching other people get drunk. We aren’t disappointed. We cringe as a family carry a staggering Grandma to a seat in the shade. She pontificates to herself behind us. We catch one woman doing her best drunk-strut up the beach. The same woman, an hour or so later, curls up on the sand for a nap. When her husband and friends rouse her, it takes two people to carry her to a paddleboard. It then takes a good 10 minutes and three people to get her up and laid down on the board before her husband paddles her back. We can’t quite see how he gets her onboard as our view is obscured, but when it’s clear he has a resounding cheer goes up across the beach.

Clearing out the bar

The bar clears out surprisingly early – it really is only a day drinking place. We’re disappointed when the kitchen closes. We manage to get far inferior, and more expensive, conch fritters from Hernando’s next door. By 18:30 it’s just us and a couple from Maine who are staying on land. After a chat with them, seeing how dark it’s getting, we retrieve Dog. With some tricky manoeuvring and Mark getting soaked (I do too, but I’m in a swimsuit), we get her floating. We make it home just before it gets too dark to see (I forgot our lights), before 7pm.

After some snacks and a few drinks, it’s suddenly 10pm and Livio can’t keep his eyes open. We’re not far behind him. My plan to make us all be sensible with the drinks and get an early night seems to have failed…

Sunday 16 January

Unsurprisingly we wake up later than usual (aside from me waking at 7am to pay for our mooring). We had planned to go for breakfast ashore and to have a walk around, and pop into the dive shop to get fitted for equipment.

None of us actually care that much about going ashore for breakfast, so I cook us scrambled eggs and beans to have with a loaf of Hawaiian bread. I also feed Mark my patented hangover cure (Stugeron for nausea, a low dose of codeine for the stomach, paracetamol for the head and ibuprofen for the muscles), plus lots of water. Then we relax and digest for a while.

Jost Van Dyke Scuba

We go ashore at around 11:30 to the dive shop, which they’d requested we do when I booked a few days ago. Colin and I are excited to see a good collection of Corkcicle insulated cups in the shop, it’s an addiction of ours. We buy a couple of items and I get a t-shirt, then we check out diving Buoyancy Control Devices (BCDs) for fit. Colin and I are very distracted by a lovely cat called Anchor snoozing in the sun. Even though we’ve booked for 13:30, it looks like they’ll be happy to go out sooner, so we plan to change and come back ASAP.

As we leave town, we’re waylaid by a woman selling cakes and bread. We buy two loaves of banana bread, white bread, and macaroons, and get a bit of a shock when it’s over $40. Onboard, we change and gather what we need for diving, then we head back to the shop.

Discover Scuba

We start by completing our disclaimer paperwork, then sit outside while Marcel, from South Africa, goes through the Discover Scuba lesson for Mark and Livio. This is their very first diving experience. It’s our 8th, after getting our Open Water qualifications back in June. Because we know all of what’s being covered, Colin and I let our eyes wander to Anchor, who has been joined by her daughter Windlass in their glass box.

After getting into wetsuits, we clamber onto the dive boat anchored by the beach opposite the dive shop. We first drive around to White Bay, as this is often where the skills lesson can be done. Today it’s just too rolly, so we move on over to the dive site at Great Thatch Island.

Once we’re there, Colin and I can quickly and easily slip into our BCD’s and roll off the boat. It means we’re in the water to capture Mark and Livio doing the same. We’re then free to do a little shallow diving nearby while they do their lesson. This consists of getting comfortable with the equipment and breathing underwater, then practising three skills. These skills are purging the regulator (that you breathe through) of water, letting water into and clearing your mask, and retrieving a lost regulator. Because Marcel is joined by Tyron, another instructor, the boys get an instructor each. I suspect it’s better to do the skills in a group so you can all see each other learn, then have one-on-one support for the dive itself.

While they practice, I take a few photos and then explore a little. This is our first dive as qualified divers so it feels bizarre to go up and down and look around alone, but a lot of fun.

Under the sea

Once the boys have finished their skills, we all set off on a mini-dive. The reef is a sloping shelf, so really nice to swim along. The fan corals are very impressive, and we see lots of the small reef fish we’re used to but I see nothing special. I find out afterwards that the others saw a turtle sleeping in a cave and a moray.

Once Mark and Livio get out of the water and we emerge, we see we have a lot of air left to use. While they get dried off we take a little 10-15 minute dive with Tyron for a further look around. This time we see a huge lionfish, which I manage to take good photos of (not hard – they’re a very still subject).

We surface and clamber back onto the boat, and Marcel puts some music on for the drive back to Great Harbour. When I put my watch back on as we pull into the harbour I’m shocked that it’s 16:30 – I thought it would be much earlier in the afternoon. We say our goodbyes and have one more cat fuss as we retrieve our shoes. The menfolk take the dinghy back, but I decide to swim. I hate getting my hair in the sea but since it’s wet anyway I take the chance to exercise. I regret it slightly as the wind is picking up and I get a few face fulls of water.

Close encounters of the charter boat kind

We all shower, and I resort to using two different conditioners. We’re sitting in the cockpit having a well-deserved Punk IPA when we get a classic charter boat show. We’re on one of the closest mooring balls to the beach. A couple of local skippered charter catamarans have nudged in ahead of us. We know full well that they’re sitting in a depth many people could stand up in, but they have local knowledge. A Sunsail monohull, which will have a much deeper keel than these catamarans, tries to squeeze in as well.

They very quickly run aground on the soft sand and weed, between one of the cats and a floating spa. They reverse, and somehow end up sitting on the catamaran’s snubber lines (which cushion the anchor from shock). It’s at this point that I take out a couple of our own fenders in case they come our way. They end up scraping the catamaran’s bow along their hull and have to be pushed off by a team of more experienced skippers in dinghies. As could be predicted, a cheer goes up as they get free, and a huge exhale when they motor out of the anchorage with their tail between their legs. I mull the ethics of sending photos to the charter company…


At dusk, we go ashore to Foxy’s Tamarind Bar. This is another infamous bar. When we arrive, it’s not too busy and we find a seat where our feet rest in the sand. The music is good and not too loud, and the painkillers are excellent. We really like the atmosphere. Despite not having eaten since brunch we’re not too hungry, so it’s a mishmash of starters again. Occasionally the rain really comes pouring down and we have to shuffle the table further undercover. I’m amused at a couple of women in the bathroom – she wants to blow her nose, but is paranoid doing it with me nearby in case I think she has Covid.

Things start to get very loud, and very busy. The chilled beach bar becomes a dance party. With bad music. Nobody in 2022 should be playing that much MJ. It’s really not our thing. We just avoid another rainshower going back to the boat and hide inside for a drink. Once it’s dried off enough we head to the nets. It turns out it’s not dry enough when my foot skids on the net and I bang my elbow and lower back off the topsides. After the one drink outside it’s definitely time for bed.

Monday 17 January

We’re all awake soon after 8am, and we decide to move to Sandy Cay before eating breakfast as it should only take 20 minutes. As we’re motoring, I use the time for a quick tidy up. Once we get close to Sandy Cay, a small uninhabited island once owned by the Rockefellers, we can see it’s rather wild. There are three marine park mooring balls, all occupied, and we don’t feel too confident about anchoring. Even if we do anchor, with the water as it is we may not feel like swimming. Not even Livio.

It makes more sense to us to move on to Cane Garden Bay, which we do. Since that will take a little longer, we eat breakfast underway. We’re head to wind which means motoring again, which is a shame on Mark and Livio’s last day onboard.

Cane Garden Bay

We had planned to stop at Cane Garden Bay, go ashore to eat lunch and visit the rum distillery, then go back to the boat to collect Mark and Livio’s luggage. They would get a taxi to their hotel, which is a few minutes drive away. Unfortunately, Cane Garden Bay is known for being affected by the northerly swell, and today is no exception. We get anchored, but we’re pitching and rolling all over. Waves crash at either end of the beach, and we can see the dinghy dock being pummelled. We really don’t fancy getting ashore. I’m also very uncomfortable with staying the night, which had been the plan for Colin and me.

After some discussion and research, we decide the best thing to do is go to West End, the town at Soper’s Hole. Livio calls the hotel who arranges for a taxi to meet them there “at 5, but definitely no later than half 5”. We set off again, and this time we can sail which is perfect.

West End

We had hoped to anchor but as we’ve come to expect, there are not many spaces to do so. We give in and take a mooring ball and just hope nobody comes to collect the fee. At least we’re very close to the ferry terminal where the taxi will be later. We head ashore to have lunch at Pusser’s, which is very good and surprisingly cheap. We then go for a little walk along the waterfront and back. We’re relieved that we left Pussers when we did – as we pass it again a large group of elderly tourists is being led in.

We have a quick visit to the supermarket so Mark and Livio can get stocked for their accommodation, then go back to Mirounga. Livio has one last swim, and Colin and I relax while the boys pack. When they’re all ready, at half 4, we sit on the nets with a beer. The mooring manager appears, and we begridgingly hand over our $30. Colin takes Mark and Livio ashore at 5, and of course, the taxi doesn’t come until half-past. Meanwhile, I retreat to my cave to watch Sex and the City.

We go back to our usual routine in the evening – cosying up on the sofa to watch The Rookie and Wolf Like Me with a bowl of truffle mac and cheese. After Bob’s Burgers in bed, we’re asleep by 10pm.

Normal service – mostly

Wolf Moon from the Loose Mongoose

Mark and Livio are enjoying a few days on land before they fly home. We’ve already met them for dinner once and hope to see them again once or twice. It’s been so good seeing them and inviting our nearest and dearest into our home. We saw a beautiful almost full moon together, having missed the full moon party the night before thanks to the venue having the wrong date on their sign.

And now it’s back to just us onboard.

I got a perfect view of two dolphins surfacing ahead of our bow as we left West End for Tyrell Bay. We’ve sailed up to Anegada for a couple of quiet nights – it’s beautiful. We’ve even explored the island by scooter.

We are the furthest north we plan to go.

We’re supposed to be leaving BVI next week but the weather may not be on our side. And an event we were trying to be in Bequia for in late-February has been cancelled. We’re mulling route options for going south.

Basically, we’re back to not really knowing what the coming days, weeks and months will bring…