Wednesday evening had been set aside well in advance of the trip as our big communal dinner evening at Clubhouse Steak & Seafood Grille, and everybody had a long afternoon after all their various activities to relax, read books, nap, and, in Charles’ case, reflect on the trip in preparation for a short speech he’d later give.
The sun set nearly an hour before our reservation, so of course those of us with cameras were out taking snapshots. Here are two of my favorites.
You can see the menu for yourself at the link, but it was good food, and with the two tables full of people right next to each other, very good company. Early on in the meal, Charles stood up, tapped a glass, and gave a short speech. Bold move, too, since there were a number of other tables nearby who immediately listened in! But at the end as we all applauded, I’m pretty sure I saw a few of them do it as well. I had to be a bit of a copycat and say something of my own a bit later, though admittedly mine was much shorter (and off the top of my head!). But hey, I was the other captain, right? I had to say something.
What Holoholo‘s crew didn’t know was that earlier in the dinner (as we’d waited for the drinks to arrive), one of my crew had “gone to the restroom.” What he’d really done, however, was head over to Freedom Seeker, grabbed a pair of previously-agreed-upon boxer shorts, and tied them to the small flag hanging just below the starboard spreader on Holoholo‘s mast.
Harmless pranks are always fair game on a trip like this, and Holoholo‘s crew wouldn’t discover the boxer shorts until they were already sailing the next day.
We retired back to the boats that evening full and satisfied. Most went to bed somewhat early, while a few of us watched about half of a truly schlocky kung fu movie (the name doesn’t matter) from the 80s before doing the same. Tomorrow we’d have our longest sail yet.
Sailing to Jost van Dyke
We didn’t rush the next morning, letting people sleep in a bit while the few of us who had gotten up took care of topping off the water tanks and then went for a short hike in the hills behind the BEYC. Once we got back (and took showers!) we had breakfast and assembled a short shopping list. Our boat was a little bit lower on gallon jugs of water than we were comfortable with, so using some of the remaining “boat cash” we bought another two cases at the provisioning shop, as well as some more paper towels and some snacks, to replenish those we’d used.
Getting the boat out was far easier than getting it in, though just as smooth. We left just behind Holoholo, following them out on engines through Gorda Sound before heading out onto the open sea. Our plan was to sail almost directly west, passing over the north side of Great Camanoe Island and then immediately heading south between Great Camanoe and Guana Islands. We’d stop for lunch at a very pretty spot on the south point of Guana Island called Monkey Point before continuing on to Jost van Dyke.
The weather report had said the winds were topping out around 15 knots coming from the east, so we raised the main with no reef, and the jib at a first reef. I’d actually had wanted a first reef in the main, but as we’d discovered earlier in the trip the first reef line was actually too short to run correctly, so we’d only been using the second reef or a full main the whole trip! The wind turned out to be coming from the east-southeast, so sailing west (almost directly toward 270° compass if I remember correctly) we were on a broad reach to run.
I’m not used to sailing catamarans on a run at all, but it was some exciting sailing: the wind had picked up a bit, and we were pretty easily maintaining 7-8 knots. Holoholo had decided to sail on only a full jib and were doing rather well themselves at around 6 knots. They’d noticed after leaving Gorda Sound and raising their jib the boxer shorts hanging off of their flag and I got an amused radio hail from them to which I (badly) feigned innocence. I’m not a particularly good liar over the VHF, apparently.
It was during this leg that I had my one big scare of the trip. The wind had picked up even more and seemed to be maintaining a true wind speed of close to 19 knots, a bit past where we were supposed to be reefing the main. I was already getting slightly nervous when the wind gusted a bit, hitting around 23 knots. I could just feel the boat getting harder to control, and I’ll be honest, it scared the crap out of me. I immediately turned the boat into the wind to heave to (not a hard thing to do when you’ve been running in a broad reach with your sails properly trimmed, I’ll note: with the traveler pulling the boom windward, when you tack without releasing the jib you’ve now got your sails properly opposed for heaving to) and had my crew quickly put the second reef in the main. (Let’s be clear: the boat and crew were never actually in danger here. I was being extra careful and sensitive and, while I may have over-reacted internally a bit, I did the proper thing calmly and quickly.)
Properly set up I was satisfied that the boat was more controllable, and we sailed to Monkey Point.
While most of my crew went snorkeling, I and one of my crew whipped up a big lunch of cheeseburgers (done on the stovetop rather than the temperamental grill), summoning our swimmers back once we were nearly done.
Oh, here’s what happens when you pour some of the remnant grease from cooking into shallow waters:
Lots of activity from fish, and it of course attracts gulls looking for a few scraps. I was surprised we didn’t manage to attract any pelicans or terns to eat the fish!
After lunch we motored the rest of the way over to Sandy Spit, just off the east coast of Jost van Dyke, to check for open anchorages. You might wonder why we didn’t sail, but it was a combination of us being less than 3nm from our destination and the ridges of Tortola blocking most of the southeasterly winds we’d been enjoying.
Sandy Spit is a beautiful little spot of golden sand on the east side of Manchioneel Bay (yes, the second of this name in the BVIs, for those of you paying close attention!) protected by Jost van Dyke to the west, Little Jost Van Dyke to the north, with Green Cay and Sandy Spit providing wave–if not wind–protection to the northeast. Freedom Seeker arrived first by virtue of our engine’s higher cruising speed to see that several boats were already anchored in the limited space available. After one aborted test-anchoring attempt I radioed Holoholo to let them know that anchoring likely wasn’t going to happen. Charles took a cursory look once they arrived and agreed–not only was there little to no space remaining to anchor in, there was no protection from the wind, which had picked back up as we’d moved out of Tortola’s wind shadow, and a night at anchor without protection from the wind wouldn’t have been particularly comfortable.
After some brief discussion over the VHF, we agreed that Little Harbor, the next-closest protected anchorage/moorage on Jost van Dyke, would be a good bet, and we followed Holoholo over. Turns out we were right–we tied up to mooring balls on the east side of the Harbor owned by Abe’s By The Sea Restaurant. We were the only boats on this side of the bay the entire evening, and we had a shallow reef protecting us from southerly waves even beyond all the other wind and wave protection the harbor offered. A nice reef like this also meant snorkeling, which a portion of both crews took advantage of.
It was a quiet, relaxing evening of music, conversation, and reading books (almost all of us had brought one or more books on the trip; being the reading fiend I am I made it through five books by the time we got back to Seattle!), while a few of the crew made a delicious meal of seasoned and marinated pork chops along with garlic mashed potatoes and some greens.
The next day, Friday, would be the final day of the vacation before spending all day Saturday in planes and airports. We slept well that night, the water and wind calm, the boats steady.
Part 6 coming soon…