We did a 9-day sailing charter on CYOA's Island Angel, a Hunter e36, out of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas November 15-23. My first-mate is Sweet Christine. We have 30+ visits to the Virgins, but are relatively new to bareboat sail chartering. This was my third, and Sweet Christine's second, sailing trip to the Virgins this year.
This was our first time on a Hunter e36. It's a much bigger boat than its length suggests, mostly due to a cockpit that has more seating space than a Jeanneau 409. The fold-down swim platform lets the cockpit and the aft cabin go all the way back to the stern. The addition of two stern pulpit chairs makes for a lot of space. Nice boat, and we are back on her in March 2014. My one complaint is that it takes a lot of engine run time to keep the batteries charged, more like eight hour per day than six hours.
We did the counter-clockwise route hitting the usual suspects:
- St. Thomas
- Leinster Bay, St. John
- Cooper Island
- Leverick Bay, North Sound Virgin Gorda
- Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke
- Druif Bay/Honeymoon Beach, Water IslandDay 1 - Friday November 15
The usual early drill with a taxi to Reagan National Airport. This was our second time traveling with TSA Precheck. It's nice not having to undress or unpack at security. We were at St. Thomas early and Mr. Wells ((340) 513-2722) from CYOA was waiting for us. It's great having a private driver who is reliable. We were on the boat by 2PM. The CYOA crew is great and the location could not be more convenient. We've gotten to know them across a couple of trips and really like the personal touch. They gave us the news, the autopilot on our boat was down waiting for parts.
We were checked in and walking to Gourmet Gallery and Pueblo to provision before 3PM. We brought some proteins and such in a carryon cooler. We also packed some staples and kitchen supplies. We planned on 5 dinners ashore, had 4 dinners ashore, and still had leftover food at the end of the trip. We really only ate a big breakfast or a big lunch each day, never both. Mr. Wells picked us up at Pueblo. 8 gallons of water was about half of our load.
We had some beers at the Hook Line & Sinker and chatted with Doug, who we know from the VIOL, tripadvisor and TTOL forums. Our big plan for the evening was dinner with Capt. Jay and Debbie, as well as Kyle and Tina. We’ve known Jay & Debbie since before they moved to St. Thomas from the Interwebs. Kyle did our boat check-out with us Saturday morning and Tina is the CIO at UVI. Pie Whole was good as ever - great pizza and a great beer list. We sipped rum and did our boat inventory and check list to finish the night sleeping aboard on the dock in French Town.Day 2 - Saturday November 16 – Leinster Bay, St. John
I grabbed breakfast sandwiches and coffee at the Frenchtown Deli for an early start with Kyle for our checkout sail at 8:30AM. Those were good breakfast sandwiches, but $9.50 for sausage, egg and cheese on toast makes me think we should get their breakfast specials for less than that.
Kyle was on time, we found the last couple of items on our inventory sheet, and finished our checkout and were under way by 10AM. We motored out of the Charlotte Amalie harbor and put the sails up once we got some sea room for a quick sail east and north through Current Cut. We dropped anchor at Lovango Cay for lunch, what an idyllic spot. We need to remember this spot for another time!
Sailing from Lovango Cay to Leinster Bay, St. John is such a beautiful start to a sailing trip. The north coast of St. John is a string of white sand beaches. We sailed around Mary Point to our home for the night, Leinster Bay on St. John. Plenty of moorings, white sand beach, starfish, stingrays, no traffic and no cell phone signal.
Steve and Leslie, long-time friends from St. John forums, are new St. John residents. They drove out to Annaberg to meet us on the boat. No dinghy for them, they snorkeled out. Happy hour on a boat is better with good friends. Grilled carne asada off the back of the boat tasted even better. Going to bed at such a beautiful place and waking up there is one of the best reasons for cruising.Day 3 - Sunday November 17 – Cooper Island
Good morning Leinster Bay! We enjoyed our home roasted coffee with breakfast. We brought a Melitta filter and a thermos with us. Of course Island Angel had a thermal carafe on board. We set sail for West End Tortola to check in with customs & immigration. It’s a quick jaunt to grab a mooring ball and dinghy over. We dropped off trash at the dumpster to the right of the C&I dinghy dock and were checked in within 15 minutes. We grabbed more beer, ice and ginger beer at the market and headed to Cooper Island. We sailed past the Wreck of the Rhone dive site at Salt Island, but decided to keep going to grab the mooring at Cooper early.
The Hunter e36 is pretty light, but sailing upwind was not a big chore. She likes to heel a bit, but letting the mainsheet out until she flattens a bit worked nicely for a comfortable sail. We were moored at a nice quiet inner mooring at Cooper Island by 2PM. I dove the mooring and we did a bit of floating about in our SwimWays inflatable Papasan chairs and enjoyed happy hour on the boat. Christine wasted no time putting our first empty water jug to use making a batch of painkillers – 411 + 1.5 – four parts pineapple juice, one part orange juice, one part cream of coconut and one and half parts dark rum.
Dinner was at the Cooper Island Beach Club. They have a nice wine list that is very reasonably priced. We had a $36 bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc with our sautéed Queen Snapper and Mahi on coconut rice with orange ginger sauce. We had very good luck with sautéed fish on this trip, the skin was crispy and the flesh was hot and moist. It was Sunday night and not very busy. Service was a bit absent minded, but my glass did not run dry and the food was hot and good. Back on the boat, we sipped rum and watched the moon.Day 4 – Monday November 18 – North Sound, Virgin Gorda
The forecast today was for medium winds and 6-7 foot swells. This ended up being our longest sailing day – 14 miles upwind to Virgin Gorda, North Sound with no autopilot. We had a quick breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, ham and cheese and got under way early.
We sailed from Cooper Island to George Dog for lunch, we angled past Fallen Jerusalem and by The Baths on Virgin Gorda. The Baths were mobbed, but the dive moorings at Fallen Jerusalem were empty. Red surf flags were up at The Baths, but the surf was not that bad. We kept going and grabbed a mooring at George Dog. I love George Dog for a long stop with some snorkeling and a bit of beach.
We joined the parade for the afternoon sail from George Dog to North Sound, Virgin Gorda. It was pretty much straight upwind and the catamarans gave up on tacking pretty early on. We made as much headway tacking under sail as the cats did under power banging into the swells. Construction was well under way at Richard Branson’s new place on Mosquito Island. As we entered the channel into North Sound a megayacht towing a large tender on a long towline came blowing past us. That’s a pretty narrow channel and I was pretty uncomfortable watching that towline fly past us. I was relieved to see the stern of the tender.
Our home for the night was the dock at Leverick Bay Marina. The dock hands here are great and we were docked and had electric with the a/c humming in a couple of minutes. A couple of happy hour Dark & Stormies at Jumbies Beach Bar, a bit of facebook time on wifi, and it was time to get ready for dinner.
Dinner upstairs at the Restaurant at Leverick Bay was the most formal service we had on this trip. Still, it was friendly, enthusiastic and comfortable. Christine really enjoys dinners off the boat, while I’m happy to cook on the boat every night if I get to do a happy hour onshore. Tonight we started with pumpkin soup and ceviche crostini and our mains were sautéed Triggerfish in Thai red curry sauce and sautéed Snapper on risotto. All good and the fish was beautifully sautéed. After a long sailing day, we were off to bed and asleep pretty early after a bit of rum sipping.
I sleep like a baby on the boat – I roll over every hour and wake up, check the GPS anchor alarm. Sitting on the dock at Leverick with the a/c humming on shore power I had a great night’s sleep.Day 5 – Tuesday November 19 - Anegada
With the forecast for 7-8 foot swells and 15 knot winds we were uncertain about whether we would head to Anegada or stay in North Sound for another night. The updated forecast was for 10-12 knot winds with no squalls or weather drama for a couple of days out. Anegada is go.
We left the dock early after stocking up on ice. Once out of North Sound we were on a close reach to Anegada with not a single tack. We just sailed a constant bearing with no autopilot and had no problem hitting the waypoint outside of the Anegada anchorage approach. This light Hunter e36 liked this point of sail and this may have been our easiest sailing day. Once we got the sails balanced we did not miss the autopilot. The swells were not a problem at all. I had done this approach earlier this year in sailing school. The channel is pretty narrow and there are coral heads visible under the water outside of the channel. But, with good GPS waypoints and the well-marked channel it was no problem.
In the anchorage there was one mooring ball left in the downwind western section of the mooring field. It was pretty shallow. After diving the mooring ball and seeing less than 2’ below our keel I gave Christine the good news, we’re moving the boat off the mooring and anchoring upwind. We found a nice sandy 12’ deep spot to anchor upwind from the mooring field, leaving plenty of room toward the wharf at Setting Point. This is the spot where we anchored our boat in sailing school. The anchor bit on the first try and we had a great anchorage for the night. We relaxed on the boat and started happy hour, but skipped the swimming. The water in the Anegada anchorage is a bit funky and I showered on the transom each time after diving the mooring and the anchor.
We relaxed on the boat and headed over to Neptune’s Treasure for happy hour before dinner. Pam was bartending as Mark was out on the boat fishing. Vernon Soares was around, but not telling stories at the bar tonight – too bad, but Pam told a few good stories. One of the reasons we love dinner at Neptune’s is that they run their own long lines for swordfish, tuna, wahoo and other fast swimmers. We had ordered over the radio earlier – coconut cracked conch and smoked fish pate to start and grilled tuna and sautéed wahoo with homemade coleslaw, rice and peas and Pam’s bread. The starters were great, big tasty portions. The entrée fish portions were enormous; Christine’s tuna was as big as a 16 oz rib eye steak. Great service and great food. They will reluctantly take credit cards here with a 3% charge, but cash is king.
The mosquitoes were big too. We sprayed ourselves a couple of times before and during dinner, but the mosquitoes won. We love Neptune’s Treasure and have stayed here on a land vacation before. Definitely the most mosquitoes we’ve ever seen here. We headed back to the boat, where there were no bugs, and enjoyed some more Ron Zacapa. The batteries were pretty low, so we ran the motor to get the batteries charged up. Tomorrow? We had planned on another night at Anegada, but the mosquitoes were a pain. Christine voted for Jost Van Dyke, another long sailing day with no autopilot. Okay with me, with an early start.
I set a couple of anchor alarms and checked things a couple of times over night. No worries. I definitely prefer anchoring here over mooring.Day 6 – Wednesday November 20
We were the first boat to leave in the morning just after the sun was up. There were three more behind us by the time we left the channel. Maybe I’m naïve, but it freaks me out a bit to see catamarans shortcutting around the channel markers over what look like to me to be coral heads a couple of feet below the surface. I guess having a 5’-6’ keel hanging down makes you more conservative. The cats soon passed us under motor in a hurry to get somewhere. We heard a lot of radio chatter about trying to get to Scrub Island, hungover crew and nekkid exploits.
Sailing downwind to Jost Van Dyke was a bit of work. The wind was out of the ENE, so we headed downwind at an apparent wind angle of about 150 degrees. The boat was not very thrilled about this point of sail. We got the sails trimmed as well as we could, pushed the traveller as far out as we could and headed towards Jost Van Dyke. The first couple of hours we were motor sailing to get the batteries charged up. The separate freezer and refrigerator are on the same circuit breaker and seem to eat the batteries pretty fast. I would have shut down the freezer and kept the refrigerator going if we could. The freezer was really only big enough for about 8 pounds of ice broken down into gallon zip lock bags and a couple of frozen steaks.
Halfway to Jost Van Dyke we had some company, with three porpoises surfing our bow. We got a bunch of photos before we had a chance to turn the boat a bit towards the wind to stop the genoa from flogging every time we went over a wave. That let us get the GoPro lined up to catch the porpoises on the way out. The porpoises seemed very interested in the people, more so than the boat. They were rolling to the side to watch me move back and forth on the deck. We grabbed lunch underway.
Here's a GoPro video of the dolphins, along with some sailing: http://vimeo.com/84636482
We had planned to spend the night at the Diamond Cay/Little Jost Van Dyke anchorage, but the anchorage was crowded and all of the moorings were taken. We passed up Little Harbor JVD and headed to Great Harbor where we grabbed a mooring ball on the far east side in 12’. A quick swim showed that the mooring gear looked fine, at least the part above the sand. We decided to hang out here for two nights to take a break from sailing.
We took the dinghy to White Bay for some Soggy Dollar painkillers and beach time. It was a rainy quiet day. We enjoyed some relaxation and people watching for a couple of dry hours. Back on the boat we had to run the engine for a couple more hours to charge the batteries. Dinner on the boat was grilled marinated salmon that we brought from home, saffron rice and assorted vegetables. We spent some time at Foxy’s for a round of drinks and a bit of dancing. The rest of the evening was sipping rum on the boat while we charged the batteries. Cruiser’s midnight is really 9PM, which is about the time we went to bed.
It had sprinkled a bit all day, but it rained quite hard most of the night. I got up and closed the hatches and turned the fans on.
Day 7 – Thursday November 21
It rained all morning, so we took the opportunity to sleep late. The batteries were very low and the freezer was starting to defrost, so as soon as we were up the motor was back on for two hours. We enjoyed our bacon and egg muffins in the salon. I spent the rest of the morning cleaning up the boat and drying out the items we left on the topside, like the cockpit cushions. We did not have a long handled boat brush, so I made due with a rag and salt water to get the grill spooge off the stern. Charged the batteries some more
We had planned to meet one of our STJ buddys, Capt. John from Palm Tree Charters with some clients, over at White Bay today. But, the rain forecast kept them off the water. We headed over to White Bay and enjoyed a mostly rainless day doing nothing.
Back to the boat in the afternoon to charge the batteries. Dinner was frozen precooked babyback ribs that we warmed up in the oven with more rice and veggies. The evening was mostly doing nothing, while we sipped rum, listened to music and charged the batteries. Early to bed.
[/img]Day 8 – Friday November 22
We were full of energy after two nights on Jost and ready to head over to Cruz Bay, St. John to check in at C&I and check in with some friends. The forecast was for moderate winds and a swell down to 5’.
We headed out of Great Harbor early and decided to put up our sails once we cleared the harbor. Christine had the helm while I put up the mainsail, just keep the bow pointed into the wind, easy right? Not so easy, the wind was blowing around the headland and suddenly gusted from what had been a steady 13 knots to 20 knots and swung around about 45 degrees. We heeled hard, Christine was chasing the wind and tacking and not happy. Lesson learned after about 3 minutes of excitement, get more sea room before raising the sail. That steep headland was creating a fun wind tunnel. As soon as we were out of the wind effect of the headland the wind steadied again to 10-13 knots.
The rest of the morning was pristine sailing weather. We motor sailed (charging batteries) over to St. John, along the North Shore, through the channel between Henley Cay and the peninsula with the Caneel Bay resort. We grabbed a mooring ball closest to Lind Point to shorten the dinghy ride to Cruz Bay.
Taking the dinghy around Lind Point into Cruz Bay Harbor you get to see Cruz Bay unfold. After spending a week in the BVIs, quaint Cruz Bay looked like the big city. This is my favorite island village with great amenities all close to the harbor.
Checking in at Cruz Bay is really quite easy if you fill out your paper work before heading in. There’s no dinghy dock at C&I, so we headed over to the dinghy dock by the ferry wharf. This is a very busy dinghy dock and I think we are going to start using the dinghy dock over at the National Park dock in the future. When we returned to the dinghy dock by the ferry a big center console RIB tender had put itself basically on top of our dinghy, which had been pushed basically onto the beach. Yeah, we could have locked the dinghy to the dinghy dock and probably should have. Still, that big tender should have been at anchor rather than on the dinghy dock. Next time we lock the dinghy over at the NPS dock.
We met our friends Ruth & Ron who run St. John Spice and caught up on things. Our buddy Steve from Saturday night met us for lunch and we headed over to Banana Deck. Kristin was working the bar, she’s the Mama of Ziggy the pot bellied pig. We had a great lunch and enjoyed more of Steve’s stories of relocating to St. John. These great friends are some of the reasons St. John is our favorite island.
We decided to head to Honeymoon Beach/Druif Bay on Water Island for our last night on the boat. We motor sailed (charging the batteries) through Current Cut and along the south shore of St. Thomas.
All of the moorings in Honeymoon/Druif Bay are private, and there really is not enough swing room to anchor in the mooring field. We anchored in 20’ at the edge of the mooring field. I did the math, added our freeboard plus the depth, and put out 120’ of chain. By the time we got our rode out we were in 12’ and the rocky point was about four boat lengths directly astern. I set the anchor at 1,000, 1,500 an 2,000 rpm and checked that the anchor was not dragging. I dove the anchor, the full length of chain and our entire swing area. The anchor was very well set, there were no shallow spots or rocks in our swing and no boats close enough to bump. We’re set, right? Sure, but I was up all night checking that we were okay. Next time we’ll anchor in deeper water outside the bay a bit.
The rest of the day was spent swimming, working on depleting the rum and food, charging the batteries, packing and watching the cruise ship and barge traffic. We liked this spot and will hit the beach bar next visit. Another spot I would consider, which is less crowded, is the anchorage in the lee of Hassel Island near the cut between St. Thomas and Hassel Island, by French Town.Day 9 – Saturday November 23
We were up for a quick breakfast and headed to Yacht Haven Grande to fuel up the boat for return. Crown Bay would have been more convenient, but I wanted to check out Yacht Haven. We had to work our way around a sailing race in the harbor, but those IC24s don’t take up a lot of room.
Pulling into the Yacht Haven fuel dock, we were next to David Geffen’s 453’ yacht Rising Sun and the little 100’ catamaran Quintessential. It took us about 2 minutes to get our 15 gallons of diesel.
Check in at CYOA was fast. We plugged the electric in, turned on the a/c and finished our clean up. We grabbed sandwiches to go from French Town deli, a much better deal than breakfast. Mr. Wells dropped us off at the airport, and we were headed home. TSA Pre-check gets you front of line in security, but there is no separate Global Traveler line for C&I.