On Friday morning, we bid farewell to our Caribbean 1500 friends and our attractive anchorage in Francis Bay. Since the BVI Customs and Immigration office charges higher fees and operates on restricted hours during the weekend, we are bound for Soper’s Hole at West End to clear in before the office closes at 4:30 PM on Friday afternoon. With temperatures in the upper 80s under sunny skies and light wind, it takes all the courage I can muster to slip out of my shorts and into a pair of long pants and a polo shirt for my dinghy trip to the Customs office. This is an experiment to determine whether government officials respond more favorably to visitors that are appropriately attired versus those that wear the standard cruisers uniform of shorts and t shirts.
I enter the office and stand at the counter for two minutes before being acknowledged by the woman seated in front of me. Clearly, my Sunday outfit is not having a visible impact in the Customs office this afternoon. I make the mistake of completing a form with a red pen, the sole writing instrument in my briefcase. “Sir, never, ever use anyting but a blue or black pen when completing de form.” I resist the urge to point to my long pants as evidence of my efforts to please and focus instead on complying with their wishes. By now, I know enough to walk outside to the adjacent building, pay our $10 clearance fee to the Finance Department, then return with the paid receipt. With the stamping of our paperwork, we are officially cleared in. This bureaucratic process is a small price to pay for the freedom to roam this gorgeous archipelago.
We reward ourselves with a vegetable roti lunch at Pussers on the wharf, followed by a brief stop at the local grocery store for provisions. By 3 PM, we are under sail again, this time to Peter’s Island, just five miles to the southeast. Although the wind is light, Cutter Loose is moving at 4 knots on a comfortable close reach to Little Harbor on the western edge of the island. Water depths inside the harbor are 60 feet and there are no moorings here. The absence of moorings eliminates 99% of bareboat charterers. But there are already three boats anchored in this small cove when we arrive. They are 60 foot luxury charter cats with all the toys on deck and professional captains and crew aboard. Each cat is anchored stern-to the shore with both a bow anchor and a long stern line extended to shore and fastened to rocks or small trees on the beach. These boats will not ride to wind or current. They will remain stationary.
We find an isolated 35 foot shelf in the southeastern corner of the harbor where we can swing on our bow anchor without coming near the other boats. This will do quite fine for the night, despite the fact that we are on short scope. From this vantage point, we enjoy an outstanding view of the sun setting over St. John. After midnight, however, it is a mad scramble aboard Cutter Loose to close all of the ports and hatches during an impromptu rain shower.
After a leisurely Saturday morning at anchor in Little Harbor, we reach the decision to travel 10 miles further east to Marina Cay, a tiny islet completely surrounded by a coral reef. Cutter Loose is anchored just outside the mooring field between Marina Cay and the lee of Scrub Island. We take advantage of the facilities ashore to sip a concoction known locally as “reef juice” between loads of laundry. This libation is the perfect antidote to the task of washing our dirty clothes. By mid-afternoon, the charter boats begin their daily migration to the mooring field at Marina Cay. With all of these hungry charterers, the beachfront restaurant will be filled tonight. Free wi-fi in the harbor is simply icing on the cake. In fact, we enjoy these surroundings so much that we decide to remain here another night.
On Sunday morning, we catch up on correspondence aboard Cutter Loose as the charterers abandon their moorings and sail on to their next destination. Aragorn, a local artist and organic farmer, pays a visit in his skiff to offer fresh bread, fruits and vegetables. By noon, the mooring field is nearly empty, awaiting the next wave of charterers later in the afternoon. We snorkel the reef around Marina Cay, then return to the boat for showers, relaxation time in the cockpit and dinner. After a busy summer at home and the demands of a 9 day offshore passage, we are just beginning to become re-accustomed to this laid-back lifestyle.
From our anchorage, we are afforded an excellent view of aircraft departing nearby Beef Island airport. Taking off into to the easterly winds, these silver birds ascend quickly, execute a sweeping left hand turn around the island of Tortola and head west towards San Juan. For most passengers, this final glimpse of the green mountains and turquoise water of the BVIs is the end of their vacation. For us, it is just the beginning.