Well, this blog is going to pretty much be a repeat of the last blog with different place names inserted.  Cue sunny skies, snorkeling, scuba diving, beautiful starry nights at anchor, etc.  We’re here at the beginning of the low season, so things aren’t ridiculously crowded like they can be at other times, but you can definitely see why they get that way.  The Virgins are a lot like the Vava’u group in Tonga, but with less dangerous reefs and a lot more tourist infrastructure.  Beautiful anchorages are plentiful, the water isn’t the best we’ve seen, but you can generally find at least 50’ of visibility, reefs for snorkeling and diving are plentiful, and you can take your pick between anchorages with little to nothing ashore, ones with a small town, or ones with just a few beach bars/restaurants.  The Virgins are pretty hyped in the sailing world and they’ve lived up to it for us in terms of days full of protected sailing (mostly motoring for us, unfortunately) and a nice choice of anchorages to duck into for the night.

There are some really nice beaches here, but the culture ashore isn’t really akin to the Pacific or anything, so we’ve been spending a lot of time in the water, which in our opinion is really where the action is (in addition to the lively and loud beach bars).  The next good dive site is never more than a mile or two away and they’re all set up with moorings.  Kope and Julia have really taken to the water amazingly well, especially considering Kope had barely snorkeled before arriving a week ago.

We left Cane Garden Bay at 5:30am, hoping to make Anegada’s huge, isolated Horseshoe Reef at a decent hour, but even though the winds were light, motoring into them and the current was making for some slow progress so we changed plans.  The area around Virgin Gorda sound looked pretty promising and when arrived we found that we weren’t the only ones who thought it looked like paradise.  Sir Richard Branson bought an entire island, Necker Island, which is surrounded by gorgeous reef-filled water and has a small sandy island you can swim to.  Although the island is private (it rents for $26,000-$51,000/night), our guide said we could anchor there, so we motored over, slipped past the “private”-labeled mooring buoys, and snuck into a big sandy patch covered by crystal-clear water.  We dropped the hook with only a couple feet of water under the keels and jumped in to snorkel.  Every time we snorkel or dive, we seem to see some sort of fish we’ve never seen or noticed before or have a some kind of cool sighting.  This time it was a huge lobster, some really big barracuda, conch, some cool reef fish, and a close-up encounter with a southern stingray that was hanging around the boat when we got back.

DSC_0318 Vacation

DSC_0327 Julia snapped this pic of the lagoon around Branson’s Island from the top of the mast

Our next stop was a mooring off of the Bitter End Yacht Club for some much-needed showers and a swim in the pool before crashing early.  The showers brought back memories of Opua, New Zealand.  They were $3 for 4 minutes and you couldn’t even get cold water once your 4 minutes was up.  I guess it keeps people moving along when all 70 moorings are full.  Luckily, after 2 years of taking boat showers, 4 minutes leaves me a with a couple of minutes left to just enjoy the warm water.

The next day we motored out to The Invisibles, a formation made from two large rocks just east of Necker Island.  It looked like a good dive spot from the charts and the dive shop by the yacht club confirmed that it was great for underwater life.  There were tons of fish and we spotted a nice sea turtle as well.  We’ve been lucky enough to see either a green or hawksbill turtle almost every day, and although lots of the coral here is brown or gray, it has been plentiful at most sites and more colorful and interesting corals are scattered here and there as well.

After diving The Invisibles, we headed for The Baths, one of the must-see BVI stops.  The Baths, at the SW tip of Virgin Gorda, are an area where several small beaches are framed by large, eroded granite boulders that form beautiful formations starting on the hillsides and ending underwater, where you can snorkel among them in water with good visibility.  We were there just before sunset, when most of the moorings were empty, and enjoyed the way the rays of light from the setting sun played down under the water between the giant boulders.  Kope and Julia had a great sighting as a turtle swam in slow motion through the rays of light between two boulders before taking off for deeper water offshore.

Instead of heading back to Spanish Town and picking up a mooring, we took advantage of the calm weather we’ve been having and anchored right off the beach not too far north of the Baths.  Lauren cooked up the last of the Barbuda lobsters to more rave reviews and then we moved outside to the cockpit and dropped the bimini so we could see the sky.  It was another perfect night, with a light breeze, starry skies with occasional shooting stars, and the waves crashing on the beach.  We stayed up enjoying it and listening to music until the sliver of a moon sunk below the sky.

Today has brought another round of scuba diving, this time on the famous RMS Rhone wreck and Blonde Rock, an open-water reef growing over cool rock formations.  Our dive compressor has definitely been working overtime lately.