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British Virgin Islands

Sailing BVI to St. Martin 2015

By Sheryl Shard, copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

Greetings from the half-French half-Dutch island of St. Martin/St. Maarten in the Caribbean!

Sunset St Maarten 800
Sunset anchored in Simpson Bay Lagoon, St. Maarten

After almost two idyllic months cruising in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) we are now anchored in Simpson Bay Lagoon on the Dutch side of St. Maarten.

Departing the British Virgin Islands
Wednesday March 24 we raised anchor at 0600 and slid off the shallow bank we were anchored on at the mouth of the inner harbour at Road Town, Tortola, in the BVI planning to make an 18-hour non-stop upwind passage to Simpson Bay in St. Maarten. After showering and getting ready to depart, we determined we were too low on water for comfort. We had enough to be fine for the day but decided it would be safer and more convenient to top up our water before sailing offshore across the Anegada Passage. You never know what can happen. So instead of leaving for St. Maarten from Road Town we decided to sail up the Sir Francis Drake Channel to North Sound, Virgin Gorda, where it would be easy to stop at Leverick Bay Marina to fill up on water. The timing was good. It would be open by the time we got there.

Wednesday was a beautiful day with winds E 10-15 and a forecast that the winds would go to the NE in the afternoon, meaning we could sail versus motorsail to St. Maarten for at least half the day. Sailing from North Sound out the Necker Channel would give us an even better angle on the wind improving our chances of sailing upwind so was another good reason for changing our plans to go up there.

We motor-sailed up Sir Francis Drake Channel to make good time for the marina opening and marvelled at how few boats were out at that time of the morning. Not a bad morning commute :-)

Morning commute_Distant Shores II_Paul Shard_800
Leaving the inner harbour at Road Town, Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands

Luckily there was space at the dock when we arrived at Leverick Bay Marina - just a charter catamaran and a mega-yacht with a guy polishing the helicopter on deck - with space for us at the back. Water is 15 cents US per U.S. gallon and we totally filled our water tank for $22.00 US. Even with lots of showering and cooking and washing up we can go for about 2 weeks without a fill. Since we have good water capacity on our Southerly 49, Distant Shores II, we chose not to go with a watermaker on this boat since it's easy to get water where we've been cruising with the boat in Europe and the Caribbean. But at some point we may choose to add one. We had a Schenker watermaker on our previous boat, a Southerly 42.

We quickly filled and set off happy that we hadn't been delayed too much. Life in the galley at sea was going to be much better now that I didn't have to watch the water levels too closely and we could have a good long hot shower when we made landfall later that night.

Crossing the Anegada Passage
I won't go into too much detail about crossing the Anegada Passage since we have made the trip several times and have written about it in previous newsletters about St. Martin plus documented it in Distant Shores episodes in season 6 and season 9. However, I will say that on this trip the air was so clear that we were 40 nm away from the British Virgin Islands before Virgin Gorda disappeared below the horizon and we picked up St. Martin when we were 32 nm away! The whole voyage from Road Town was just over 100 nm.

Silver Cloud II_800
We saw lots of boats including the tallship cruise ship, Sea Cloud II, on the Anegada Passage en route to St. Martin

Arriving in St. Maarten
On this trip the winds never did go to northeast as predicted but picked up to 15-20 knots from the east which was pretty much "right on the nose". Distant Shores II is a long narrow boat with a 10 ft. 3 in. draft with the keel down (2 ft. 10 in. with the keel up for shallow draft) so slices through the waves and goes great to windward so despite this and the time we added for our water stop we were anchor-down at the Simpson Bay anchorage in St. Maarten at 10:30 PM, an hour and a half earlier than we predicted. Woo hoo!

The anchorage at Simpson Bay is large and we've come in there in the dark several times before so it was no problem arriving especially with the moonlight. We anchored at the back of the fleet in 4 metres with a sand bottom, so good holding, and despite it being a little rolly, as it often is here, we slept soundly. The only disturbance we had was at around midnight when a very drunk but happy couple returned to their boat in their dinghy and mistook our boat for theirs so were loudly puzzled why the stern ladder was raised. They burst into gales of laughter when then realized they were trying to board the wrong boat and sped off :-)

The next morning we saw another boat had anchored behind us in the night but the captain must have been very tired and not set his anchor carefully or not put out enough scope. We watched him drag across the harbour and almost out to sea! We couldn't raise him on the radio and we had our dinghy on deck so couldn't chase him but just as we were about to lower it and go after him we saw someone on deck and the situation was remedied.

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Coming through the Simpson Bay Bridge, St. Maarten

At 0930 on Thursday morning we caught the Incoming Bridge Opening at the Simpson Bay Bridge (bridge opening times here) and went into the smooth protected waters of Simpson Bay Lagoon where we anchored in our favourite spot in a very shallow but convenient-to-everything spot near the bridge. However we barely had the anchor down when a family in a Bavaria went aground beside us not realizing our Southerly 49 is shallow-draft. This happens all the time so today Paul wrote a new Tech Blog, Warning Shallow Water, that is essentially a field guide to Southerly Yachts. Our boat looks very similar to a new deep-draft Jeanneau so people see our boat and assume there is lots of water around us. We’re getting very good at helping people get their boats off shoals…

After helping the Bavaria get free of the ground, we took the dinghy to the customs dock which is right in by the bridge and cleared in to St. Maarten as well as paid bridge and anchoring fees. Info on clearing in at St. Maarten.

We'll be here for a couple of weeks before heading down-island doing the maintenance and repairs we weren't able to complete when we were here at Christmas before flying home to conduct boat show seminars. On the to-do list is to build a new cockpit hatch, service the freezer and generator, install a new winch base on the mast winch since the support is corroding, make some new oar holders for our Avon dinghy to store them better and pick up our new Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Plus sewing machine and get to work on some long overdue canvas projects. Can't wait!

What spring maintenance projects are you working on? We welcome your comments below…

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Keeping Romance Alive while Cruising

Paul Shard Sheryl Shard Distant Shores2

Thirty years ago this week Paul and I did a bareboat charter in the British Virgin Islands with some school friends and decided we were going to get married and fulfill our dream of building a boat and going cruising.

After launching our first boat, Two-Step in 1988, the Classic 37 we built together.

And we are back in the British Virgin Islands this week celebrating this decision! We're here on board our third boat, our Southerly 49 sailboat, Distant Shores II, having sailed 100,000 nautical miles and completed 5 transatlantic crossings over the years that we've spent visiting and documenting our experiences for television in countries in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Northern Europe and Scandinavia as well as South and North America. So much to celebrate!

"But how can you two spend so much time in a small space and still get along?!" we are often asked.

The secret? Romance!

Paul Shard Sheryl Shard Distant Shores4
September 21, 2014, we celebrated 25 years of international cruising together

I thought that since it is Valentine's Day today, the topic of how to keep romance alive while cruising might be an interesting one. It is a topic that isn't discussed very much since when you start planning a cruise you tend to get deep into studies of safety and survival. As instructors and course designers for the Extended Cruising course (initially the Offshore Cruising course) of the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons, Canada's largest boating safety and navigation training institution, Paul and I know and respect the importance of building skills to prevent accidents on the water and gaining knowledge to deal with emergencies at sea should they arise.

However, from our observations, the thing that destroys people's dreams of sailing off into the sunset more than improper safety procedures is that, as they get into the execution of their cruising plans, they forget about the Romance with which the dream is usually born - thoughts of sailing off into the sunset with a loved one across turquoise seas with no schedule, of candlelit dinners together in the cockpit anchored in an idyllic bay watching the sun set, feeling warm trade wind breezes on their faces, the excitement of arriving at a new exotic port after a well-executed passage together, walking hand in hand along deserted golden sand beaches…

Paul Shard Sheryl Shard Distant Shores5
A beach to ourselves at Atwood Harbour, Aklins Island, Bahamas

Instead they get mired in lists of equipment, gear and provisions that focus on getting through storms at sea. (Lists that don't include packing sexy lingerie so you can play out your fantasies with the one you love on an adventure of a lifetime!) Freedom is the goal but when they get out there they can't give up scheduling every minute, they stick to plans that don't go with the flow or even suit the weather and just make things miserable for themselves and their crew. Where's the romance in that?

Romance gets you through a lot of bad times and, I have to say, along with all the amazing wonderful enriching experiences there will be challenging times in the cruising lifestyle. You are more affected by weather and cultural differences and language barriers and equipment breakdowns and you don't know where to get things since you're always in new places and you don't have your car to make things easy and something as simple as laundry can take the whole day plus a host of other issues you don't even think about at home.

But a Romantic attitude can minimize troubles and prevent things from coming between you and your mate.

Planning for Romance starts with showing super consideration for another person - remembering to always say thank you for the nice things they do for you, slowing down if they are feeling rushed or insecure (cruising is a whole new lifestyle after all), respecting their fears even if unfounded and finding ways to make them feel comfortable, safe and loved. Never putting them down or making fun of them in public, especially with new people you're meeting as you travel. Making nice gestures such as letting them sleep a little longer when they're off-watch and the weather is crummy. Going out of your way to find foods they like in foreign ports and cooking their favourite meals or taking them out to dinner now and then.

Paul Shard Sheryl Shard Distant Shores6
Dinner out and dancing to the steel band at Deadman's Beach Bar, British Virgin Islands

Not asking them to work at the chart table or down in the galley when the boat is pitching uncomfortably. Turning back to port even if "everyone else is going" when your mate isn't happy with the conditions. Giving them "alone time" when they need it which is more often when you're living in a small space such as a boat. Tolerating their friends who are necessary to their happiness. Creating a budget that allows them to call home often to stay in touch with family and friends if that's important to them.

Romance seems to go hand and hand with a sense of adventure and making things fun and exciting. Paul and I have a lot of fun together! And we are constantly finding ways to have a good time together and looking at situations to make them fun. When one of us gets upset about something we try to defuse the situation with humour. Life is too short to hold a grudge or stew in anger. And when you're cruising there are so many exciting beautiful things to share together each and every day that you don't want to waste a minute being angry with one another. Keeping that in perspective really makes a difference.

So if you're planning a cruise or are in the midst of one that you're losing your enthusiasm for, think of ways you can add a sense of romance and adventure. Plan celebrations that show your loved one you appreciate him/her and the new things that cruising is bringing to your lives. Surprise them by fulfilling a few of their fantasies!

How about you? What are your favourite ways to make things Romantic and keep things Fun with your Sweetheart? I urge you to start thinking of things and becoming more Romantic today. It does make life delightful…

Paul Shard Sheryl Shard Distant Shores3

Happy Valentine's Day!

Plan your passages around the world with us aboard Distant Shores
Order the Super Pack on DVD and get Season 1-10 Downloadable.
Order the
Super Pack on Vimeo and we will send you the code for Season 10 as a bonus.


British Virgin Islands - Cruising Outpost Party at Cane Garden Bay

Back on board Distant Shores II,Village Cay Marina,Road Town,Tortola in the British Virgin Islands

Greetings from the British Virgin Islands! Paul and I are now back on board our Southerly 49, Distant Shores II, following a 3-week trip home to Canada for our annual winter speaking tour including 10 days conducting seminars at the Toronto International Boat Show and to catch up with family and friends at home. It's such a great way to start off the New Year!

Now that we’re back on the boat, we'll be spending the next few weeks in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), an annual stopover for us when we're in the Caribbean, to catch up on our editing and writing projects before continuing filming season 10 episodes of the Distant Shores sailing TV series further down island this winter.

Paul and Sheryl Shard, hosts of the Distant Shores sailing TV series, Peter Island, BVI

Related: 10 Reasons Why We Love the British Virgin Islands

One of the sailing publications we write for is Cruising Outpost magazine (formerly Latitudes and Attitudes) where you'll find a community of fun-loving cruising sailors living life to the fullest while traveling the world on their boats. The charismatic editor of CO is ex-biker and longtime sailor, Bob Bitchin'. Bob and his wife, Jody, know how to throw a good party! You may have attended one of their beer and pizza parties held at American boat shows. Last year we attended Bob's birthday party in the British Virgin Islands which I wrote about in a previous blog.

Sheryl, Bob Bitchin, Jody and Paul at the first annual Cruising Outpost Party
Myett's Cane Garden Bay, BVI. Photo by Wanita Meed.

Related: Bob Bitchin': Not Your Average Cruising Sailor

Following the Strictly Sail Chicago boat show in January, Bob and Jody flew down to the islands where they are hosting a new series of winter parties in the Caribbean in partnership with Tradewinds Radio with food, drink and cruising tunes by the The Eric Stone Band. The first, of what promises to be an annual event, was held last weekend on Saturday January 31st at Myett's Beach Resort on beautiful Cane Garden Bay on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Of course we attended and had a wonderful evening with fellow cruisers!

Sheryl with cruising friend, Wanita Meed.

With videographer, Rick Moore, getting a demonstration of his Mariner drone.
Photo by Wanita Meed.

Rick Moore's Mariner drone. Photo by Wanita Meed.

Mariner drone in the air.

Sheryl and Paul as filmed from Rick Moore's drone.

Myett's Resort, Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI, the site of the first annual
Cruising Outpost/Tradewinds Radio Party

Sunset at Cane Garden Bay

Dinner by torchlight at Myett's Cane Garden Bay

Sheryl and Paul enjoying the ambience at Myett's. Photo by Wanita Meed.

The Eric Stone Band flew in to provide cruising tunes for the party.

Sheryl, Jody and Bob dancing to the music of The Eric Stone Band

Sheryl and Marie Inshaw of Sail Delphine

A good time being had by all at the first annual Cruising Outpost/Tradewinds Radio Tortola Party

Bob and Jody's next stop is St. Maarten where they'll be holding a second party, this time on Saturday February 7th 2015 at the famous Buccaneer Beach Bar on beautiful Kimsha Beach, Simpson Bay, home of many memorable Heineken Regatta parties. This great location is perfect for cruisers and charterers alike because it’s just outside the Dutch side bridge into Simpson Bay Lagoon and a short walk from hotels, casinos, and The St. Maarten Yacht Club (open to all) which is just across the street. The family friendly party will start in the afternoon with cool steel pan music, beach barbecue, and beverages, and even some acrobats and clowns. Meet celebrities, win big in the charity raffle, and pick up a souvenir T-shirt. When the sun goes down, party to the Eric Stone Band.
Anchor out in Simpson Bay or Simpson Bay Lagoon and dinghy ashore, or take an easy trip on the local Dollar Bus from anywhere on St. Maarten. Hope you can make it!

Jody and Bob and are sailing to St. Maarten aboard friends Tom and Sharon’s Hylas 54, Distant Star.

There are lots of fun things to do when you're cruising or chartering in the Caribbean! We've filmed numerous episodes featuring Caribbean destinations in the Distant Shores sailing TV series over the years which are available on DVD and you can also download them in HD on Vimeo on Demand. Check out the trailers for season 5, season 6, season 9 and season 10 (download only) including the ever-popular episode, "Bareboat Chartering in the British Virgin Islands", from season 5. Here's an excerpt to warm you up on a cold winter day and turn your mind to sailing in sunshine in the tropics. Feel free to share it with someone who can use a lift...

Plan your passages around the world with us aboard Distant Shores
Order the Super Pack on DVD and get Season 1-10 Downloadable.
Order the Super Pack on Vimeo and we will send you the code for Season 10 as a bonus.


Tell us Your Story

A real joy for us while we're out cruising and filming new episodes of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series is the many chance meetings we have with people who have been inspired in some way by watching the shows we've produced over the years. We’d like to introduce you to some of them.

David MacDonald and Alex Palcic of Halifax, Nova Scotia, discovered the Distant Shores TV series on Travel and Escape Channel in Canada (now airing on Cottage Life channel in Canada). They were dreaming of going cruising and watched the morning broadcast of Distant Shores, Monday to Friday, before work to help keep their dream in front of them. We met them here in the British Virgin Islands several months after they had made the long journey from Halifax aboard their Jeanneau 40 Sun Odyssey sail boat, S/V Banyan.

Distant Shores is now in it's 10th season and is broadcast worldwide in over 24 languages so these encounters happen several times a week now. A dream come true for us!

We also enjoy receiving comments through the Distant Shores Facebook Page, on Twitter, our YouTube Channel and by e-mail where people write to us to tell us their cruising stories and send us photos of their boats. How about you?

Culpepper Family
Distant Shores fans from New York chartered a sailboat in the British Virgin Islands. They spotted our boat and we invited them aboard. They watch the show on DVD and follow our adventures on Facebook too. They’re hoping to go cruising in the future.

We are really delighted that the Distant Shores series has helped so many people discover the joys of sailing since our main goals for the show are to:
  • provide insight into the cruising lifestyle
  • feature top boating destinations as well as places with intriguing maritime history
  • share information about traveling safely by boat
  • inspire confidence in those hoping to set sail to explore distant shores themselves.

From comments and encounters we’ve learned that some viewers head out in their own boat, some charter a boat in an exotic locale, or take a river tour or cruise ship voyage that they may have never considered before.

Many have written to say they knew nothing about sailing but were inspired by the show to get into the sport. They have enrolled in sailing classes and are having the time of their lives!

Distant Shores fans from Mississauga, Ontario, were inspired to get into sailing and came down to the British Virgin Islands to take a sailing course here. They stopped by Distant Shores II to say hello and we learned that they are now members of our yacht club too!

Has watching the Distant Shores series helped or inspired you in some way?

If so, we'd love it if you would tell your story in the comments below and attach a photo of you and your boat, or you and your family/friends having an adventure somewhere as a result of watching episodes of Distant Shores.

Here are a few questions to guide you:
  • How did you discover the Distant Shores sailing TV series?
  • Do you watch the shows on TV, on DVD or download, or a combination of these?
  • What do you like about watching episodes of Distant Shores?
  • How has Distant Shores inspired you or helped you to fulfill your dreams or goals?

So please tell us your stories as comments on this post. We appreciate all the interest and support you have given us during our voyages so we're keen to hear about your adventures or plans!

And to make it even more fun, posting your story will make you eligible for a draw on April 1, 2014, to win a Distant Shores SuperPack. This contains all 117 episodes of Distant Shores from seasons 1-9 on 23 DVDs in a compact wallet (handy on a boat) PLUS all the shows as digital downloads. Info and description of DVDs here.

If you own all or some of the shows already and become our winner, then please pass on your prize as a gift to a friend who is longing to get out on the water too!

Many thanks again!

Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard S/V Distant Shores II
Eustacia Sound, British Virgin Islands


Adventures in the BVI

Rescue in the Anchorage! Yikes!!

Sitting after dinner at anchor watching the full moon we heard shouting nearby and realized it wasn't just sailors coming back from the bar, it was "Help! Is anybody there?!!". A cruiser was swimming by in the dark trying to catch up to his dinghy which had come adrift. But it was drifting faster than he could swim. He climbed aboard and we headed off downwind and chased the dinghy. All OK now. Pheww!

Goes to show you how fast a dinghy can drift even in a moderate breeze as its blowing just 12 knots or so.

Excitement! And happy ending!

Wow!! A few days ago I had an amazing dive with an Octopus!!

He was right under the boat and I was able to swim with him for 15 minutes getting some great video for Distant Shores.

We had friends William and Shane aboard for a few days and William wanted to visit Fallen Jerusalem - near the Baths. We hadn’t been before and we had the perfect day with light breezes, minimum swell and perfect sun to bring out the BVI Water color!!! In the back you see the Baths and Virgin Gorda.

Who has been to the Baths?

Why We Love the British Virgin Islands

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We're back in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), still one of our favourite cruising grounds in the Caribbean!

There are many reasons why we keep returning to the BVI when our schedule allows:
  1. The beautiful natural islands. We’ve been coming here since 1985 and there has been very little intrusive development.
  2. There are numerous protected anchorages as well as good marina facilities if you want them.
  3. There are numerous restaurants and beach bars if you don't feel like cooking on board. Reservations taken via VHF radio! They really cater to boaters here.
  4. English is spoken so communication is not an issue.
  5. The grocery stores are good although pricier than other Caribbean Islands but they offer a good selection and have high end specialty items due to the charter boat industry here. You can order provisions online from grocery stores such as Rite Way Food Markets and have them delivered right to your boat. There are decent yacht services and chandleries too.
  6. The snorkeling and diving is great and good sites are convenient to anchorages. The dive operations offer “rendezvous dive services” where they will pick you up from your boat, provide gear, and take you to an interesting dive site. Check out Sail Caribbean Divers. There are over 100 sites in the islands within a small area.
  7. It’s easy eye-ball navigation since the islands are all close together so stress-free. It’s a nice break after lots of challenging navigation these past few years.
  8. It’s peaceful. Rarely do you hear an airplane or a siren (unless you're around the main island of Tortola).
  9. Large mooring fields have been installed in popular places so anchor-dragging issues and conflicts have virtually disappeared. Yet there are plenty of quiet places for experienced sailors to anchor, if you prefer.
  10. People love to sail here! Many are on a week's bareboat charter and they want to sail every minute they can! There are regattas and rendezvous and beautiful mega-yachts. The atmosphere is always festive. You are surrounded by people who are happy and active and having a good time - but they fall asleep by 10 PM :-) It's a boat show everyday!
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So having said all that, let me tell you what we’ve been up to since we got here.
The start of this year's visit to the British Virgin Islands was on Wednesday February 26/14 when we set sail from the French/Dutch island of St. Martin/St. Maarten at 6:30 AM headed for the BVI. We had delayed our departure several times waiting for a part for our Mastervolt generator to arrive but it never came so we finally moved on. (More on the happy ending to this story later.)
We normally do the 80 nm offshore sail across the Anegada Passage from St. Martin to BVI within daylight hours averaging 7-8 knots but Distant Shores II had been in the soupy fertile waters of Simpson Bay Lagoon for several weeks and the hull and propellor were seriously caked with barnacles and other interesting marine growth.
Sunset with still miles to go to reach Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

This, in conjunction with the light flukey winds we had that day (see Paul's Tech Blog on this), slowed us down so much that we didn't make landfall in Virgin Gorda, BVI, until 9:00 PM so ended up sailing in, in the dark. Luckily we have been here many times so arriving in the dark was not an issue.
After coming through Necker Passage we entered the well lit channel into Gorda Sound and anchored off Prickly Pear Island in the protection of the reef where we soon fell fast asleep.
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Gorda Sound, also called North Sound, in the British Virgin Islands

In the morning we motored over to Gun Creek, within Gorda Sound, with our yellow “Q” flag flying on the starboard halyard indicating to the customs and immigration officials at the office there that we needed to clear in. Unfortunately the customs officer was in Spanish Town for a morning meeting so the very courteous female immigration officer said if we wanted we could take a taxi to the Spanish Town office just a few miles over the hill and down the road and clear in there or she could handle our passports and we could come back in the afternoon and speak to the customs officer when he returned. We checked the price of the taxi and it was going to be $17 US/person one way or $68 for the both of us for the whole trip! So we decided to wait.
No problem we had barnacle-scraping to do in the meantime!
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Once cleared in ($25 fees), we anchored off Saba Rock Resort, an amazing little boutique resort built on a tiny island within Gorda Sound. They have moorings too for $30 per night which includes 250 gallons of water for your tanks and a bag of ice, which is not a bad deal.
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They also have free open high-speed wi-fi which we appreciate the use of so support them by showing up for Happy Hour ($3.50 for a beer or Painkiller rum drink. A big difference from $1 Happy Hour beers in Grenada but what a location!) and occasional meals.
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This first night we had a reunion at the resort with cruising friends, Richard and Lavinia Maggs of MV Partners, who we had met earlier in the season in Carriacou, Grenada.
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We spent a couple of days at anchor in Gorda Sound editing and scripting new episodes of Distant Shores, organizing interviews and film permits needed in upcoming destinations, and completing some magazine articles that were due. Paul and I start work early in the morning when its cool and we're pretty disciplined about keeping regular 8-hour work days during the week. I know it looks as if we're just out cruising when you watch episodes of the Distant Shores TV series but it is a job that requires hours and hours of work off-camera. Luckily our mobile field office is a pretty nice place to work!
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Sheryl walking along the Biras Creek Trail on Virgin Gorda

When we needed a break we'd get off the boat and stretch our legs on the trails that start from the Bitter End Yacht Club. Guy's Trail and Biras Creek Trail are especially nice. If you like hiking check out Michael Sweeney's guide book, “Get Ready to Get Wet: Top 10 Hikes of the Caribbean” available on the Home Page of his Zero to Cruising website.

On Saturday March 1 we raised anchor and under genoa alone sailed out of Gorda Sound (also called North Sound) through a very shallow cut between Mosquito Island and Virgin Gorda. Most sail boats are too deep to use this cut but our Southerly 49 sailboat has a variable draft keel which we can raise in shallow places so this cut was not a problem for us.
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S/V Distant Shores II sailing through the shallow cut between Mosquito Island and Virgin Gorda.

Sadly we saw a motor boat had gone hard aground on the reef there. I guess the captain had misread his charts or was not paying attention to the depths as he approached the cut. Ouch.
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Motor yacht aground on the reef outside the Mosquito Island cut.

Our plan for the day was to visit the Digicel phone centre in Spanish Town to get set up with a local phone number and data plan, do a bit of grocery shopping, and continue on to Cooper Island or Peter Island. But when we got to Spanish Town, anchored, launched the dinghy, hiked up the hill to the main road we discovered that everything except the grocery store was closed on the weekends on Virgin Gorda! How quickly we forget when we are continually moving from one country to another. Most places in the Caribbean are open on Saturday but closed firmly on Sunday. Darn. It meant we wouldn't have a phone or mobile internet access until Monday. Then we saw a sign on the door saying that Monday was a public holiday! Nothing happening until Tuesday! Argghh.
News 2014-03-08 PIX08
We decided to return to Gorda Sound and continue our work anchored at Saba Rock where we could at least be in touch with the world via e-mail.

On Tuesday we tried at the phone centre again and a very friendly woman at the busy Digicel office in Spanish Town got us set up with a local phone number for our iPhone. The sim card was $10 US and had various pre-paid data plans we could attach to it. We ended up buying a plan for 3 Gb for $50 per month. We can tether our computers and devices to the phone which acts as a modem and both be online at the same time using it. For more info visit
News 2014-03-08 PIX16 (copy)
Spanish Town anchorage

We spent the night anchored off Spanish Town which can get rather rolly with the currents and reflecting waves so in the morning we were keen to move on. We had another nice downwind sail and decided to keep going to Great Harbour, Peter Island, one of our favourite anchorages in the BVI since you can swim from the boat right to the reefs along the shoreline for great snorkelling. There's always lots of room to anchor although it's quite deep.
In Great Harbour, Peter Island, you can swim right from the boat to reefs along the shore.

Another nice thing is that you have access to the beautiful Peter Island Resort where sailors are welcome to use the beach, enjoy the restaurants and bars, relax at the spa, and hike the trails there.
News 2014-03-08 PIX18
Hiking on Peter Island. Paul takes in the view on the Sunset Loop trail.

While anchored at Great Harbour, Canadian friends, Dave and Alex aboard S/V Banyan, sailed in from St. Martin bringing with them the oil pressure sender for our generator that we had been waiting for. We have a Mastervolt Whisper 3.5 generator. The part had finally arrived a few days after we'd left St. Martin and our friends kindly picked it up and delivered it to us in person! Wow! Friends within the cruising community really watch out for each other. We feel truly blessed.
Friends Alex and Dave aboard S/V Banyan arrive in Great Harbour with the generator part we’d been waiting for.

This coming week we'll be visiting other locations around the British Virgin Islands. Stay tuned!
News 2014-03-08 PIX21 (copy)
Kind regards,
Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard S/V Distant Shores II
Great Harbour, Peter Island
British Virgin Islands

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Top 10 Canal Journeys


At Anchor BVI

Here is an album of shots from our little anchorage here in the Virgin Islands, Great to be back diving and exploring!
PS Tropical Portrait lores
Enjoying the reef.... All around the bay is nice snorkelling in clear water. No swells so it is good for beginners too.
Paul and Reef-1
The reef right behind the boat has some great fish and very clear water. This is a trumpetfish.
trumpetfish grunts
Trumpetfish hang still and pretend they are waving corals...
Here’s a Porcupinefish - a member of the Pufferfish family. He’s about half a meter long.
A "Scrawled Filefish". We have only seen these a few times in all our years of diving. They grow up to almost 3 feet long. This fellow is over 2 feet long.
Scrawled Filefish
Sheryl swims in a school of silversides.
I dive down under the boat. This is a different anchorage - deep water at about 18 meters to the bottom.
Paul under hull-2
Enjoying the reef.