Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jost Van Dyke, BVI (again)

[Kyle]We finally left the Cane Garden Bay anchorage just before noon for the short sail to my secret anchorage on the uninhabited North Side of Jost Van Dyke (remember: pronounced Yost Van Dike). This particular anchorage is not mentioned in any of our guidebooks, and the only indication we had was one chart that labeled it as “anchorage”. We’d sailed around Jost Van Dyke on a previous trip and it seemed to be well protected and completely deserted. I was looking forward to some time away from the crowds.

Once we got there, however, we found it to be completely untenable as an anchorage – the one small patch of sand in the middle of the anchorage was very deep and was so small that there was no way we could lay out enough chain without damaging the adjacent coral. With sunset approaching and knowing we had limited time/options, we headed to the next cove – the same situation. Then the next cove, our 3rd cove, had just a large enough patch of sand in deep water to securely anchor and stretch the rode out entirely over sand so as not to disturb the fragile coral. It took a great deal of care to get the anchor to touch bottom in exactly the spot we wanted while trying to maneuver the boat above in gusty winds. Eventually we were happily anchored, confirmed with a quick snorkel trip to verify. Footprint hovered just over the edge of coral shelf below.

Sunset off Jost Van Dyke

Maryanne and I were so wound up from our anchoring ordeal that we stayed up well into the night chatting in the cockpit. Once it got really dark we noticed some interesting bioluminescence of the side of the boat – strange patterns of flashing and swirling. Maryanne thought it might be squid or cuttlefish but I wasn’t sure. A north swell rolled in and we had an uncomfortable rolly night; I was beginning to question my anchorage choice, but we were not going to move until at least the next day.

Our 2nd day on the North side of Jost Van Dyke, I got it into my head over morning coffee that I was going to scramble my way up through the bushes to the top of the hill and get a picture of Footprint below. Maryanne took one look at the hill and decided to stay aboard and read for the day. I decided I’d get to the beach by swimming to shore with my shoes/equipment in a dry bag. Maryanne was kind enough to accompany me on the long swim to the beach and ensure I got off safely, and then she would return to the boat and monitored the radio (she insisted I had the hand held just in case I needed help). Once we got in the water, we were delighted to find swimming under the boat a group of about 3 dozen little squid.

Resident Squid family stays with Footprint in Jost Van Dyke

Maryanne and I both love squid as cute and amazing animals, they are very intelligent and have a sophisticated means of communication with their flashing multicolor light shows. From observing them for some time, it also seemed that they use their tentacles for conveying expressions; everything from stretching them out to the sides to curling them back over their head like a pompadour (hair style), to the most common which was the bushy mustache look where the tentacles just hang down. I could have spent hours hovering nearby watching them, but I was on a mission to get to the beach.

The landing on the beach was especially treacherous; it was coral almost all the way with the last bit being fist sized cobbles. Maryanne landed first and I’d just managed to get a hand on the rocks and pull myself above the water when I got hit by a succession of waves that threw me further up the beach. I was already not looking forward to reversing the journey to return to the boat. I was very worried about Maryanne, but she seemed to get back in the water and to the boat safely while I started climbing. Maryanne was skeptical about my ambitions to climb, but I assured her that there must be at least goat paths that would get me up there, she gave me one of those Maryanne looks and said something like “you know how tall a goat is, don’t you?”. The scramble almost immediately seemed like a bad idea. The hill was very steep and out of the wind was very hot. Half the plants were bushes with thorns, and the other half were cactus. I would occasionally reach out to grab at something to prevent myself from sliding down, only to end up with a handful of needles. I did eventually make it to the top, however, and was rewarded with 2 things: the first was broad views of the surrounding islands including lonely Footprint below, and the 2nd was a dirt road.

View of Footprint from Kyle's hike in Jost Van Dyke

I radioed Maryanne that I’d be a little while and I decided to see where the road led (at least as far as the next hill). It was a searing hot walk in the midday tropical sun, but I was rewarded at the top of the next hill with long sweeping views of the entire Virgin Islands – well worth the hike I thought. I was able to find my way back to the beach without falling off anything and then only had to get back through the surf and on to the boat.

Before I’d left for the hike, Maryanne had coached me on how to time the waves to get off the beach without getting beat up, and it worked beautifully. Thank you darling. Once I got back to the boat, I was happy to find our resident squid were still there. Even though I was exhausted and dehydrated, I was dying to get back in the water and start to explore the coral and play with the squid. I came aboard, drank half a gallon of fluid and was right back in the water. Maryanne was still engrossed in her book, so I went off to explore alone. The bay was filled with coral and fishes of all types. As I swam towards the edge of the bay, I went over steep peaks and valleys of coral teeming with fish. On the south side of the bay, I was swimming around some of the huge boulders at the base of the cliffs when a 6 foot nurse shark came gliding out of a hole towards me. She was much bigger than anything else around and certainly got my attention, although not acting in any aggressive way. She seemed to be patrolling the caves and trenches in slow lazy circles. At a couple of points she swam about 2’ beneath me. The skin was beautiful; orange fins and a metallic purple body. I decided I had enough adventure for the day and started to swim back to the boat, only to be shadowed by the shark (a little unnerving). I swam back to the boat to get Maryanne, and found the squid still there, hovering in the shadow of Footprint. I convinced Maryanne to come with me to the cliff wall and see the shark. We never did find her again, but Maryanne did spot a spiny lobster, sea turtles and lots of really large fish. The sun was setting, and we headed back to the boat and spent the last 15 minutes enjoying our resident squid before dinner in the cockpit. The swell had died down and the anchorage much more comfortable so we had a very comfortable night, just us (and the squid) in our own private world.

1 comment:

kate said...

I admire you guys so much for being so careful of the coral and all other creatures in the ocean - hooray for you and the lovely example you set! And I now need to rethink my idea of squid, thanks to your descriptions of their "expressions." Kyle, was it mere coincidence that the sentence "I decided I'd had enough adventure for the day" immediately followed your spotting the nurse shark? No. I'm sure not.