Tag Archives: #snorkelling

Wow – The Virgin Islands

We have been in The Virgin Islands for just on a month now and they are stunning! There are over 100 islands, both large and small, inhabited and uninhabited and they are a cruiser’s delight! It is very quick and easy to sail to other islands or to find a protected bay if needed.

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To the east are the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and to the south and west lie the US Virgin Islands (USVI). There are three larger islands in each country and lots of smaller ones dispersed throughout. We are currently in St Croix (bottom of the map) in the USVI and really enjoying this low-key island.

These photos are just a quick snapshot of our month here. Most islands satisfy our basic needs: good hiking, interesting flora and fauna and fabulous snorkelling.

We started on Virgin Gorda in the BVI:

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A rest from hiking, overlooking Saba Rock.
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Spotted Eagle Ray

We swam with Spotted Eagle Rays who seemed to feed under our boat! They have beautiful markings and the tail is three times longer than the photo shows. Absolutely majestic and not worried about us.

After much toing and froing through Facebook we were able to coordinate a gathering at Norman Island (six boats) so we hightailed it down the Francis Drake Channel, which I liken to a water super highway and reminds us of the Australian Whitsundays. It was great to catch up  with friends and we did some fabulous snorkelling off the back of Izzy R at a rocky outcrop known as The Indians.

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L-R: Gorgeous but crazy girls, Gagi, Sunny & Gwen
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Snorkelling preparations!

Then it was off to Peter Island for a night before heading to Jost Van Dyke Island (JVD). We were lucky to catch up with Jo and Gregg from s/v Serenade and their guests.

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Enjoying the famous BVIs Painkiller at One Love on Jost Van Dyke Island

The next day we walked to the Bubble Pool on JVD. Looks pretty calm…..

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L-R: Gwen, Guillaume & Mal waiting for the bubbles!
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Here they come…..
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Whoa, get me outta here!

Off the next day to Cane Garden Bay on Tortola. A very pretty anchorage and we enjoyed a few quiet days here.

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Very typical of the bays on many Caribbean islands.
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Pristine beach on Sandy Cay

Over to Sandy Cay, near Little Jost Van Dyke. This is a tiny island that Laurence Rockefeller owned and gave to the Brits. It’s home to the biggest collection of hermit crabs I’ve ever seen! It’s also totally untouched and a pleasure to take the short trail around the island.

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We then cleared out of the BVIs and entered the USVIs at St John. What an amazing island. Again, thank goodness for the philanthropy of Laurence Rockefeller. He bought huge tracts of land (almost 2/3rds of the island) and bequeathed it to the US subject to it gaining National Park status. It is now a National Park with fabulous hikes and underwater marine parks. This is where I swam with an endangered hawksbill turtle and saw my first nurse sharks.

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Not worried at all. Green turtles are more skittish but the Hawksbill is much more relaxed.
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Apparently it’s common practice for nurse sharks to sleep under ledges.

As with most Caribbean islands, St John has had many ‘owners’; Spanish, British and Danish. It was built on slavery and had a substantial sugar industry until sugar beet came on the scene and slaves were freed in 1848. There are lots of sugar mill ruins and plantation estates throughout the island which make for very interesting hikes. We often caught a glimpse back in time and got our minds imagining what life may have been like with some of the estates looking very grand. The US purchased the islands from the Danes in 1917 for 25 million in gold.

On St John we stayed at the following bays: Caneel, Maho, Waterlemon, Salt Pond and Little Lameshur. Each had their own beauty with hikes and snorkelling – what more could you ask for?

This cactus is common throughout The Virgin Islands and has a wonderful little fruit very high in Vitamin C. Check out the pics.

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Turks Cap Cactus at Rams Head, Salt Pond Bay, St John.

Then it was a hike to the Petroglyphs, the ruins of the Reef Bay Sugar Mill and the ruins  of the Reef Bay Estate atop a hill. The Petroglyphs are attributed to the Taino Indians and date to between 900-1500AD.

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Fabulous rock walls litter the whole island.
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Rock carvings are attributed to the Taino Indians.

Then it was Mal’s birthday. He had a breakfast fit for a king, enjoyed his present and shared a beautiful meal at night with Gwen & Guillaume.

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Birthday breakfast!
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Birthday present,  a Stand Up Paddleboard, sure comes in handy when doing the rubbish run!

Below are some underwater pics I just love taking!

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Reef Squid
Eel
A Red Hind harassing a Spotted Moray Eel.
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The well camouflaged Peacock Flounder

We are now six as Dalynn and Glen from S/V Amoray have joined Kool Kat and Slow Waltz and we are spending a week or so here in St Croix.

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S/V Amoray
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Gorgeous corals on the Fredriksted pier in St Croix.

This is a month’s worth of news so I’ll stop here. St Croix has heaps of interesting bits and pieces too so that will have to be in the next update!

Throughout Antigua and Barbuda, and now The Virgin Islands, we have been boat buddies with Canadians, Gwen and Guillaume from s/v Slow Waltz. They have been a delight to travel with and we have shared some amazing times together and created incredible memories.

Until next time, stay well, Sue and Mal. xx

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Antigua to St Barts

It’s always great having guests to share our experiences and this time we had family! Mal’s sister and niece, Jan and Bri, arrived in Antigua on Jan’s birthday (11 February) for the start of their 3-week Caribbean holiday and took a few days to overcome the jetlag and heat, and to gain their sea-legs.

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Day 1 – overlooking Falmouth Harbour with Kool Kat to the right of my head
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Cooling off
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Hiking to English Harbour

We had an early start at 6am for our 67nm crossing from Antigua to St Barts and dropped the hook 10 hrs later. Winds were slight but it was memorable: we had dolphins off the bow, a pod of humpback whales out to starboard and caught dinner; a Little Tunny and a Cero, both part of the mackerel family. This is what cruising is all about 🙂

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Jan and Mal underway
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Little Tunny
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Humpbacks off our starboard side

St Barts has been fought over by the Brits, the Spaniards and the French. However, the French gave it to the Swedes in the 18th Century in exchange for free port rights in Gothenburg. Thanks to the Swedes for making it a free port which it still is to this day. Many of the buildings reflect the Swedish heritage but it was sold back to the French in 1878. As with other French islands, it is a commune of France but without many European laws. Visiting French islands for us is always like having a taste of France; cheap AND good wines, excellent food at reasonable prices and there is that certain joie de vivre!

Gustavia in St Barts:

Shell Beach, within walking distance of Gustavia:

We were lucky to witness their annual Carnival. It is a fabulous family-friendly parade with everyone encouraged to dress up and enjoy the festivities.

Lunch at Dos Brazil
Lunch at Dos Brazil

The next day we hired a car and did a day-tour of the island. It’s tiny with some gorgeous beaches but it has windy, narrow roads with lots of hairpin bends, big trucks, and they drive on the wrong, I mean right-hand side of the road! I was the designated driver but I had two back-seat drivers helping out! Thank goodness Bri was in the front providing support. All the beaches had beautiful signage and we loved their ashtray idea! Take a can of coke, read ashtray, off the hook, use it whilst at the beach and then return it to the hook. Voila, no dirty cigarette butts in this beautiful environment!

Jan and Bri had their first of many up-close and personal turtle experiences with Bri being crowned official turtle-spotter! We also enjoyed some great snorkelling at Gros Ilets (off Gustavia) and in Anse de Columbier.

A hike to the village of Columbier gave us some amazing views across to Ile Fourchue and St Martin.

Steve Jobs’-designed boat, Venus, was anchored behind us in Gustavia. What do you think of her design?

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Amazing

We stopped overnight at Ile Fourchue, an uninhabited island half-way between St Barts and St Martin. Again, there were turtles aplenty and a good variety of fish. Both in Anse de Columbier on St Barts and at Ile Fourchue, we were fortunate  to snorkel and swim with turtles and off the back of the boat. How good is that!

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Our next stop (and post) is Saint Martin/Sint Maarten which is shared by Holland and France, thus the two spellings. Until then, keep well, Sue & Mal xx

Antigua – west and north coasts

We are fortunate that two sets of guests are flying into Antigua as it gives us a good excuse to spend a month or so of reconnaissance work on the two major islands in the country, Antigua and Barbuda.

On arrival in Antigua, we anchored in Falmouth Harbour to celebrate NY Eve with friends but, as soon as the celebrations were complete, we were out of there! We had been buffeted around for a few days by a swell coming around the corner and for us to feel it in a Cat gives you an idea of how bad it was. It was also quite crowded so when it came time to raise the hook, well, let me just say it was an experience and one referred to in a previous post, Anchoring – Highs and Lows. We did enjoy our time in Falmouth and if you want to read more, check out a recent post Nelson’s Dockyard.

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Fort Berkeley in English Harbour

As there wasn’t much wind and it was a short trip, we motored around to Jolly Harbour on the west coast and dropped anchor in Mosquito Cove. Antigua has beautiful beaches and make claim to 365! Sailing to Jolly we went past several and they did look beautiful.

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Approaching Jolly Harbour

Jolly was a lot calmer but it is a funny little place. It is a marina and condominium development with mostly holiday townhouses on canals and a boat tied up at their door! There is no local village but lots of resorts and the marina is host to many charter boats so it’s got quite a transient population of yachties and holiday-makers.

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Townhouses in Jolly Harbour – can you spot the pelican?

After a few days in Jolly Harbour we refuelled and headed around the point to Hermitage Bay in Five Islands Harbour. There is a very pretty resort which has the best internet we’ve encountered on Antigua so it was time to catch up with blogs and Facebook! Slow Waltz and Nahanni River also arrived and, after checking emails, we played a few rounds of our favourite card game, Wizard. Nahanni River had an early morning start the next day (2am) for their sail to St Maarten so it was an early night.

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Calm and serene Hermitage Bay with Slow Waltz on left

The next day we sailed to Deep Bay where the Andes Wreck is lying just below the surface and right in the middle of the bay entrance. We anchored, had lunch and then joined Gwen and Guillaume to snorkel on the wreck. It was fabulous. The variety of soft corals were terrific and there weren’t any fish we hadn’t seen before but to see the ship lying on the seabed was extraordinary. Part of its’ mast is still standing and you can see the framework and holes through the bow.

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The ship’s mast
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Coral growth
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The ribs of the ship
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Diving on the ship’s bow.
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A Blue Tang with lots of coral growth

Later we walked to the top of Fort Barrington with 360 views.

The next day we headed to the north of the island and navigated our way through the Boon Channel to Long island. We anchored in a very pretty little bay known as Jumby. Long Island is privately owned with resorts and private homes; the restaurants are only open for resort guests and yachties are not encouraged to go ashore. So with 20-30 kt winds forecast, good protection, fast wifi and gorgeous blue water, we hunkered down for a few days and made the best of it  😉

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Jumby Bay, Long Island, Antigua
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Can you spy me reading in the cockpit?
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I couldn’t stay out of that beautiful water!

We spent a few days here before heading north to Barbuda, but that’s another story, I mean post!

Until next time, fair winds and smooth sailing, Sue and Mal xx