Cane Garden Bay

I am on the yacht and back ‘on air’ with the Iridium

Blog Post 15 by Jon Sanders: British Virgin Islands – Cane Garden Bay

I am on the yacht and back ‘on air’ with the Iridium.

My friend Paul Stratfold, with his partner Shiralee, plus the owner of the vessel he is captaining and his friend (another Paul from Hawaii), are on board the specially constructed 60 ft catamaran named Gizmo. Carbon fibre hull, carbon fibre mast, carbon fibre rigging, carbon fibre sails. There are no turnbuckles with the rigging holding the mast up, just Dyneema Lashing’s

They came from the French/Dutch island of St. Martin/Sint Maarten, 80 Nautical Miles east of the British Virgin Islands.

Because of me, I think…

Paul can fix things. Gosh, the last thing on the planet I would say to Paul Stratfold, “Stop fixing things!”

Dunno how he does it, but he does.

They put Gizmo near Perie Banou so Paul, when on board, could tune in on Gizmo’s Wi-Fi. He played with my iPad, googled up Google; said I think it is your password. Put the default in. Presto, here I am typing this blob oops, blog out to you. (Everybody).

The default password is the password.

Apparently, my AIS transmit, had stopped working. (Didn’t know that, I was receiving Ok). After half hour or so, “it’s your GPS”; soon to be fixed when he and Gizmo come back from Anegada Island (BVI).

When I arrived BVIs, I got a message to ring Gareth Owen-Conway. He told me my AIS is not transmitting.

Paul Stratfold and Gareth are best mates.

I had the Navionics charts on the B&G for all Australia and Africa, which covered the French Reunion Island that I stopped at. But I didn’t have the chips for Caribbean, South Pacific and on back to Australia.

OK, this spanner thought that he didn’t.

Jonathan Clough had given me all the beautifully packaged cards for the whole circumnavigation. Wow, they are whopping big chips. Obviously too big. And were too big, to go into the plotter. I showed Paul. He smiled, as he does when mischief. Broke a little bit off the big chip, voila! A little chip.

The Caribbean and the Pacific are now in the B&G plotter. Paul also put additional Navionics charts into my iPad to cover rest of voyage. (Backup, or to hold while steering).

I do have paper charts. I bought the bulk of them in 1974!  Like me, very up to date with everything. (Still got my sextant on board). So I don’t care if the satellites crash anyway.

From St Helena to British Virgin Islands was 4093 nautical miles. It took me 32 days. I averaged near 130 NM per day.

On the passage, I recorded in my log each day any ship that came up on my AIS. 46 ships all up. 32 ships in the Atlantic to St Lucia in the Caribbean.

Nearing the BVIs, at night, most were cruise ships, extremely well lit. Sometimes they were slow. Sometimes they zig-zagged, sometimes they go around in circles. They travel at night, from one island to another – one country to another. The cruise ships are usually fast, around the 20/22 Knot mark.

As you can imagine going from St Martin to BVIs (80 NM) at 20 kts would be 4 hrs. Time to kill.

Most of the ships are tankers. Some tankers are 1000 ft long. Their speed usually between 11 to 14 knots. Then cargo ships – bit faster.  16 knots.

In the Caribbean I could sight most ships.

Crossing the Atlantic I might have sighted 4 max. They come up around 25  NM range.  (On AIS). But have picked an occasional ship up 30 to 40 NM distant.

In the old days, I would have thought “not many ships about”. I would go days without seeing a ship.  They are there.

The British Virgin Islands – Cane Garden Bay

Beautiful cruising.  Bays, beaches, coves, surrounded by steep hills; although, many islands are uninhabited.

I am writing this in Cane Garden Bay Island of Tortola. The chief island, surrounded by high hills.  Houses dot the hills, Caribbean style, most two story and colourful. The head of the Bay is a sandy beach with beach bars and restaurants all along it.

To pick up a mooring is $30 per night, they only charge at night – anchor costs zilch.  Moorings tend to have better spots: Yachts like Gizmo 60 ft, – at 60 ft, have to anchor anyway.

Today, because of a low not far away, the surge in the bay is a bit rolly. Ok by me!

I have an excellent Vulcan 20 kg anchor, made by Rocna. Same as, without the bar over the top.  Grabs the bottom immediately. Wisely chosen by Dr Robin Morritt. I have 65 ft 3/8 certified chain. Then further 200 ft dedicated anchor multi woven rope. Rope because I go yacht racing; although not so much now – anymore. Anyway, a rope is less weight in the forepeak. However, I think it better and wiser to have all 3/8 chain in the future.  It won’t chafe on bottom rocks, etc.

I am told the BVIs have the largest bareboat charter fleets in the world. It seems, and certainly, in Cane Garden Bay, the bulk of charter boats are stock production Catamarans. Things change. Preferences change.

I approached the BVIs at night, as a low came in. It rained and rained and rained. Going to pass thru Round Rock passage 3/5 NM wide into the Sir Francis Drake Channel.

In good night visibility I could find my way thru there with or without a chart, (26 years back I worked for a charter company. I know my way like Rottnest Island off home) but I had a crappy American chart, plus I couldn’t see anything. The rain was belting down. So when I was nearing the passage, I turned around and sailed the opposite way and waited for daylight. The chip not being in the B&G, as it is now.

I feel the BVI’s are a very safe place to walk around. Night or day. Everyone seems approachable. Nice.

Locals are West Indian. English is spoken everywhere. Like Britain and Australia, etc. they drive on the left-hand side of the road.  But all the vehicles are left-hand drive. (American). The currency is American $.

The buoy system.  i.e. approaching bay or harbour green buoy on the left and red is on your starboard. Most if not all Caribbean, central, north and South America likewise.

The Americans have the buoys back to front.  They have so.  Did that in the war of independence to trick the Royal Navy.  Worked too.

3 years ago when I was here, there was only one buoy marking the entrance to a lagoon I like to “park” in.  Some power boat had chopped up the other buoy. An Australian Spanner (not me), could quite easily spot the green buoy, leave it to starboard.  Prang. (I watched some American members of the armed forces do that on a river sand bank back home). Stuart Walton, GM Royal Perth Yacht Club, might remember that. He sent a rib out.

Paul was very complimentary of Jonathan Clough and Jay Halligan’s neat (plus) wiring and fitting of instruments. Rather very good. Thanks, guys. Good blokes.

Regards to all, see ya later,


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3 thoughts to “I am on the yacht and back ‘on air’ with the Iridium”

  1. Hi Jon,
    The fixing you navigation gizmos,must have filled your inkpot as well,I did not see so much writing as on this blog .using so much ink .Its nice to hear the latest from you.bon voyage.

  2. Hi Jon, I now know why Marine Traffic still had you tied up in Cape Town, as your AIS had stopped transmitting.
    Thankfully I am going direct to you and Perie Banou. Theres a lot tobe said for sextants, theres more to be said if owner can operate one, Safe sailing, Gregory Juckert

  3. I was taught the American buoy system when young – Red, Right Returning – so when sailing down under I have to say that in my head then reverse it. Some things just get indelibly imprinted.

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