Exploring the Islands of Sir Francis Drake Channel
Trip Start Dec 09, 2006
217Trip End Ongoing
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
There were a few other boats already present over the good anchoring sand when we arrived at 1030 and we had to try to get the anchor to hold on a less than perfect bottom. After a few failed attempts--the first of which included picking up a huge rock cradled in our anchor which took serious and lengthy effort to dislodge--we finally moved a bit further west in this bay, found some nice sand and were settled in by noon. Yes, we admit, mooring balls can have their advantages…. (18 20'53.5"N 064 35'54.5"W)
We stayed at the Key Point anchorage four nights waiting out the weather. It was squally and windy with the passing of the front and the "Christmas Winds" that affect the Eastern Caribbean arrived right on schedule. We did manage to get in some interesting snorkeling nearby, and took advantage of the repeated rain showers to collect more drinking water, which tests out to be even better than our RO (reverse osmosis) water maker.
By Friday, December 23, the squalls had decreased (although the wind had not) and we decided to move to one of three potential anchorages, all new to us, on Cooper, Salt, or Buck Island (off the south coast of Tortola). We’d tack out into Drake Channel and head for the easternmost of the three at Cooper, then work back downwind as needed until we found a good one for the conditions. We still needed good shelter from the ENE winds blowing at 20-25 kts. Any anchorage exposed to the NW through SE would be uncomfortable, if not dangerous. Carvel Bay on Cooper Island was our first choice.
Carvel Bay is right around Cistern Point from the popular anchorage at Cooper Island’s Manchioneel Bay and the Cooper Island Beach Club. We departed Peter Island at 0900, tacking upwind into Drake Channel with double reefed main and genoa, and arrived near Cistern Point by 1015. There were about 25 boats in Manchioneel Bay bouncing on their mooring balls in the rough conditions - and none around the point in small, settled Carvel Bay just swimming distance away. But we determined that it was a bit too small for us and we moved a short distance “next door” to Hallovers Bay which was also vacant at the time. We dropped anchor on an attractive sandy bottom, but in doing so had to “shoo off” an arriving captained day charter boat that seemed to think it could slip in ahead of us until Donna yelled at him to “Stand Off!” while we completed our anchoring approach. That boat decided to anchor elsewhere because we had obviously taken his favorite (and possibly daily routine) spot by arriving earlier. It is true when anchoring that “the early bird gets the worm”. (18 22'32"N 064 30'37.5"W)
This anchorage was a good place to sit out the rest of the blow in calm water. Along this coast within both swimming and dinghy distance the BVI National Park Trust has placed day use moorings for diving and snorkeling. Perfect! Later we saw a smaller boat settle into Carvel Bay. Street does not specifically discuss Hallovers Bay, but we suspect he considered it an extension of Carvel Bay. His advice was straightforward and obvious: “As a rule of thumb, when the wind is south of east, anchor north of Cistern Point, in Manchioneel Bay; if it’s north of east, anchor south of the point, in Carvel Bay.”
We enjoyed two nights at Hallovers Bay with its fabulous view of the surrounding islands and waterways. We took the dinghy to the nearby day use mooring balls for snorkeling. While deserted at night, the mooring balls are quite popular during the day in pleasant conditions and we scooted around a bit when we could detect an imminent departure, waiting patiently for them to leave their ball. This reef area did not allow for the anchoring of a dinghy—use of a mooring ball was required for reef protection. We enjoyed the snorkeling although prevalent cloud cover prevented having better light. This is a nice spot to return to with plenty of snorkeling area to explore.
On Christmas Day, the wind had finally subsided and we sailed the short distance across Drake Channel in ENE 15-20 to another new anchorage for us on the western shore of Buck Island, which is separated from Tortola just by a short, shallow sand bar that you could walk across. Buck Island is private with no attractions ashore which explains why it has no mooring balls and isn’t popular despite being recommended as a good anchorage in both the Street and other current cruising guides. The island is low and flat and was the site of the first airstrip in the BVI.. No other boats were here when we arrived. (18 25'33"N 064 33'41.5"W)
Anchoring was a challenge as the sand was thin in spots, but we got hooked in three tries in a nice patch. This anchorage has excellent protection from winds north of east. It probably gets rolly with winds from south of east. There are interesting homes situated on the hills on the Tortola side overlooking this small bay. We anchored in front of one particularly elaborately and lusciously landscaped property. We enjoyed a pleasant Christmas Day listening to Christmas music and on “harbor watch” watching boats come and go to nearby Hodges Creek where a marina and a couple of charter boat operations are based. This anchorage is also right below the approach flight path into Beef Island Airport, but all the planes are small ones and very few flights arrive at night, so this didn’t detract from the pleasant setting, and added a vertical dimension to harbor watch. The nearby reef is not for snorkeling.
On Boxing Day (the celebrated day after Christmas) we bagged our trash and found a place to take it in the marina facility. By now the wind had almost died completely with the predictable result – “skeeters”. We were close enough to shore for the bloodthirsty mosquitoes to find us; on days like this we have to screen all our windows by late afternoon and take refuge inside the boat until after sunrise the next morning (although Dave still bravely prepares dinner outside on the grill). With stronger winds or anchorage farther from shore (which is far more typical) we don’t have this problem. Perhaps after the rainy season ends with the coming of spring we may not have to take the precautions we do (as Donna is particularly delicious to these pests).