The "Live-Anywhere" Boat - The Trip South, 2009, Part III, Bermuda to Tortola
Updated February 4, 2010

Dawn at Sea

In the Bermuda section I forgot to mention that we made the papers! click here to see.

The 5-day run from Bermuda to Tortola was really quite uneventful, which made a nice change. We mostly had light winds and pretty calm seas. As we got further south we began to see flying fish, and after one night I threw overboard seven that had landed on the boat. One night on watch I heard a thump on the side of the pilothouse and went on deck to find a fish still wriggling on the deck. I steered him out a scupper and hoped he would make it.

We saw big patches of Sargasso Weed, whole floating worlds, and a few Portuguese Men o' War, their sails looking for all the world like clear plastic soda bottles. Some were so small that they looked more like the cellophane

Barbara on a Good Day

wrapper from a pack of cigarettes.

We left Bermuda on a Wednesday, knowing there was only a two-day window before the next front arrived, but we figured we would be far enough south that it would not bother us much when it finally arrived. We did have a little lumpiness on Friday night, but in general that is how it turned out.

On our last two days we had to devote a little attention to dodging ships, mainly reefer ships from Mexico or Central America that had come out of the Caribbean via the Mona

Landfall at the BVI

Passage. There are only so many ways a ship bound for Europe can leave the Caribbean or the Florida coast, and this means that a south-bound boat sees them in clusters. Earlier we had seen several ships bound for South Florida via the Northeast Providence Channel, in the Bahamas.
The Crowded Harbor at Soper's Hole

We reached our waypoint north of the islands at 08:00 on Monday morning, January 25th, right on schedule. By 09:30 we were anchored in Soper's Hole, at the west end of Tortola, where we would clear customs and immigration into the British Virgin Islands.

We spent two days in Soper's Hole, which has not really changed much in the twelve or so years since we have been in the BVI, We rested up, did laundry, and explored ashore a little. On Wednesday we decided we really needed to do some food shopping, so we went to Road Town, the capital and home of Bobby's, a supermarket.

We found Road Town has changed a lot; it is more like other Caribbean cities I have visited (Georgetown, in the Cayman Islands comes to mind). There are elaborate office buildings that could be anywhere, many of them belonging to banks, and then two streets away there are small traditional wood houses and chickens in the streets.There used to be open fields with donkeys grazing in them right in the middle of town, but not any more.

The waterfront is dominated by huge government buildings, and it is easy to see that the government, at least, is doing well.

Pusser's Landing - A Dockside Pub

Prosperity is certainly a good thing, and it is great that there is virtually no unemmployment in the BVI, but in an ideal world there might be a better balance of new and old.

In Road Town, while the engine was still hot, I changed the oil, but that seems hardly worth reporting, it is so easy to do. It was hot in the engine room, however, so as soon as I was finished I jumped into the water. This was not a hardship either, as the water is about 83. We hung about in Road Town for a few days, not feeling very ambitious. I did manage to find the correct nut to replace one that had disappeared from one of the anchor chutes, but otherwise did very little. We had an excellent internet connection, thanks to our amplifier from Island Time PC, so I finally could post the second installment of this blog. We also replenished our liquor locker and walked a lot, particularly through the back streeets of the town.

The Road Town Waterfront

One thing there is in abundance in Road Town is cruise ships, always two and sometimes three at a time. The passengers are taken in "cattle trucks," Ford 450s with rows and rows of seats where the bed should be, all over, from Trellis Bay at one of Tortola to Soper's Hole at the other. There they are given a chance to buy knick-knacks and have lunch before being ferried back again. We did not think we would like that life, but it was interesting to see the ships maneuvering in the tight confines of Road Harbour.

Saturday morning we weighed anchor and headed down Drake's Channel to Sea Cow's Bay, where our old friend Jim Woods manages Manuel Reef Marina. We last saw Jim and his family probably twelve

Old-Style Buildings on Main Street, Road Town

years ago, when he was at a very different and much smaller marina; this one looks more like a going concern. Jim manages the marina, but his real business is taking care of boats while their owners are away, arranging for cleaning, maintenance, etc. That evening, Jim's son James picked us up at the marina and we drove up very steep roads with only an occasional switchback, to Jim's house on the top of one of Tortola's hills, about 1400 feet up. It was squally and spitting rain at sea level, but up there we were actually in the clouds and it looked for all the world like fog. That did not stop us from having an excellent chicken barbecue on Jim's porch, however, and by the end of the evening the sky cleared and we could see the lights of St. Thomas again.
Main Street

We discovered that in Soper's Hole we could connecct with our US cell phone company, so we stopped in off and on to let Barbara make some calls for work and to keep in touch with children and grandchildren, but we spent most of the next week in Great Harbour on Peter Island. This is a very snug bay surrounded by undeveloped hillsides. The wind blows through enough to keep the temperature down, but the sea hardly ever works its way in.

The bay is fringed with a reef full of fish and very good for snorkeling and is the home of many pelicans, which we seem never to tire of watching, as they splash down into the water to grab an unlucky fish.

We stayed three days, then ran over to Road Town for some groceries, and found the usual two cruise ships, one of them over 300 meters long! The nearer one to us was doing lifeboat practice, and twelve orange-topped boats milled around, more-or-less in a circle, looking for all the world like doodle-bugs in a tidepool, while a mate or the bosun ran around in a smaller boat giving directions and trying to keep the boats in order. There was clearly some difference in ability and experience among the coxswains that became clearer when they tried to get into position to hook themselves back up to be hoisted aboard.

We got what we wanted from Bobby's, and while Barbara stows the food, I will take advantage of the relatively good internet access here to post this segment of our story before we go on.

Industrious Plumbing Office - Road Town

Our next destination is Cane Garden Bay, which is about as different from Great Harbour as anywhere could be. It is on the north side of Tortola, with a beautiful beach ringed with bars. Pretty honky-tonk, but it also has a reef for snorkeling and many pelicans. It is also the center of a little village where we have friends, and perhaps Quito Rhymer will play this evening in his bar.

From there we will go on to Jost van Dyke to hear Reuben Chinnery and watch the Super Bowl at Foxy's. Monday morning we will probably go on and re-enter the US at Cruz Bay, St. John.

Lush Gardens

The Face of Modern Road Town

Anchored in Soper's Hole

Sea Cow's Bay - Note the Roads!

One of the Few Remaining Traditional Fishing Boats

Pelicans Working in Great Harbour

Part I
Part II
Part IV
Part V
Part VI