Vagabund Log

BVI: Tortola and Beef Island

Tortola & Beef Island

16th to 20th Jan 2017


Christopher Columbus named the island Tórtola, that means, "turtle dove" in Spanish. Tortola is part of the British Virgin Islands, or BVIs, and is host to the country’s capital of Road Town”


Early Monday 16th January 17 we left North Sound for Road Town in Tortola.

A busy day was lying ahead:

  • Customs: As a private yacht we have only a 30day entry and that was expiring on Wednesday. If you wish to remain longer, then you have to pay a $200 temporary import fee that will allow it to remain for 1 year.
  • Immigration: We were granted a 1-month visa and we have to apply for an extension. That could only be done at the Immigration HQ in Road Town or Virgin Gorda.
  • Fishing License: A fishing license is only valid for 30 days. Every month you have to obtained the license directly from the Department of Conservation & Fisheries at the Quastisky Building in Road Town

At noon we picked up a harbor control mooring. Took the dingy to Village Cay Marine. First we did the temporary importation of Vagabund at customs, we decided to skip a sit down lunch and grabbed a quick take away as we walked over to immigration HQ.  Fortunately at 13h00 we managed to take the third last queuing number for the day. Number 92. As the people were still streaming into the office they all were just told: “Sorry we do not issue new queuing numbers please come back the next day.”  An hour and half later we were granted our requested two additional months visas.

The question now on our minds:  can it be three in a row for the afternoon?  The obstacle course included crossing the busy street. The fishing inspector looked up from his desk as we entered and then to his watch informing us that we are lucky to make it just in time as they do not take in any requests after three.  Half an hour later we strolled back towards the harbor appreciating our achievement: Three government offices in one afternoon, not something easily achievable in the islands where not much is happening after lunch.


We picked up a mooring close to Wickham’s Cay Dock. Our next-door neighbor was the Walt Disney Cruising Ship “Fantasy”. Full scale entertainment was going on none stop at various levels of the ship. Different animation movies were playing on huge outside screens, a super tube ride with a boat and various guided tour leaders leaving the boat each with a specific colour flag followed by tagged children followed by tagged parents going in various directions on land. This was not Disney Land or Disney World this was Disney Ship: one big 24/7 entertainment palace on the water.


Because of the Ciguatera threat (neurotoxin present in reef fish carrying it over to the game fish praying on them) none of the fish Zack caught could be kept for eating. The only other option was to buy fresh fish at the BVI Fishing Complex just across the mooring field. Buying fish is something we are not used to. The fresh Dorado was vacuum-sealed and reasonably priced.


We walked down the road to Parts and Power. The agents for Volvo Penta. They had a mobile 12volt fridge/freezer in stock at a special prize. We could buy a new one for our cold drinks!!!


We dingy over to Fish Bay to explore CTL Home Center. With a huge variety of goodies I could not withstand the temptation of buying new melamine plates for outside use. We came back to the boat with a trolley full of stuff.


After 2 days on a mooring buoy we were ready to go on anchor again. Wednesday afternoon we anchored at the back of Beef Island at Bluff Bay in clear blue water. You could see the anchor from the bow.


Bluff Bay was a well protected secluded anchorage in crystal clear water. This anchorage was in sharp contrast to the previous days busyness. Sitting that night on the deck, old friends joined us for the normal get together: Vagabund, Us, the Sea, the Stars and Smiley Moon. Vagabund greeted Swirly Wind by offering her bow as she came rushing in late to join the get together.


We kayaked over the bay to the western side and have some interesting snorkeling in clear water. 

Cane Garden Bay

1st February  2017

After a day of enjoyment on the beach at White Bay we decided to spend the evening on the North Western side of Tortola in Cane Garden Bay. The bay was entered through a buoyed gap in the reef. Big swells came around the Northerly point causing waves to break on the reef. Anchor was dropped South of the mooring field. The reef did not dissipate the swells well enough causing quite steep swells to pass under Vagabund. A close by monohull on a mooring buoy were doing a 30 deg. starboard to 30 deg. port side dance every 10 second as a set of swells pass by, a break of a few minutes and then the same for the next set of waves. We lifted the anchor and picked up one of the last mooring balls in the Northern side of the bay.


Quitos Beach Bar provided our meal for the evening. Life music, happy hour discounted drinks and the decent food was rounded off with a beautiful sunset over the bay. The outing turned out to be on of our least expensive dinner outings in the BVI’s.

 Hodges Gas Station has a fuel dock next to the municipal dock. Unlike the marinas the gas and diesel is sold here at the national listed price .(BVI: $3,44 USD/gallon ~ R12/liter this is R1600 cheaper than what the marinas will charge for the 680 liter diesel required to fill up the tanks again.) There is a snag however. The fuel tenant insisted on us docking on his main dock. This brought us side way to the swells. At first it was not to bad and we started the fueling process. A few sets of swells rolled in that battered Vagabund against the dock causing one of our smaller fenders to burst. Fortunately no further damage was encountered. We skipped the petrol and water top up and departed the dock as soon as possible.

We will not refuel here again if it is not dead calm and if we cannot dock stern to the opening in the reef.

Brewer’s Bay

3rd February to 4th February 2017


It has been posted as “off-limits” anchorage by many charter companies due to badly chartered maps, a North-South coral reef splitting the bay in two and underwater cables on the Eastern side of the bay. Overcoming the additional risk with caution is rewarded with a well-protected peaceful anchorage away from the traveling circus of the chartering fleets.  Mostly cruisers and professional skippered boats will be found in this anchorage.


Just behind the shoreline lie the ruins of this 18th century Sugar Mill and Rum Distillery. The name Brewers Bay originated from this once busy facility. It was abandoned sometime in the 20th century. A coconut palm canopy has replaced the distillery roof and the undergrowth has sprung up through the floor.


A 45-minute walk East up a steep winding paved road leads up to Mount Healthy were we you will find the ruin of Tortola’s only remaining windmill.

All sugar plantations had to have a mill where the canes were crushed. Most of the mills on Tortola were animal powered but Mt. Health’s mill strength was to come from the wind. The windmill received its power from four long rudder- like arms turning in the wind. When the rudders turned, they powered the mechanism, a central shaft, which rotated the large rollers, crushing the cane through large iron rollers and squeezing out the cane juice. After the collapse of the sugar economy in the early nineteenth century the windmill fell into disuse and became a ruin. It crushed cane for the sugar mill and rum distillery in nearby Brewer's Bay.”


The well-preserved ruins are surrounded with a beautiful garden.


The road next to the beach is under huge trees forming a canopy.


Vagabund from the beach at sunset.

Nanny Cay Marina

6th February to 8th February 2017


One of the only outstanding repair items on Vagabund was the reprogramming of the Mastervolt charger/inverter to interface with all the main electrical components. Being able to do it here in the BVI’s saved us a trip to Fort Lauderdale. We found a Master Volt dealer in Nanny Cay Marina.

The Nanny Cay Marina has been voted the best marina in the Caribbean for the last four consecutive years. It offers lots of cruiser amenities: Groceries, Budget Marine chandelier, Yamaha dealer, Raymarine and Master Volt dealerships, Laundromat, rigger shop and various others.


The beach bar with a swimming pool


Small shops on the boardwalk


The marina has 300 plus berths and is most of the season full. We managed to get a berth for Vagabund only on our second attempt.


Vagabund on pier C13 and C15. Our Mastervolt could be programmed by Cay electronics.


Time to upgrade our dinghy. Good buy old trusted friend.


Hallo to our new jacked up dinghy! Dinghy2 is a 11 foot aluminum rib with a new 30hP two stroke Yamaha. Our captain could not wait to take her for a test drive. The first 50 min only idling speed was clearly a challenge for my hubby’s eagerness to evaluate the performance capability of Dinghy2. That same afternoon I had to keep him company as we were idling up and down in the marina checking out every one like a patrol car.