Updated: Mar 25, 2020
Recently our Family went down to the Virgin Islands for Emma's Mardi Gras Vacation, and unlike our prior trips, we had decided to do it on our own, instead of hiring a Captain. The goals for the trip would be to obtain comfortability in sailing, navigating, and not wreck the boat. Two out of three isn't bad.
The brave crew for my first shot at Captain: Cindy, my Wife, Daughters- Emma and Elise, and my Sister, Amanda. Thankfully my Sister was able to come, because running sails and navigating with a 4 year old, who always seems to have impeccable timing, is a test in patience. She always seems to need something just as you need to concentrate the most, and she is very persistent.
I'll save you the usual boring information, as far as travel to St. Thomas, but will add, we did learn a easier way to Provision the Boat. You can send Moe's Fresh Market an email of all the groceries you want, and they will have it ready when you arrive. What usually took a few hours and a car, took 20 minutes, and our airport taxi waited for us, while we paid. You wouldn't expect this type of service in the Islands, and it's free.
Coming out of Charlotte Amalie, we were able to get all of the sails up, and we were sailing, and it felt like a great accomplishment. There is nothing like the engines off, and just the sound of the water running under the hulls. We decided to take them down before going through the pass at Great Saint James and St. Thomas. I don't know if I was ready to negotiate the pass with the possibility of boat traffic, while under sail, small steps.
The destination for the day was Maho Crossroads in St. John. They were having their 1st year anniversary, and had bands all day. We came into Maho and was able to grab a mooring, and looked like we knew what we were doing. We ended up taking a mooring right next to Lindsey and Jonathan, from Mandeville, La. They had chartered a friends boat, Winged Arrow, and had reached out to us on Instagram, it was a nice surprise to meet them in person.
My daughter's first priority was to have me air up a floating dock, that I had bought for them, I don't know what I was thinking. The thing is huge and a "PITA," but they had a lot of fun during the week, and it was worth the trouble.
After all the kids had fun jumping off the boat and the floating dock, we headed in for the Party. Elise somehow ended up on the stage and was singing Happy Birthday with the Owner's and the musicians.
This trip we decided to slow it down a bit, all of our other trips felt like we were racing to make it to the next Island, so we would stay an extra day in Maho. The girls wanted to be Mermaids for the Day, so it was off to Mermaid Monday.
Even Cindy and my Sister got in on the action.
On past trips my oldest explained, that the other trips were not as much fun, because they didn't get to jump off the boat as much as they wanted, we made sure there was plenty of jumping off the boat.
Tuesday we decided we would head out of Maho, and check into the BVI's at Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke. Winds were out of the East, and in the protected bay, the winds were light. We decided, since we did such a good job on Sunday, we would try our hands at sailing to Jost, this was a bad decision for 2 reasons. (1) The winds picked up to 25 knots, and we were a little over powered, and it was starting to rain. The winds had come around to the NE, and we were beating into the wind. Cindy and I were having trouble with the traveler being stuck, so we decided to get into the wind and take the sails down. We are decent sailors in 10-15 kt. winds, but we need more practice in the higher winds, it's a little stressful, when things are going wrong and the conditions are changing at the same time. We were able to get the sails down, and make our way over to Great Harbour. This was the 2nd mistake, Great Harbour has been taken over by BoatyBall. BoatyBall is an app that allows boater's to reserve moorings in advance, so they are no longer first come first serve. There were no moorings left, so I decided we would change our plans, and check into the BVI's at Soper's Hole on the West side of Tortola. We would then head to Norman Island, where BoatyBall had not infiltrated.
This time we would make it over to the Willy "T", so that Emma and I could jump off the top.
Unfortunately, when I hit the water, my Apple Watch came off, and it was too deep to dive down. I tried to go back later with some free diving fins, but they wouldn't let me try. I figured it was a lost cause, but I put the watch in Lost Mode, and moved on. I was surprised about 2 weeks later, when the watch pinged from Puerto Rico. A guy that runs a charter from Puerto Rico, Wayne Keese- SV Manna, had scuba dived under the Willy T, and had found my watch. Unbelievably, the watch still worked, and because Apple allowed my number to be displayed on the watch, they called and were willing to send me my watch back. Thanks Wayne and Emily.
Next up was a Sunset and dinner at The Pirate's Bight.
Next stop, Cooper Island. We motored upwind and arrived early so the girls could enjoy the beach and the floating dock. We always enjoy their Rum Shop, Ice Cream/Coffee Shop, and their Dinner is always good.
In our last few trips we have hit The Baths next, but we decided to try something different. I had read about the nearby bay of Spring Bay, Virgin Gorda, and we decided to explore that area instead. Spring Bay is less crowded, and you can weave through all of the granite boulders North to Big Trunk Bay.
We had finished the hike through the bays, and decided to sail downwind to another new spot for us, Marina Cay. There we could moor the boat and bring the girls over to Scrub Island for the rest of the day, and let them swim and hit the waterslide.
We finished the day by ordering pizza at their grocery store and deli, and calling it a night.
The next morning we continued on to another new stop, Cane Garden Bay on the North West side of Tortola. I had recently seen pictures of North Swells creating large breaking waves on the reef, and was a little nervous about the entrance to the Bay. The entry is missing the Red entry channel marker, but overall was an easy task. We had arrived on a perfect day to do CGB, come to find out, it is a Cruise Ship destination, and usually the beach is bustling with tons of people, today no one. We hit most of the beach bars and restaurants, and were treated to a beautiful sunset to finish off the day.
On our last night we wanted to make it back to St. John, so it would be an easier trip back to St. Thomas the following morning, so we decided we would try to moor somewhere close to Cruz Bay, and right in front of Honeymoon Beach fit the bill. Honeymoon Beach is a sliver of beach between Caneel Bay and Cruz Bay, and it's hard to get to, without a boat. We hung out on the beach and did a little snorkeling over the reef and nearby grass beds, there are some small sea turtles and some small fish. The local hut, Bikini's, serves lunch and drinks till 5 pm.
We finished the afternoon with a dinghy ride into Cruz Bay and dinner at Longboard's. The girls hit all of the shops and had ice cream, before we took the dark dinghy ride back, all of our flashlights ran out of battery on the ride back.
The next morning was the part of the trip I had been dreading since the beginning of the trip, I knew eventually I would have to dock the boat to get Diesel, and the time had come. We made it into Charlotte Amalie to Yacht Haven Grande Fuel dock, but there was 2 Mega Yachts, and no room, thankfully I wouldn't be required to dock between the 2. One of the yachts had a helicopter and a 30' boat for a dinghy.
We made the decision to go to another fuel dock, and as luck would have it another large yacht, not moving at the fuel dock. Luckily we navigated to the dock without damaging any other boat, and was successful getting back off the dock.
We completed our first voyage by ourselves and returned the boat without any damage, a successful trip. We learned we still need some work on our more challenging conditions. Hopefully time will allow some more practice soon. Hope to see you all out there.