A chat with Sandra in her office at the Mongoose Apartments (home of the best library on the island!) as to how we get to some of the snorkelling sites offshore came up with a day sail on the White Squall II as a good way to avoid the crowds! Sandra called them and checked if they could cope with a "one armed" visitor and they assured us they could, so off we went and had the most wonderful day.
We arrived and met Captain Chris and his helper Kate, who is a qualified dive instructor and who was going to accompany anyone that wanted to go snorkelling, and walked along the deck of this 80 ft schooner to meet the other TWO passengers - that's right, just the four of us! (altogether now - we're so lucky lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky !) Their website is:
We set off after the H&S briefing, and Captain Chris explained that the winds and seas were up much stronger than the weather brief had indicated, so we would have to motor across to our destination as well as sails. He also made a call to the weather "office" to let them know that it looked very different from their predictions! (Little did we know that this was the start of sub-tropical storm Olga !)
As it was so rough, it was not possible to stop at "The Indians", four large pinnacles extending 90ft from the seabed, which form natural canyon playgrounds. Our first stop instead was at Norman Island, immortalized in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”, where we anchored in a sheltered bay.
We are here !View Larger Map
Ron and the other two passengers took off to go snorkelling with Kate, and I stayed on board with Captain Chris, who very kindly kept me entertained with great stories about sailing in the Caribbean, how he has to sail the ship into sheltered harbour and then lash everything down and himself to the wheel and ride out the hurricanes, and all the inside scoop on the "Google" founder's wedding that was happening that weekend on Necker Island. (Chris predicted the storm would hit on the wedding day - sadly this proved to be true, though I doubt it made much difference to the happy couple on their private island!)
Interestingly everyone else thought the water cold, that day. But Ron was acclimatised and the underwater sights warmed him. There were a good selection of fish, corals and plants to view. Ron got excited about seeing a jellyfish when we'd been warned about a particular visitor that was a bit vicious - but it turned put to be a harmless critter.
Apart from that Ron swam into the caves that shimmer with a pastel coating of orange cup coral and red covering sponge and where pirates’ treasure was last found in 1800's, and reputed to have been Blackbeard's hiding place for treasure - exciting! Schools of friendly yellow tails, blue tangs and sergeant majors followed us into the caves.
Finally the snorkellers came back on board, and we sailed off to Pirates Bight, where we found the "Willy T" which was to be our venue for lunch ! It is a floating bar set in an old Baltic trading boat, one of the 'must-sees' of a trip to the Virgin Islands. The 'new' Willy T (now some 6 years old) doesn't quite have the same charm as the original, but it's cleaner and more spacious. You can see info here at http://www.williamthornton.com
Heidi was assisted over the rail and down a ladder into the dinghy, so she didn't miss out, the grilled tuna and mahi mahi were well worth the effort.
After lunch, the three snorkellers were dropped on the beach and enjoyed a further half hour exploring the shoals of tiny fish around the bay. There was an underwater garden of sea fans, sponges, parrotfish, wrasse, elk horn and brain corals to ooh and ahh at.
Finally it was time for rum punch and a motor back across the open water to Road Town, with only the storm sail up. The weather was coming in, and we could sea ahead of us a rain squall had hit the island and was crossing Road Town ahead of us. We took our time getting in so that we could miss it!
As we bid Captain Chris and Kate (and the White Squall II of course) goodbye, full of great sea air and tired from our exciting day, we promised to come back and go out with them again next time we visit Tortola...