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Fifteenth blog from on board Perie Banou II - BVIs

by Jon Sanders on 19 Apr
Jon Sanders 10th Circumnavigation Jim Macbeth
Editor's note: Jon is still in the British Virgin Islands and his minders report that he’s in fantastic spirits and has managed to catch up with a long-time friend, Paul, who just happens to be in the BVI’s at the same time. We hope Paul can help him 'fix' the camera, so we get more pics of Jon's escapades. He is a classic, is utterly unique, and he's loved for it...

I am on the yacht. Back on air with the iridium. Paul Stratfold, with his partner Shiralee, plus owner and his friend (another Paul from Hawaii). Are on the specially constructed 60ft 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. They came from the French/ Dutch island of St Martin/St Maartin 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 could tune in on Gizmo’s WiFi. 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' comes back from Anegada Island (BVIs).

When I got to BVIs, I got a message to ring Gareth Owen-Conway. He said your AIS is not transmitting. Paul Stratfold is Gareth's best mate. I had the Navionics charts on the B&G for all Australia and Africa which covered the French Reunion Island. (I stopped at). But I didn't have the chips for Caribbean, South Pacific and on back to Australia.

OK, this spanner thought he didn't. Jonathan Clough had given me all the beautifully packaged cards for the whole circumnavigation. Wow they whopping big chips. Obviously too big. And were too big, to go into the plotter. Showed Paul. He smiled, as he does when mischief. Broke a little bit off the big chip, voila a little chip. Caribbean and the Pacific now in the B&G plotter. He also put additional Navionics charts into my iPad to cover rest of voyage. (Back up, or to hold whilst 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. Took me 32 days. Average 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. 32 ships Atlantic to the Caribbean - at St Lucia. Nearing BVIs, at night, most were cruise ships. Extremely well lit. Sometimes they slow. Sometimes zig zag, sometimes go around in circles.

They travel at night. Go from one island to another I.E. One country to another. The cruise ships are usually fast. Around the 20/22 Knot mark. As you can imagine going from St Maartin to BVIs (80 NM) at 20 kts would be 4 hrs. Time to kill.
Most Ships are tankers. Some tankers 1000 ft long. Their speed usually between 11 knots to 14. Then cargo ships - bit faster. 16 knots.

In the Caribbean I could sight most ships. Crossing the Atlantic 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. Beautiful cruising. Bays, beaches, coves, surrounded by steep hills. Many islands uninhabited. I am writing this in Cane Garden Bay island of Tortola. Chief Island. Surrounded by high hills. Houses dot the hills, Caribbean style. Most two story, colourful. The head of the bay sandy beach with beach bars and restaurants all along.

To pick up a mooring $30, per night, 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. Surge in bay. Bit rolly. Ok by me. I have an excellent Vulcan 20 kg anchor, made by Rocna. Same as, without the bar over top. Grabs the bottom immediately. Wisely chosen by Dr Robin Morritt, - this blog goes via. I have 65 ft 3/8 certified chain. Then further 200 ft dedicated anchor multi woven rope. Rope because go yacht racing. (Not so much now - no more) Anyway rope less weight in fore peak. However I think it better and wiser to have all 3/8 chain. In the future. Won't chafe on bottom rock etc.

I am told the BVIs have the largest bare boat 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. Rain and rain and rain. 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 could see nothing. Rain belting down. So nearing the passage turned around and sailed the opposite way and waited for daylight. The chip not being in the B&G. It is now.

I feel the BVIs are a very safe place to walk around. Night or day. Everyone seems approachable. Nice. Locals are West Indian. English spoken everywhere. Like Britain and Australia etc drive on left hand side of 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 like wise. 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.

Three years ago, when 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 service men 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,

Jon
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