Anegada to Tortola Passage
The weather was no so great, rainy and windy. We were sure it would be a rough trip, as we could see rain clouds and there had been rain. The forecast was 25 knots and 4 m seas, with 5+ knots in the squalls. Anegada to Tortola is about a 2 hour trip downwind, so that means the wind would be around 8 knots lighter than the actual wind (called apparent wind, or the wind that is in our sails).
As we pulled anchor and motored out of Anegada, I saw some peaked waves almost breaking and was a bit apprehensive!! Stu had the chart and said there was reef underneath about 5 m deep, so I felt better. As we left there were some large swells that were quite steep. It was a bit scary, with wind around 28 knots. As we left the island the swells calmed and the seas became choppy and confused with no real swell pattern. We actually used our jack lines and tethers (lines attached to our lifejackets that are attached to secure lines on the boat, to prevent a man overboard) for the first time for the whole passage. Wind gusts during the rain squalls were high at 35 knots, I saw a 36 knot gust! It was a little un nerving, but the boat was sailing beautifully and we were on 2nd reef (makes the sails smaller). At one stage we had a dolphin chasing us, he couldn’t keep up, he he. There were no other boats in sight (no wonder as it was wild) and visibility was limited with the rain, but all was well.
As we got near the islands we changed our minds and decided to anchor in the closest calm anchorage rather than sail further downwind, so we headed towards southern Beef island. Behind us which is where the wind was coming from, the horizon became dark and there was obviously a big rain squall coming, this one looked ominous. “Shall we drop the main sail?” I asked Stu, “too late, it’s on us” and it was. So as we were passing through the 2 headlands (between Scrub and Dog islands) we had gusts up to 36 knots, the swell picked up heaps and was huge, 4 metre swells, they were fat though and didn’t feel too steep and not as scary as the ones leaving Anegada (though I was still not comfortable with the size of them!). As we were surfing down the waves the raymarine would alarm with ‘high boat speed’ and 14 knots flashed up a few times. I was glancing over at Stu to monitor his reactions, he was hooting at times with the speed alarms he certainly did not look worried, we eased the main sheet (let the sail out) and reefed the genoa (made the head sail smaller).
We didn’t see the squall until last minute as we were watching a boat that looked like it was about to go onto the rocks, it was very close to Dog island and seemed like it was not moving for a long time. We had the binoculars out and turned the radio up to see if there were any signs of distress. Though to be honest I don’t know what we could have done as the boat seemed so close to the rocks. Thankfully all was fine in the end, but concerning for a while.
Let me say going through that pass had my adrenaline pumping, the wind was howling and the swells massive, walls of water! Kids had worn themselves out with fighting and were all asleep (well actually sea sick but sleeping it off). Sienna felt very sea sick prior to this and had a bucket nearby. I am surprised the kids handled it so well, it was pretty scary and non of them said a thing! Though they were asleep for the worst of it. We were all very happy to feel flat water again. The trip was 21nm and took 2.5 hours, our max boat speed was 16.7 knots (our average speed is 7-9 knots) and max gust was 38.2 knots!! Stu and I are stoked with Neverland as she handled the heavy weather great. Another massive bonus – I Didn’t Get Sea Sick at all!!!! Thanks to Sturgeron. Far out, that was a heavy weather sail and I must say Stu really was a terrific Captain, kids stayed inside (as they were told to with life jackets on) and we had no man overboards or collisions – phew!!!! Sorry no pics, there was not even a thought of a photo!
Sienna was interested in researching treasure, so we researched Norman and Dead Man Chest islands. Stories of piracy, mutiny, deception and buried treasure emerged. We discovered that Norman Island is the inspiration for the famous book Treasure Island, written by Robert Louis Stevenson, whose great grandfather was one of the brothers who stole the booty and hid it on the island!!!! Amazing hey…. if it’s true, but lets just believe it is!
So here’s how the story goes, there was a Spanish fleet of 8 galleon ships all carrying silver headed from Cuba to Spain going down Florida in the Gulf stream, when it was hit by a hurricane and were pushed way off course, wind swung to SW pushing them onto the coast and they ended up in North Carolina, they had to throw all the livestock off to lighten the ship (the silver stayed on), all the ships were separated. The ship called the Guadeloupe and the Amirante with their booty of silver had survived the storm while other boats in the galleon were ship wrecked. The bay they were anchored in was the same bay that the infamous black beard was killed in – Ocracoke inlet. The Amirante needed repairs in calm waters, they got a local man to show them how to get through the passage over the sand bank to get to the shelter of the bay for repairs. So the Amirante asked the Guadeloupe to help lighten the load by using the Guadeloupe small boat to take all the silver off the Amirante so the vessel was lighter to go over the sand bar and through the passage to safer water, the silver was put back on the ship. The very next day the ship was attacked by some pirates (from The Carolina), the crew of the Amirante forced the pirates back and only a small amount of treasure was stolen. The 2 ships were stuck in Ocracoke bay for 2 weeks. The governor wanted to take the silver for duties and penalties (after he had offered to help the ships!). During this time another 2 boats with 2 brothers sailing 2 sloops the Seaflower and Mary had a leak and sought shelter in this bay also. The Amirante had lost its main mast, rudder and sails shredded during the storm. The Captain on the Amirante saw an opportunity, as he heard the locals were forming together to raid the ship of its treasure the ship was in a bad way and he was worried the oncoming bad weather the ship would roll. So he wanted to empty these 2 ships to temporarily keep all his treasure on board until he can buy a new ship or repair the Amarante. It seemed at this stage the Guadeloupe had all the treasure aboard. One ship the Mary, agreed and a similar agreement was made with the Seaflower, to transport the silver to Virginia for a fee of 570 pieces of 8 (which was silver). While they were transferring the treasure to the 2 ships, the Guadeloupes Captain receives a letter from the governor who summonds him to come to court for illegally bringing undeclared silver on the mainland. While he is ashore in court (even though the Guadeloupes captian had put armed guards on the silver), the crew all mutinied and stole the 2 ships with its treasure.
The brothers who stole the pieces of 8 hid the treasure on some islands, Norman island was one. Some 160 years later a treasure chest of pieces of 8 was discovered in the southernmost cave off Treasure point! Pretty cool hey, we are currently anchored 20 m right next to treasure point and we snorkelled off the boat to the 4 caves today. The snorkelling is really great here, Sienna, Stu and I saw a nurse shark and I saw a spotted eel.
Apparenly there are 57,000 pieces of 8 unaccounted for and could very well still be hidden in these islands, Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrg me mateys lets a go treasure hunting.
Dead Mans Chest – Blackbeard
I really wanted to go to Dead mans chest island, but instead we got to sail past it. The story goes like this – the pirate Blackbeard marooned a number of his crew on Dead Chest Island for a number of days as punishment, leaving them with nothing but a cutlass and a bottle of rum each. How many pirates, and how many days, varies according to the source retelling the story. By the end of the month, only a few of pirates were left alive. Because the earliest known references to this story are from the 20th century, it is almost certainly fakelore (according to Wikipedia) derived from Robert Louis Stevenson‘s song “Dead Man’s Chest“, which first appeared in his novel Treasure Island in 1883. The chorus of “Dead Man’s Chest” is as follows:
Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest—
…Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest—
…Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! (from Wikipedia).
It certainly sounds like a real story so maybe we should just believe this one too!! The cruisers guide I read states the men swam from the island to a nearby bay, non of them made it due to the currents and their bodies floated ashore on the nearby bay, this is now called Deadmans bay.
The most amazing thing happened to us. I woke up with splashes through the window, whilst hearing darting bombs splashing the water…….WHAT!! Pelicans are dive bombing our hull, and yes they often hit it as we could hear the bangs on the hull! As my blurry vision cleared and I sat up, I realised there were loads of birds outside, Stu and I were wide awake laughing at this spectacular scene of Pelicans just outside our cabin dive bombing and splashing us.
“Quick wake the kids”, off I tip toed to get the kids, I entered Sienna and Alex’s Cabin and the pelicans were dive bombing outside their window too, with water on the inside walls. Alex spotted the numerous birds under Neverland between the two hulls, we opened the escape hatches under the steps and wow tonnes of birds right there fishing under our boat!!!!! Then we realized there was a massive ball of fish under our boat attracting all manner of fish and birds.
We snuck outside, by this time all were up and excited. Under the boat were tonnes of fish – massive Tarpon which are around 1 m long glistened as they jumped out of the water gobbling up tiny fish. Stu wanted to jump in but I thought they would all go so he didn’t. Next minute a local fishing boat came and started netting the fish!!!!!! What! We thought with a glance at each other, we weren’t really impressed as we wanted to watch this amazing spectacle of nature. We warmed to them though. “What do we have to loose, lets jump in” said Stu. So we did along with Sienna and it was absolutely amazing. A tornado of small fish so dense it was dark, fish from 2 cm to 2 metres. Large Tarpon, barracuda, horse eye jacks, stingrays (around 15) on the bottom and nurse sharks (around 17). The Tarpon and jacks would dart through the dark cloud of fish or just swim thorough casually while the nurse sharks would stay towards the bottom of the tornado picking up the small fish that broke away from the bottom of the tornado. It was spectacular, Stu and I would stay to the edge of the bait ball, I looked to my right under water and a booby bird was looking under water at me, right at me and he was an arms length away! So we just stared at each other for a while until he decided to fly off. Stu and I had pelicans dive bombing right next to us, super cool though a little unnerving hoping they got their aim correct.!!! The fishermen were there for around half an hour and they were stoked, they even gave us 4 fish (pretty great as we aren’t allowed to go fishing at BVIs).
We were in the water for maybe an hour, diving down getting braver and braver. Stu is nuts, he grabbed the tail of the largest nurse shark, it just started to turn so he let go it seemed pretty undisturbed. Stu held on to the dorsal fin of a few of the nurse sharks and he said they didn’t care he just kicked a little and they took him for a ride!!!!!! He is crazy. I was starting to get really cold, then I pointed out 4 white tipped reef sharks that had joined the feeding frenzy, they were on the bottom and seemed calm but hey it was a feeding frenzy! So we thought we should hop out (Sienna only lasted 10 minutes until she got cold, so she wasn’t with us), the only thing was the bait ball was at the back of the boat where the ladder was, so Stu powered through it and quickly jumped on I was close behind and very quick to get aboard too!! The hundreds of fish below us lasted around 4 hours until the tiny fish moved towards a nearby reef.
Full Moon Party (12th March 2017)
This was on my list of things to do, so off we sailed to Marina Cay. It was fun, we passed a family we had met a few weeks prior who live aboard also but have been doing so for years. To finance themselves the parents who are musicians joined forces and do gigs, she plays the flute and sings and he plays zylophone, they have a teenage daughter who did some fire dancing along with some other entertainers and a 6 year girl. Interesting family, they also have a pet snake aboard.
We also met up again with Hugo!!! An awesome boat family who are really amazing to hang out with, we had loads of fun, and another late night!
Salt Island and the Wreck of the Rhone
Numerous other cruisers pointed out the wreck of the Rhone. So off we went knowing it was deep and thought we would try snorkelling it anyway. So it went from 9m to 25m, Stu swam through the stern of the boat where the giant propeller was, I saw numerous scuba divers go through. The kids saw that part of the wreck then swam back to the dingy. We ventured further and Stu did a massive dive not quite disappearing into the depths but close at 20m! On the way back I did the swim through of the stern which was like a cave it was pretty cool. Our GoPro housing was leaking so no pics.
On the day of the sinking, Rhone’s Master, Robert F. Wooley, was slightly worried by the dropping barometer and darkening clouds, but because it was October and hurricane season was thought to be over, Rhone and Conway stayed in Great Harbour. The storm which subsequently hit was later known as the San Narciso Hurricane and retrospectively categorised as a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale. The first half of the storm passed without much event or damage, but the ferocity of the storm worried the captains of Conway and Rhone, as their anchors had dragged and they worried that when the storm came back after the eye of the storm had passed over, they would be driven onto the shore of Peter Island.
They decided to transfer the passengers from Conway to the “unsinkable” Rhone; Conway was then to head for Road Harbour and Rhone would make for open sea. As was normal practice at the time, the passengers in Rhone were tied into their beds to prevent them being injured in the stormy seas.
Conway got away before Rhone but was caught by the tail end of the storm, and foundered off the south side of Tortola with the loss of all hands. But Rhone struggled to get free as her anchor was caught fast. It was ordered to be cut loose, and lies in Great Harbour to this day, with its chain wrapped around the same coral head that trapped it a century and a half ago. Time was now critical, and Captain Wooley decided that it would be best to try to escape to the shelter of open sea by the easiest route, between Black Rock Point of Salt Island and Dead Chest Island. Between those two islands lay Blonde Rock, an underwater reef which was normally a safe depth of 25 feet (7.6 m), but during hurricane swells, there was a risk that Rhone might founder on that. The Captain took a conservative course, giving Blonde Rock (which cannot be seen from the surface) a wide berth.
However, just as Rhone was passing Black Rock Point, less than 250 yards (230 m) from safety, the second half of the hurricane came around from the south. The winds shifted to the opposite direction and Rhone was thrown directly into Black Rock Point. It is said that the initial lurch of the crash sent Captain Wooley overboard, never to be seen again. Local legend says that his teaspoon can still be seen lodged into the wreck itself. Whether or not it is his, a teaspoon is clearly visible entrenched in the wreck’s coral. The ship broke in two, and cold seawater made contact with her hot boilers which had been running at full steam, causing them to explode.
The ship sank swiftly, the bow section in 80 feet (24 m) of water, the stern in 30 feet (9 m). Of the 146 people originally aboard, plus an unknown number of passengers transferred from Conway, only 23 – all crew – survived the wreck. The bodies of many of the sailors were buried in a nearby cemetery on Salt Island.
Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment.
6 thoughts on “British Virgin Isles (2) – heavy weather sail, Treasure Island (Norman Island) and Full Moon Party (Tressel Bay).”
I love your updates, Nat! The storm sounds terrifying to me!!! You are certainly all becoming very experienced sailors.
Swimming with all the fish & sharks sounds absolutely amazing. What an amazing time you are all having.
Thanks Danielle, your a super star! Thanks for reading. Natxxxx
Wow Nat, what a fantastic adventure and so many precious memories you are creating, don’t hurry back as nothing has changed back here. Thanks for sharing your stories, look forward to the next update.
Take care, Sharon x
So there still may be silver out there? I think you guys need to invest in a waterproof metal detector, could be like winning the lottery.
Its funny I always wondered what that pirate song was about “yo ho ho and a bottle of rum… deadmans chest ….you have really bought the message home about that song.
The feeding frenzy was amazing, I showed my sister simone , she has down some diving over the years and was blown away by the photos.
Take care you guys
Look forward to the next update
Kobi macie rachel and clyde
Hi Clyde, your a star for reading and being so supportive. Thank you xxxxx