BVI Day 9: Salt

Oh man, this is our last real day, and we don’t really have much sailing to go. Today none at all! We’re headed first to Salt Island and then on to Cooper Island for the night which gives us a good point to leave from for the next morning when we return the boat. We’re all joking that we just need to ask for an extension, it’s fine, we’ll keep going for a few more weeks.

Jenn and I are up early per usual and I want to go ashore and see Peter. It doesn’t seem right to be here and just see the bay, so we take the dinghy and head out.

Along the way I’m admiring a boat that looks a lot like a mini6.50 Transat boat and the guy waves us over. He needs a ride to shore, and I’m happy to help, though I’m not sure his plan to get back to the boat. I get to ask a few questions like about his boat which is not part of of the mini Transat but a similar though different class. He didn’t race the boat, he and one other are sailing it from here back to Europe and Poland. It’s a tough job crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a boat that is only 22ft long even if it has a windvang autopilot, but getting to stay in cool places like this must help.

We know the isthmus to the next bay over is small because we can see masts from where we’re moored.There is a path from the beach through the trees to the other side and from there we pop out in some posh resort and marina with some seriously large boats parked in this little harbor. We’re hoping to find some medicine for Jenn’s wounds but the little gift shop is all just high end souvenirs. We see a map of the island and it shows a little store icon and we follow it best we can around the corner but it looks like it’s probably just pointing to another gift shop in another part of the resort. This next bay over called Deadman’s Bay though was absolutely gorgeous with a single boat anchored. The protection wasn’t awesome, but with the current direction seemed fine if in shallow. Looking down at the one boat I think to myself, wait does that have daggerboards? That’s been the one thing we’ve had an easy time using to identify Einstein from the other boats. And then wait is that a Catana? Sure enough its a Catana 47, how cool.

We walked a bit further but Jenn started to have an allergic reaction to something and began itching horribly. Down by the water Jenn waded in to wash off her legs but it didn’t help for long. We found a bathroom and she wiped down her legs with clean water, but only a few minutes later she was back to itching horribly, so we walked as quickly as we could back to the dinghy. Back on the boat she washed off her legs and took a benadryl.

We had some breakfast and got the boat ready to move. We probably could have sailed today in retrospect, I misjudged the distances a bit, I thought we had 2 miles directly up wind to go, when it was closer to 4. Either way it’s not that far to go so no big deal, and we get to duck into Deadman’s Cove for a closer look. It doesn’t look as calm now as before, and certainly is a lot busier with 5 boats. In fact the area between islands is kicking up a pretty wicked little swell.

Salt Island doesn’t have any overnight anchorages and is pretty exposed. There are 2 draws of sorts to the island, the first are a pair of salt lakes one of which is dry, the second of which is the wreck of the RMS Rhone which has broken apart into 2 halves. We’re here for the wreck. The ship was lost during a hurricane in 1867 with nearly all hands and a load of passengers transferred from the RMS Conway which also sank in the same storm. It’s not known how many passengers were transferred from the RMS Conway, but at least 125 people died in the tragedy. Jenn finds wreck diving a morbid sort of dark tourism, and doesn’t want to participate, but wrecks form amazing artificial reefs over time. The loss has resulted in an explosion of growth.

Rob and I suit up with fresh tanks. My reading of our dive guide book shows a set of National Parks moorings just inshore of the bow section of the ship in about 70ft of water. We’re moored in about 30 ft which matches what the map says. The stern section by my reading should be a bit to the south in about 15-30ft of water with some sections deeper. Our plan is to drop in at our mooring, head south and dive the shallow stern section. I set my compass once we’re in the water and we drop down. We’re following our path with a slight counter current for quite a while over a bland sandy bottom with a few coral clumps, and Rob and I are looking at each other going “where is it?” then I start to see a couple straight lines that aren’t natural and make out the dark silhouette of the wreck. The wreck deeper than I expected to find the thing, and then it becomes clear to me I’m looking at the bow section, and our mooring must have been north off the map of our dive guide book. The deepest we end up as 75′ down, and we make a full circumnavigation of the bow section which is encrusted with coral, and filled with fish. At the different openings there are a couple schools of small fish. There are a few spots you could potentially swim into the wreck, but I just peer in. All of our swimming and the added depth means we don’t have that much bottom time to explore, but honestly there isn’t that much to the bow section so I’m satisfied when Rob and I have to head to shallower waters and then swim back our reciprocal course back to the boat. I love how easy it is to pick out Einstein from underwater with those daggerboards. We have a pretty big barracuda just chilling under us, they creep me out with their mouths always a little agape.

Rob and I had a great dive and still want to see the stern section. Since the girls aren’t diving that means we have 2 full tanks still to use, so we change our tanks over, have a great lunch, take some antacids and wait out our surface interval. We timed this well, we should be out of the water about 25 hours before Jenn and I have to board a plane.

For our second dive I figure the stern section must be out at this rocky point where there are some dinghy moorings, so we plan to put on our gear in the dinghy and enter from there. Pam comes along to snorkel the wreck, we’re much more confident we’ll find it this time. Sure enough you can see it from the dinghy. Pam goes in first while we gear up for round two, when she’s had her fill she’s going to swim back to Einstein. This mooring is less protected than our boat so we’re moving around a fair bit and I almost make an unplanned entry trying to get my last fin on.

Right away we’re over the stern section and we drop down almost right on the rudder and propeller. If its possible, the stern is even more vital than the bow. We see probably the largest angelfish I’ve ever seen, and large schools of fish. The stern is broken up into even more sections than the bow with parts of the boiler and the entire gearbox separating. We still end up deep, down to about 80 feet to see the gearbox. And this time I’m less ok with running out of bottom time as there are still more things to see. I wish I had time to take more detailed look around.

It’s harder getting in the dinghy than out, but the fins help. We pull all our gear in from there. Of course the end cap off the tank that keeps it from banging on things when you set it down came off being dragged into the dinghy. I don’t feel like putting back on the gear so I just free dive the 25 feet or so down to it.

Back on the boat its time to move again, on to Cooper and Manchioneel Bay which is just barely protected from anything north. It’s a 20 minute motor. Only when we get there there aren’t any moorings available. We look around for possible places to anchor but its rather deep with little area, and we don’t have enough scope to anchor and have swing room. Frustrated we head a little further south to another possible anchorage called Hallovers Bay, only its deep too, and there is a lot of exposure, plus we had wanted to eat at the restaurant on Cooper, but good luck getting there from Hallovers Bay. Frustrated we decide we’ll just go all the way back to Peter for the night, but before we do, we’ll make another pass at Manchioneel and see if anything is open now. Right as we pass by we spot an open mooring, but we’re being beat to it by another boat, but wait, there is another empty one right next to it! Success! We swoop in, expertly pick up the second mooring which is nice and close to shore, and we’re set!

Jana raises the restaurant on the vhf and makes a reservation for us and we shower and head in a bit early to enjoy happy hour.

The bar and restaurant here is pretty and quite busy. I think just about every boat here is finishing up their trip here before continuing back in to Roadtown or Hodges Creek.  We all order drinks, and this bar has it’s own microbrew for which I’m excited to have their Bitter expecting something like a dark hoppy ale. Only what arrives isn’t hoppy at all. My favorite beers tend to be around 70-100 International Bitterness Units (seriously, it’s a real thing) but I’d be surprised if this was more than 30. I thought for sure I had the wrong beer so I asked the waiter and he took it to the bar and the tender said no, that is the Bitter, and asked if I wanted something else. I don’t normally do this, I stick with what I ordered, but this felt like false advertising so I exchanged it for something similar to a dirty banana and called it a day.

The food was pretty good, I got to have my last Roti of the trip, and the others enjoyed their meals. We noticed that all of the waiters were from the Philippines and somehow ended talking to each of them individually about where we went when visited. Turns out they’re a family from Batangas which we passed through on our way down to Mindoro, though we didn’t spend any time there. I think something began snacking on us, some kind of noseem because several of us, though me especially, started itching horribly, with my leg all red. I’ve never been allergic to anything in my life, so I honestly don’t think I was having an allergic reaction. And I haven’t had problems with salt irritation much before, but to be sure I wiped my legs down in the bathroom, but the itching just started right back up again. I was seriously anxious to get on out of there and back to the boat.

On Einstein I re-showered down my legs and then took a benadryl and things calmed down.

Tomorrow we have to be back as early as we can be to the harbor, there is going to be some time taken up by checking the boat back in, and we have to get on a ferry back to St. Thomas and the USVI by at least noon for our 2:30 flight I figure. So tonight we start packing our bags and getting everything sorted out since tomorrow about as soon as Rob, Greg and I are up, we’re dropping the mooring and headed off. We should have a good sail with a close reach all the way in.

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