Here we are in the British Virgin Islands, enjoying a quiet day after a busy time exploring the beautiful sights on offer here, mostly around Jost van Dyke, Tortola, Norman and Salt Islands.
We want to check out a couple more of the dive sites around the islands south of Tortola before we move on to Virgin Gorda and Anegada. However the wind has picked up over the past couple of days, so we are tucked up behind Buck Island catching up on a few boat jobs – and the blog!
We arrived here last Monday after 4 enjoyable months in the US Virgin Islands. It has been interesting to note the differences between these islands despite their proximity.
There are so many more small islands, sand spits & white sandy beaches here in the BVI, which is why it has such great appeal for the charter yacht industry. Live aboard cruisers are in the minority here compared to the charterers. In USVI, St. Thomas is the cruise ship mecca and St. John has great hiking trails & is mostly National Park.
St. Croix is the largest of the US Virgin Islands with fewer tourists & a lot of personality.
Many American cruisers have retired there and it has a friendly, relaxed feel about it with plenty of social activities organised by the Krewe de Croix community group, along with the quarterly Jump Up street parties, the big St. Patrick’s Day parade and of course, the fabulous Crucian Christmas Festival in January. Despite visits from one or two cruise ships a week during the high season, their tourism focus is on their Danish heritage and there is a direct weekly flight from Copenhagen.
The impressive Danish forts in Christiansted and Frederiksted lead into attractive boardwalks, the former lined with bars and restaurants along the protected waterfront, the latter having a much wider parkland area with fabulous sunset views across the open water towards the western Caribbean.
One of the reasons we almost didn’t make it to the British Virgin Islands was the dogs! However people assured us that we really should visit & that the dogs wouldn’t be a problem. Despite all their paperwork being in order, the bureaucracy involved with travelling with dogs can be a challenge. On arrival we were asked to wait for the Government Vet to arrive. He would be here in ‘about an hour’, we were told. After 2 hours Eric went back to find out whether he was coming and what time the offices close. He was advised that the vet would arrive in another 45 minutes, which would mean around 1645. At 1750 we went to the office to let them know that we had decided to leave and we were going back to USVI. Oh, just give him 5 more minutes….
Meanwhile the customs officer kept us chatting & we were talking about being in East Africa & the piracy etc – he was fascinated & said ‘you see this stuff on TV but don’t think it really happens!’ So it turned out to be an interesting discussion and the vet eventually arrived.
He was pleasant enough & very apologetic for his delay. We had our papers, the main ones being the rabies titre test which shows they do not have rabies & also the subsequent vaccinations, all of which must be kept up to date, however they are still working on the antiquated British system (that the Brits have now abandoned in favour of common sense!) He made some noise about this & that, but came out to see the dogs & was surprised how healthy & happy they looked, so he agreed to stamp our forms & allow us to stay!
Ah the joys of travelling with pets!
Anyway all’s well that ends well. We’re here. The dogs are loving the idyllic beaches & hikes and we have been doing some interesting dives, including the wreck of RMS Rhone which sank off Salt Island during a hurricane in 1867.
Jost van Dyke is the westernmost BVI with a population of only around 200, which is regularly doubled daily during the season as yachts anchor off the various stunning beaches on and around the island.
Ferries come across from Tortola and even from USVI with day-trippers hoping to enjoy lunch at Foxy’s or one of the Painkiller cocktails, made famous by the Soggy Dollar Beach bar in White Bay.
For the more adventurous you can hike to the top of the island for spectacular views down to Foxy’s beach and across the whole region.
There is the added delight of the Bubbly Pool on the north east coast, a short hike from Foxy’s Taboo. It is a natural pool formed by a crevice in the rocks, which is flushed by ocean waves to create the bubbles.It can be dangerous if there are strong northerly swells.
In fact, in March both this year and last year people died there by clambering on the rocks to take photos and getting swept out to sea.
Sandy Cay is a beautiful island, which was donated to the BVI National Parks Trust by the Rockefeller family in 2008, however the mosquitoes on the island were vicious! We had to get out of the vegetation and into the water to get them off us – ouch! Beautiful from a distance though!
Close by is Sandy Spit, which is the ultimate tropical island – just stunning!
After Jost van Dyke we spent time at Norman Island where we enjoyed hiking the various island trails, snorkelling in the ‘Caves’, which were part of the inspiration for the novel, ‘Treasure Island’ and diving on the Indians, a group of rocks just offshore.
Unfortunately our depth sounder decided to play up whilst we were anchored at Jost van Dyke, so we had to bring it to Tortola to try to get it fixed. This has meant a week of checking in with the technicians to see if they could fix it, but the answer is not favourable, so Eric has rigged a back-up, which has a shorter cable, however this will serve us until we can sort something else out.
Between coming and going from Road Town to check on the depth sounder, we spent time anchored off Peter Island,
which is home to the luxurious Peter Island Resort and also Salt Island, which is the location of the RMS Rhone dive site.
We are loving the history and folklore associated with all these islands. We anchored in Deadman’s Bay at Peter Island with a view across to Dead Chest Island. The description on Franko’s Map of The British Virgin Islands is ‘Dead Chest National Park: The infamous pirate Blackbeard reputedly put 15 mutinous men on this island with only a bottle of rum. Hence the song, “Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest. Yo ho, yo ho and a bottle of rum!” – an old favourite which we all loved as kids!
Until recently Salt Island was still producing salt, however it appears that the final salt-maker has passed on and the island is now deserted, with all the buildings boarded up concealing their stories inside. An interesting fact from here is that the Queen received a present of a pound of salt on her birthday every year. This was quite an event for the salt-maker who made his annual pilgrimage to Tortola to present the bag to the Queen’s representative! He also tended the unmarked graves of some of the dead from the RMS Rhone wreck.
We will leave this blog here for now. We hope you enjoy the photos and maybe get a chance to come & visit these beautiful islands sometime soon.
Oh & by the way, we just posted some information about Travel Health Insurance. We have been using World Nomads now for the past 5 years – luckily no claims, but we thought we would have to change this year (due to Eric’s age!) & we reviewed many others. None came close in what we are looking for & value for money. Just before ours expired they raised the age limit from 65 to 69 years! Yay!! We have now joined as Affiliates, so if you decide you like the sound of the policy and want to buy it, please consider using the link on our website – Thank you!!