Sailing Blog

USVI & BVI 6 Months After Huricane Irma

March 23, 2018

We struggled with the decision to travel up to the Virgin Islands only six months after Hurricane Irma had devastated the area.  We knew that the islands would be struggling and in need of cruisers to return to help their economy recover.  So we made the decision to go, and watched for a favorable weather window to make the roughly 3 day passage from Bonaire.  Many other cruisers, especially those travelling in catamarans, refuse to attempt this passage simply because you are facing the wind and waves the entire way.  Luckily for us, our Hallberg-Rassy is a great boat for handling such conditions.  Our course heading from Bonaire to St. Croix, USVI was approximately 25º North and the wind was coming from only 20º off our bow for most of the passage.  We were the “Little Engine That Could”!  I must admit it wasn’t the most comfortable passage we had ever done, but we managed to arrive within viewing distance of St. Croix in only 2.5 days.  Unfortunately it was still dark, given our earlier than expected arrival, so we reefed the sales to slow the boat down a little to allow us to arrive in daylight.  Not knowing what kind of debris we would encounter in the waters near the island, we wanted to make sure everything would be as visable as possible.

When we prepared the boat to anchor, we saw another familiar sailboat in the harbour.  Our friends from the Barbados 50 Rally, Ken and Jenny on “Lady Rebel”.  You just never know when you will see sailing friends again, but they turn up when you least expect it.  It’s always a good time catching up.

The check in process in St. Croix seemed to take forever in the scortching heat.  As expected, there was significant damage here, even though this island wasn’t hit as hard as some of the more northern Virgin Islands.  We rented a vehicle, which was a challenge of its own.  Many vehicles on the island had been damaged and there was a shortage of available rentals.  We spent the day touring around the island, but other than hurricane damage, there wasn’t very much to see.  Two days after our arrival, we were off again, heading toward St. Thomas.

We stopped in Saint John, Coral Bay and enjoyed an evening at Skinny Legs bar, music and trivia.  We anchored on the north side of Saint John island for a few days, just to swim and chill for a bit.  We received a message from our Aussie friends from the Barbados 50 Rally that they were in St. Thomas, so we pulled anchor and moved the boat over to Christmas Cove, and met up with them.  We dinghied over to the yacht club on St. Thomas, and got together for a lunch.  They were headed west to Puerto Rico for an impending sale on their boat, and we continued on to the BVI’s after checking out of the USVI’s at St. Thomas.  Other than the check-in/out formalities, cruising among the various virgin islands is quick and easy.  We checked into the BVI’s at the island of Jost Van Dyke.  One of the must visit places on Jost is Foxy’s Bar.  People come from all over the world to visit Foxy’s, and that is evident by the multitude of flags, licence plates and other stuff left behind to decorate the place.  It’s a very busy anchorage, and was getting busier as the day progressed, so we decided to head over to Norman’s Island to anchor for the night.  Like I said, it’s pretty easy to move around from island to island here.  The Bight, at Normans Island is a great place to anchor, and has some pretty incredible sunsets.  This bay was also the original home of the Willy T, a big floating tanker at anchor there, that was a very popular bar to many cruisers, that is, before the hurricane destroyed it.  There is rumer that a new vessel has been procured so that the Willy T will once again rock the British Virgin Islands in years ahead.  I do hope we get back here to see it!

After one night at Normans, we sailed over to Road Town Tortola and took one of the few slips available in the marina.  Many slips were not available because of sunken boats throughout the marina.  Tortola was one of the hardest hit islands from Hurricane Irma.  The devastation was very sad to see.  We spent three days at the marina, and rented a car to see other parts of the island.  We had heard so many stories from other cruisers about the great places to see in the BVI’s, but sadly many had turned to rubble.  The Full Moon Parties at Trellis Bay, up near the airport will be on hiatus for awhile I think.

By the 8th of April, we were sailing over to Virgin Gorda, our last island before leaving the BVI’s to head south.  We spent a night anchored near Spanish Town, so that we could take the dinghy over to The Baths, one of this islands biggest attractions.  Huge boulders gathered and piled on the beach on the southern tip of the island.  The boulders created caves and natural tidal pools of water (thus the name).  We were in awe of how they had stacked together to form these passages, only slightly disturbed by the sea.  It’s a must see if you visit this area!

The next day we moved the boat over to Leverick Bay to anchor for the night and do our check-out procedures.  We took a dinghy ride around to where the Bitter End Yacht Club used to be, before Irma.  Another great place we had heard so much about, but had never been to.  We’re really hoping they will rebuild and be even better.  We tied the dinghy to the docks at Leverick Bay Resort and enjoyed Happy Arrrr, where a barefoot pirate entertains everyone with his singing and various musical instruments.

We had an early night, so that we would be well rested for our 20 hour passage to St. Maarten the next day.  It was a good thing we were well rested, because this was the passage from hell!  Much worse than our trip north from Bonaire.  We had to motor for most of the passage, bashing and banging the whole way.  No sleep.  We were both quite happy to see land at the end of that 20 hours!


Where is BnG now?

We cannot direct the wind, we can only adjust our sails