Sailing the British Virgin Islands in 2011

We would love to have spent our last remaining days anchored in North Sound, but the forecast two days out called for significantly more wind, 20 to 25 knots. For those of you who’ve spent much time on open big water, you know the wind can easily gust to 1.5 times the predicted winds or more, meaning regular gusts of 30 to 33 knots. To minimize the distance we would have to sail in those winds, we decided to sail back to Marina Cay while the wind was still in the 15 to 20 knot range.

We left the Virgin Gorda anchorage shortly after breakfast with a steady breeze around 18 knots. A crowd quickly joined us, all headed in the same general direction, and we thought they might be headed over to the full moon party at Trellis Bay. We raised the main while still in the bay, then unfurled the 100% jib once out in the open water where we could take up a heading down the Sir Francis Drake channel. 

Before noon we tucked into the lee of Scrub Island and bore down on the Marina Cay anchorage. In flat water we safely furled the jib and swung into the wind to drop the main. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but prior to our 2010 Bahamas adventure, I installed a lazy jack system following a pattern I’d found on-line. This system allows me to head straight into the wind, quickly drop the main sail straight down into the lazy jacks, then secure it at my leisure. No more struggling with a thrashing sail in twenty knots or more. I designed the system so that once I have the sail secured with the ties, I can lower the lazy-jack system and snug it up parallel to the boom. This way, all those lazy-jack lines are neat and tidy and don’t interfere with raising the main. Today was one of those days where I really appreciated the lazy-jacks. 

Tucked in at Marina Cay
Tucked in at Marina Cay

We spent another two days tucked in close to Marina Cay while the wind howled in the rigging. The music of the full moon party was loud enough that we could hear all the way from Trellis Bay, nearly a mile to the south. We really liked this spot!
Sir Francis Drake channel
Sir Francis Drake channel

You’ll notice in the photo above that I’ve removed the grill from the stern rail and the lifting tackle from the davits. Knowing it was perfectly safe to tow the dinghy between anchorages and to leave it in the water overnight with no fear of theft, we had begun preparing for our hurricane season haul-out. I intended to leave the decks stripped bare, and we decided we might as well do as much as we could out here where the breeze cooled us. 

With this much wind we very rapidly sailed past all the boats in our path slicing through the water at nearly nine knots. As the sun climbed higher in the sky we began to feel more frequent, stronger wind gusts. Suddenly, a furious gust heeled the boat sharply, burying Ocean Angel’s starboard rail and side deck. I quickly eased the mainsheet, asked Otto to bear off a bit, and soon had everything back under control, the decks level once again. Looking around, we saw other boats rounding up sharply when the gust hit, and one after another they furled their jibs, each one continuing on under mainsail alone. I pulled our dinghy in closer as it was surfing wildly behind us, and soon, we were well ahead, all by ourselves.

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