St Martin to British Virgin Islands | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

St Martin to British Virgin Islands

Hello Everyone,
Greetings from the British Virgin Islands!

Our first visit here was in 1985 when Paul and I chartered a CS 36 sailboat with friends to test out our dream of sailing to the tropics. Needless to say, we loved it and did the voyage from Toronto, Canada, on our own boat a few years later. A lifestyle of sailing adventure began and our work as travel documentary filmmakers and writers blossomed. Now, with over 20 years of years of international cruising experience, 90,000 miles of voyages on our sailing resumes, and over 100 X 30-minute episodes of our sailing adventure TV series Distant Shores being broadcast around the world in 24 languages, we are back in the British Virgin Islands(BVI) for probably our 10th visit.
This time we're cruising this beautiful island chain on our 3rd boat, Distant Shores II, a Southerly 49 variable-draft sailboat, which we sailed across the Atlantic Ocean last December as participants in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). We were accompanied by our ever-cheerful Australian friend, Matthew Heron, who is an excellent sailor and, as always, great crew for a passage. It was Paul and my 5th transatlantic crossing and we documented the experience for Distant Shores episode #111 which is still in post-production.

To see a Sneak Peek from this episode about how we dealt with squalls on the transatlantic passage Click Here.

When I last wrote to you, on February 15, we had just re-launched Distant Shores after a couple of weeks of annual maintenance on the French/Dutch island of St Martin/St Maarten. We spent a couple of days at anchor in Simpson Bay Lagoon finishing up projects and then did a big grocery run across the lagoon in our dinghy to stock up on European delicacies and duty free goods for the ship's stores before leaving for the BVI where things can be a bit more pricey although there is great selection.

We got rather enthusiastic and when the courtesy delivery van from Grand Marche deposited us at the dinghy dock at Port de Plaisance, we had so much stuff we were afraid we were going to sink the dinghy on the ride back to the boat! Luckily it was a calm day and by going very slowly we arrived safely back at Distant Shores II without losing any of our cargo.
The next day when everything was carefully stowed away in lockers under benches and berths, we headed out of Simpson's Bay Lagoon at the 5:30 p.m. bridge opening at Sandy Ground Bridge on the French side of St Martin. (Sandy Ground Bridge Openings are at 8:15 a.m, 2:30 p.m. except on Sundays, and 5:30 p.m. Outbound traffic before Inbound. Bridge Operator is on VHF Ch 16 or tel. (0590) 590 87 20 43. There are no bridge fees as there are on the bridge on the Dutch side.)
Conditions were good for anchoring off the town of Marigot in Marigot Bay. If there is a big swell from northerly directions it can be very rolly but we had steady east winds. Out in the clear open water off Marigot you can swim off the boat and beaches (the water in the lagoon is too dirty for swimming unfortunately) which was the first thing we did when we were anchored in Marigot Bay. This was followed by a sundowner in the cockpit looking at the lovely view of the town with Fort Louis overlooking all.
Paul and I try not to work on a Sunday and honour it as a day for family and friends so in the morning we took the dinghy back to St Maarten Shipyard and visited friends Peter, Monika, and their daughter, Claudia, aboard their boat, Tauá. We’d met Peter when working in the yard. His wife and daughter had just arrived from Paris and we were looking forward to meeting them. Like Peter, Monika and Claudia were great company and we ended up taking the bus into town together (you just hail little vans that have a BUS license plate as they pass by. $1 per person) to enjoy Sunday Brunch with them at ZeeBest Restaurant near the Simpson Bay Marina.
In the afternoon, Paul met up with long-time friends from our York University days, Terry Fraser and Michele Yard Fraser, who he picked up in the dinghy at the Marigot waterfront. Terry and Michele have had a timeshare in St Maarten for many years and know the island well. We had a great afternoon together aboard Distant Shores II and got caught up on everyone's news and adventures.

Back in Marigot Paul cleared us out from St. Martin (you can clear Customs and Immigration on Sundays at Marina Fort Louis, otherwise at the ferry dock or the harbourmasters office at Marina Port La Royale the rest of the week). We were planning to leave early the next morning for the British Virgin Islands.
Morning commute aboard Distant Shores II

At 0630 on Monday February 18, we raised anchor and began a 84-mile crossing of the Anegada Passage, a strait that lies between the British Virgin Islands and St Martin plus the neighbouring island of Anguilla.
Many large ships enter the Caribbean Sea through this strait so we kept our eyes peeled and throughout the day we saw a lot of them. We had beautiful fresh tradewinds blowing from behind us so we poled out our jib and genoa and sailed wing and wing for the day.
After a great sail, we arrived at Round Rock Passage in the British Virgin Islands 12 hours later, just before sunset so the timing was perfect. From there we made a 20 minute run up to Spanish Town where we anchored for the night. First thing the next morning we cleared-in to the British Virgin Islands at the customs office at Spanish Town ferry dock on Virgin Gorda. Customs offices are open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm and Saturday 8:30am to 12:30pm. Closed Sundays and on BVI public holidays. For more info on locations and cruising permit fees Click Here.
Paul and school of Blue Tangs

We will spend the next couple of weeks break here in the BVI, relaxing at anchor, snorkelling, and working on scripts and editing. We have already filmed 2 episodes of Distant Shores about the BVI, one about bareboat chartering here if that is something that interests you. You can see both BVI episodes in the Distant Shores season 5 DVD collection. For more information or to watch a trailer Click Here.
Anchoring in Great Harbour, Peter Island. Photo by Andrew Evans

At the moment, Distant Shores II is anchored in Great Harbour, Peter Island, one of our favourite places for snorkelling. The sun is high so it's a good time to go for a dip and explore the reefs along the shore, so we'll say ciao for now.

Have a great week!

Sheryl and Paul
Aboard Distant Shores II
Great Harbour, Peter Island
British Virgin Islands

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