Today, we depart the island of Tortola and travel east to the island of Virgin Gorda. From Marina Cay, our destination at North Sound lies 10 miles to the northeast. In light of the easterly trade winds, any destination with an easterly component generally requires us to motor into wind-driven waves. Today is no exception. Our course takes us south of the Dog Islands (West Dog, Great Dog, George Dog and Seal Dog), then northeast into the open waters of the Atlantic. Once past Mosquito Rock, the well-marked channel eases our entrance into North Sound. Colquhoun Reef to the red side of the channel is defined by yellow-green shallow water and a straight line of waves breaking on this reef.
Once inside the reef, we are welcomed by the emerald, protected waters of North Sound. This large, natural harbor is surrounded by steep green mountains and coral reefs. The harbor extends about two miles from Saba Rock on the far eastern side of the Sound to Mosquito Island on the western side. There are several smaller cruise ships anchored in the harbor today, shuttling passengers by launch to and from the various shore side resorts.
North Sound is the prime resort and yachting center in the BVIs. From mega-yachts to wind surfers, virtually every type of boat can be accommodated here. We opt to secure a mooring ball at the Bitter End Yacht Club. From this location, the easterlies funnel into the Sound from the Atlantic Ocean through the narrow opening between Prickly Pear Island and the Bitter End resort. This is a perfect spot. The abundant breeze keeps the cabin of Cutter Loose air conditioned while the outer reef provides protection from ocean waves and swells. From our vantage point, we enjoy a front row seat to observe watersports activity in the harbor, including kite boarders, wind surfers, paddle boarders, Hobie cat sailors, Laser sailors and dinghy races.
Ashore, the resort is eerily quiet. The pool and beaches are empty. There are few customers at the bars and restaurants. The first item of business is laundry detail, which is accomplished at Leverick Bay Marina on the west side of the Sound. As usual, this task consumes an entire afternoon. In the process, we meet Island Packet 370 owners Richard and Jan on Morpheus of London. They will be sailing down-island in late January. Chances are good that our paths will cross again soon.
Within a three minute dinghy ride from our mooring is Saba Rock, a compact resort with views of the reef. In a late afternoon procession, cruisers shuttle over to Saba in their dinghies to enjoy the outstanding view of sunset during happy hour. Each day at 5 PM, the staff takes fish scraps from the kitchen to feed the fish alongside the dinghy dock. As if on cue, the tarpon appear dockside…happy hour for fish! With high expectations of a free handout, the tarpon become agitated and aggressive. It is all part of the afternoon entertainment scene at Saba Rock.
Amongst other attractions, North Sound is home to the rich and famous. Some of the boats in the harbor are truly amazing. At times, it is difficult to distinguish small cruise ships from private mega-yachts. Take, for example, the three-masted schooner Athena that we discovered during our visit to the nearby Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. At 295 feet in overall length, she is reportedly one of the largest privately owned yachts in the world. She carries 103,000 gallons of fuel and 26,000 gallons of water. She is currently available for sale at a listing price of $95 million. If the asking price seems a little too steep and you just wish to admire the megayachts and mingle with the elite, the yacht club is open to the public for a poolside Christmas Day buffet at a cost of $150 per person plus service.
For those who crave a private holiday, there are several options here in North Sound. Near the entrance to North Sound is Necker Island, a private island owned by Sir Richard Branson. The entire island, including its fully staffed 10 bedroom villa can be rented for the paltry sum of $50,000 per day. On the other hand, if a sailing vacation is what you seek, Branson’s 105 foot luxury catamaran, the Necker Belle, is docked right here at the Bitter End Yacht Club. This upscale cat carries its own excursion submarine on deck. Necker Belle is available for charter for a mere $110,000 per week, which includes the services of seven attentive professional crew members.
Eustatia Island is another private island and villa located on the reef near Saba Rock. It is owned by the Queen and leased to a corporate entity, the owners of which wish to remain anonymous in order to protect their privacy. To us, the gorgeous beach on this island is an open invitation to enjoy a white Christmas, Virgin Islands-style. We consider landing the dinghy on the dock, but the greeting is intimidating…“Private Property – Do Not Dock”. Under BVI law, everyone has the right to land the dinghy on the beach, which is considered a public access area. However, the employees have clearly taken note of our presence in the dinghy. Their job is to protect the privacy of their guests. On second thought, perhaps we should forgo the exercise of our landing rights. Although no definitive information exists on the leaseholder of this island, most locals believe it is Larry Page, co-founder of Google.
Christmas Eve is a day for relaxation and people-watching. Each day, more and more pleasure boats have arrived in the harbor. By noon on Christmas Eve, all of the moorings at Bitter End and Saba Rock are in use. Dinghies filled with recent arrivals crisscross the harbor. The ferries are like busy bees, returning to the hive again and again, loaded with more tourists and their mountains of suitcases.
Some visitors to the Bitter End Resort seem oblivious to the watersports opportunities and the incredible natural beauty that surrounds them. They opt instead to congregate near wi-fi hotspots, fixated on their electronic devices. ‘Tis the season to stay connected.
This scene above is reminiscent of cover art on a recent edition of The New Yorker.
Friends Ken and Laurie host a quiet Christmas Eve dinner in the cozy cabin of Adagio. With thousands of miles separating us from friends and family at home, it is comforting to be in the company of like-minded buddy boaters here in the BVI. We certainly appreciate their warmth and hospitality.
Christmas Day is a time of relaxation, including listening to carols on the stereo and watching the activity in the harbor. In the afternoon, we cast off our mooring at Bitter End and travel the short distance west where Cutter Loose is anchored in Leverick Bay. Ken and Laurie join us for Christmas dinner ashore at Leverick Bay Resort on the west side of North Sound. It is an altogether pleasant evening with good company and good food. We have thoroughly enjoyed spending Christmas here in North Sound.