Don’t Mention the “H” Word

Date: 5 March 2015
Position: Long Bay, Virgin Gorda, BVI
18:29.906N 64:24.795W

Having cleared into St Barts, and after a quick provisioning shop in the French supermarket for foie gras, confit of duck, numerous pates, salamis and cheeses, we immediately went round the corner to the delightful anchorage of Anse de Colombiers where we chilled for three days before the big passage over to our final cruising ground of the Virgin Islands.

Unlike the last two years when our cruising was dominated by major breakdowns and the need to repair stuff, this year (touch wood, cross fingers) amazingly nothing major has gone wrong. The usual maintenance fixes, but that’s all so far. And with no pressing guest deadlines, we’ve been able to relax for days at a time in blissful anchorages.

“I suppose this must be something like what it is to be on holiday” I said to the DS after an indulgent lunch of pate and wine, and before my afternoon siesta. Mentiong the “H” word is something of a taboo. On Mina2 we don’t do holidays – we do expeditions. “How would you know what it’s like to be on holiday?” retorted the DS. “What with planning then executing all your bloody expeditions, you haven’t found time to take me on a holiday for ten years. Mind you” she said, softening a little “I do know what you mean. There is a limit to the number of books I can read; to the number of rum punches I can drink, looking at yet another perfect sunset. There’s a limit to the number of times we can go snorkelling in the warm, gin-clear waters, looking at the oh-so-pretty fish nibbling at the fascinating variety of coral. There’s a limit to the number of nights of passionate love-making with you, my darling”. (OK – so the last bit I might have made up).

I saw a potential window of opportunity opening up. “Tell you what” I said, “to give you a little more variety, why don’t I teach you how to change a joker valve?”. “Oohh, a joker valve” said the DS, brightening up a bit, “that sounds fun. What is it?” “It’s an important component of the heads pump” I mumbled. “What – do you mean the loo? You want me to take the loo apart with all that entails?” exclaimed the DS. “You’ve got to be joking. If I ever need anything doing to a loo, I get a plumber in”. “But there isn’t a plumber here” I said. “Oh yes there is – I’m talking to him right now, and he’s getting no for an answer”. Oh well, it was worth a try.

After our faux holiday in Anse de Colombier, we had a gentle 17 mile passage over to Sint Maarten, not just to pick up some spare parts at the two best chandlers in the Caribbean, but this was also the jumping off point for our long 80 mile passage due west to the British Virgin Islands which was to be our principal cruising ground this year. To ensure we didn’t arrive at night, we left at 0500, an hour before dawn. It was an exhilarating broad reach all the way over, storming along in 3 metre seas. Whilst I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat in the cockpit, loving every minute of it, the DS remained below, either dozing or reading, on the basis that if you don’t see the waves, you won’t be frightened by them.

We swept through the Round Rock Passage at the south of Virgin Gorda into the protected lee of the island and made our way a couple of miles up the coast and anchored in the bay of Spanish Town – the biggest settlement in Virgin Gorda. More like a village than a town it consists of a ferry dock, marina, and a handful of shops.

Having cleared in the following morning, our next most important task was to sort out our communications for the three or four weeks we would be in the BVI’s. It’s important for us to have the ability to access the internet from the boat from our iPad’s and computers (for emails, news, weather forecasts, but also to download podcasts of the Friday Night Comedy and the Archers), and also to make and receive calls (mainly to our two adult children). The problem with the Caribbean is that every island is a separate country and, generally, they have separate mobile networks. So having bought a SIM card for, say, Grenada, you find that it doesn’t work 30 miles further north in Union Island. So we have amassed quite a collection of SIM cards for both data and voice for all the different countries along the string of islands. So having got ourselves sorted with SIM’s and a generous data package, we motored three miles to Long Bay in the NW corner of Virgin Gorda where we anchored for a couple of days whilst the DS got over of the trauma of the long rough passage.


Tim Barker is a sailor and occasional adventurer. Since 2004, Mina2, his Oyster 485 yacht, and he (with the Downstairs Skipper and a wonderful bunch of friends) have sailed from the Arctic to the Antarctic and many places in between. Come join their adventures and read Tim's award winning blogs and journals from the comfort of your own computer screen.

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