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Captain’s Log: Sailing and Snorkeling

Captains log Go Sail Virgin islands

sailing and snorkeling

This week’s Captain’s Log is an adventure of sailing and snorkeling from Flamingo Bay to Hawksnest Bay. Along the way, the group sees a variety of amazing USVI flora and fauna and completes a variety of ASA courses. Ready to follow along on the latest Go Sail Virgin Islands adventure? Let’s set sail! 

The Basics

It’s a beautiful January morning and we are ready to set sail aboard Sweet and Salty. The three students aboard are novice boaters and all friends. Here’s the basics about the trip:

The boat: An FP Isla 40 Catamaran

Crew: Captain JT, ASA instructor

ASA Students: Michael, Kate, and Josh  

Courses Completed: ASA 103 (Basic Coastal Cruising), ASA 104 (Bareboat Cruising), ASA 114 (Cruising Catamaran) 

Day 1: Getting to Know Each Other

Before the journey begins, let’s get to know the students. Michael, Kate, and Josh are all excited to be aboard and share with the Captain the fact that they are vegan and vegetarian. Not a problem— Go Sail Virgin Islands is able to accommodate! Captain Jalil purchases extra provisions and the group plans to dine onboard more often than ashore, as it will be easier to accommodate their dietary needs this way.

Day 2: Setting Sail

All aboard! The group casts off in the early afternoon. The sun is shining and Captain Jalil orients the students to the boat. They discuss sailing terminology, systems, and safety equipment as we go. The students end the day full of new knowledge and excited to continue their journey with Go Sail Virgin Islands. 

Day 3: The Beauty of the USVI

The students spend the morning getting comfortable with maneuvering under power as they work their way to Flamingo Bay. Later in the day, the students are able to get acquainted with some of the USVI’s beautiful, natural residents. They see sea urchins, brittle stars, arrowhead crabs, porcupine fish, and an enormous barracuda while snorkeling in the shallows. 

In the afternoon, the students work on point-of-sail drills until arriving in Sprat Bay. Captain Jalil has a nature walk planned before dinner so students can experience USVI’s stunning on-land ecosystems as well. On the walk the students are able to collect some sea purslane to add to their salad for dinner. The salad is complimented by a delicious Rasta lentil stew!

Day 4: Sailing Safety and Shipwrecks 

Day 4 of our Go Sail Virgin Islands trip is all about safety. Jalil introduces the students to procedures like MOB (Man Overboard), distress calling/signaling, VHF radio operation, and what to do when a rope or line gets stuck in your propeller (line in prop procedure). They also go over heaving-to (stopping the sailboat’s forward progression) and some charting skills, like plotting waypoints and finding heading to steer by.

After the lesson, the group heads to Buck Island and practices tacking drills along the way. Now it’s time for some fun! We take a snorkeling trip to a shipwreck and are welcomed to the area by a spotted eel.

In the afternoon, the students practice motor sailing and more MOB drills until anchoring in Secret Harbor about an hour before sunset. The group enjoys a vegetarian dinner at Sunset Grill and prepares for the day ahead.

Day 5: Working with Wind

On day 5, the students are ready for reefing. Reefing involves the sequences of sailing combinations to increase wind strength and get the most out of a catamaran’s performance. The students also increase their knowledge of navigation with hand bearings and waypoints as well as learning about tides and knots.

In the afternoon the group snorkels the canyons around the Cow & Calf. They find a giant school of Horse Eye Jacks! By afternoon, they’ve cast off again and proceed under power through a current cut. They continue reefing practice in Pillsbury Sound before picking up mooring at Henley Cay for the night.

Day 6: A Whale of a Day

The students have made it to the last day of class! Captain Jalil goes over chart plotting, fuel/ETA calculations, and more knots. Additionally, the students learn about dead reckoning (DR). This is a position used in sailing to estimate your boat’s position without taking into account other factors affecting the position of the boat (such as tidal stream, current, and wind). 

They cast off to practice tacking drills with a 1-reefed main and a 2-reefed jib. By afternoon they’ve passed through the cut between Thatch Island and Torola.

It’s then that the students begin spotting whales just south of Flannagan Island! It’s the perfect end to the last day of class. They celebrate by mooring in Salt Pond Bay and feasting on Greek chickpea stew for dinner. The students even happen to see some stingrays during their afternoon snorkeling session!

Day 7: The Last Day

While the students are done with class, there is more practice in store! Captain Jalil asks the students to practice downwind sailing with a 1-reefed main and a full jib until arriving at Benner Bay. There, the students enjoy snorkeling with the parrotfish before they are off again to Hawksnest Bay. Together, everyone snorkels with Hawksbill turtles, eat a delicious pasta dinner, and gets ready to say their goodbyes to a wonder Go Sail Virgin Islands adventure.