The gusty Christmas winds are still howling here in the BVI. Tuesday, in particular, is an unusual weather day. Each 30 minute period of sunshine and blue sky is followed by a 45 minute interval of dark clouds and a 15 minute rain squall.
Our destination today is Little Jost Van Dyke, a small island on the east side of Jost Van Dyke. From Cane Garden Bay on the island of Tortola, it is a mere 4 miles to Manchioneel Bay at Little Jost Van Dyke. This journey can be completed in less than an hour. The sky is now sunny and clear. With any amount of luck, the anchor will be down in Manchioneel Bay before the arrival of the next squall.
Twenty minutes into the journey, dark low clouds begin to appear to the east. The sails are furled in anticipation of gusty winds on the leading edge of this squall. To the southwest, Tortola has now disappeared in a white shroud of rainfall. A blast of 32 knot winds creates nasty, confused waves and visibility is reduced in horizontal rain. Cutter Loose surfs downwind where we hover in the lee of nearby Sandy Cay until the gusty conditions subside. To our relief, the worst of the squall passes within ten minutes.
Twenty minutes later, the sun is shining again with the anchor down in Manchioneel Bay. To our immediate north is Little Jost Van Dyke. The eastern perimeter of the Bay is formed by Green Cay and a massive shallow reef extending south to the islet of Sandy Spit. Wind-driven waves are breaking on the reef. Despite the unrelenting 25 knot winds, the water in the lee of the reef remains relatively calm. The wind generator has certainly been earning its keep under these windy, gusty conditions. The battery bank on board Cutter Loose has remained at or near full capacity ever since this period of enhanced wind began last Saturday.
On Wednesday morning, blue skies and sunshine return to our little corner of the world despite the persistent 25 knot winds. It is a lovely day to land the dinghy on the beach at Sandy Spit. This tiny island is a pristine tropical setting of white sand and palm trees bent permanently to the west by the trade winds. During our walk on the windward side of the island, our legs begin to sting from the sandblast effect of the intense wind.
In the interest of a restful night, the anchor is up in Manchioneel Bay. Cutter Loose is relocated a short distance to a natural harbor that is more protected from the prevailing easterlies. She is tucked into the lee of Little Jost Van Dyke near Diamond Cay. The wind speed in the harbor is a more reasonable 10 to 15 knots. This is a popular destination for cruising sailors, due in no small part to Foxy’s Taboo, a restaurant on the Jost Van Dyke side of the harbor.
Ashore, a hike to the Bubbly Pool provides afternoon exercise. Here, the ocean waves pound onto giant rocks, eventually finding their way into a natural salt water pool. Each time a wave lands on the rocks, the pool becomes filled with white foamy seawater. The relaxing effect is that of a hot tub without the heat.
Energized by the Bubbly Pool, the afternoon hike continues along a steep switchback road, ascending to an aerial view of the harbor. The road is so steep in sections that it is difficult to believe than an average car would be capable of the ascent. With the late afternoon sun at our backs, the view of eastern Tortola is superb. Tonight, it is on to the funky open air dining room at Foxy’s Taboo, the only restaurant (in fact, the only building) in the harbor. Our waiter, Mark, is friendly and genuine. He explains that he moved to Jost Van Dyke from Tortola 13 years ago and has never regretted his decision to relocate. We can certainly understand his motivation to live in such a relaxed, attractive setting.
Thursday’s weather is a repeat of Tuesday, with alternating squalls and periods of sunshine. It is a relaxed morning aboard Cutter Loose, anticipating what the weather may have in store for today. The day begins with good news from Neal. Our repaired chart plotters have arrived in Red Hook. An appointment is made for Monday to complete the installation. It is time to return to the USVI. The first step is a stop at Great Harbor on Jost Van Dyke to clear BVI Customs. Seated behind the counter in the Customs office is none other than Mark, our waiter from the previous evening at Foxy’s Taboo. Last night, he was dressed island-casual and wearing a waist apron. This afternoon, Mark is looking quite official in his Customs uniform. He smiles broadly, encouraging us to return to Jost Van Dyke soon. This is our friendliest reception yet at a BVI Customs office. Note to log book. Clear BVI Customs at Jost Van Dyke instead of West End whenever possible.
It is a short beam reach from Great Harbor to Francis Bay on St. John, but the wind is now blowing a sustained 28 knots and the water is a sea of lumpy whitecaps. With deeply reefed sails, Cutter Loose makes short work of this task. Once in the lee of Great Thatch Island, wind speed is halved entering the Narrows in Sir Francis Drake Channel. Transiting the narrow deep water cut at Funghi Passage, Francis Bay opens into a panoramic portrait of a beautiful, familiar and protected harbor. From our vantage point on an NPS mooring in Francis Bay, access to NPR radio and a digital signal from the St. Thomas public television station provide the evening’s news and entertainment. This is one of our favorite places to be in the USVI.