Part 4 of 7: Finding a paradise at Hogsty Reef (USVI to North Carolina Trip)

Our trip from Provo, Caicos to Hogsty Reef was okay. After we left my stomach didn’t feel too well – probably from all the fried pub food we had the day before! On top of having a sickly tummy the swell and the angle of the wind caused me to feel green (again).

 

The full run down about our trip to Hogsty Reef, our discoveries and much more is laid out below and at the end you’ll find the video I made. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s possible to capture the amazing beauty in a video but I did my best!

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Around 8pm I went down to our bed without eating any dinner to try and sleep off my various ailments

It was a loud night filled with very disturbed sleep. At first I blamed the sound of the main sail banging as it bobbed with the swell and then bounced back when the wind filled it. Even though we had a preventer, or rope attached to the boom to stop it from swinging, there was still enough motion in the boom to cause a loud crashing noise.

Then a squall hit while Kyle was on watch

Simon and I listened to the wind increase, the boat speed pick-up and various noises in the cockpit. Kyle’s first reaction was to spill some of the 40 mph gusts of wind off the main. He then furled in the front sail. Simon joined him to help out and then both Simon and I slept in the saloon to be available if Kyle needed us quickly.

Hours later closer to dawn we hit another squall – this one was much larger and longer

Filled with lightening and thunder the seas were very rough and the wind was terribly gusty. Thankfully the swell was slight so we weren’t tossed all over the place. Simon and Kyle put a reef in the main and weathered the storm. (To understand what reefing means, watch Rigging, Sails and Reefing our Oyster 56′)

By 9am the storm was gone and by 10am we were anchored in Hogsty Reef

Hogsty Reef

Upon sailing along the reef the first thing we noted was a shipwreck, then we noticed another and after that we saw a small patch of land with a tiny structure on it looking like a small lighthouse.

Our plan was to sail along the north side of the reef and then enter on the north west corner at its deepest point.

While waiting to get to our destination we put two fishing poles in the water

Within ten minutes the first pole went reeling away. We all jumped up and Kyle started reeling it in. Whatever took the bait literally took the bait. When we reeled in the line the hook was completely missing.

The next line then went and whatever took the line seemed to be in a hurry!

Simon reeled for quite some time. When he first started he reported quite a fight going on but after a while the fish seemed to be lighter. By the time we saw the fish we noted that it was skipping along the top. ‘What the heck,’ we all thought?

When Simon pulled up the line all we had was the head of a Tuna

Hogsty Reef

We presume that a shark must have eaten our dinner.

Ten minutes later the line went again but this time it was only a tiny little tiddler. At least we managed to get a whole fish into the boat! We threw the tiddler back and prepared to anchor the boat.

When entering the reef we couldn’t believe the clearness of the water and the absolutely stunning colors. Talk about 50 shades of blue and green! Visibility was remarkable.

Surveying the ocean floor we noted loads of sand with patches of grass and coral

Hogsty Reef

Kyle and I dropped the anchor in 8 meters of sand and let out 40 meters of chain. The anchor dug in quickly and Simon jumped in to check the anchor. Kyle and I had one concern – there was a dark patch that we were liable to swing over and we didn’t want the chain to hit it if it was coral.

Simon looked at the anchor and gave a thumbs up. He yelled out, ‘it’s dug in perfectly.’ Then he surveyed the surrounding ocean bed and noted that the boat was over grassy patches.

Any small coral patches were behind the boat

We all quickly cleaned up the boat. The sail cover was back on in no time and our small messes were dealt with. Within twenty minutes all four of us were in the water checking out our surroundings.

The first thing we noted was the abundance of starfish under the boat. There was loads of white sand and these dark stars dotted all over the place. Interestingly, by the time we left the following day they were all gone.

Around the boat there were small patches of coral teaming with loads of little fish

The colors of the coral and the fish were outstanding. There were deep reds, bright yellows and blue-black’s that made my eye’s smile. The four of us where giddy with excitement.

We then ran into two good sized barracuda’s

They seemed to be just as interested in us as we were in them. When they weren’t playing around with each other they were following us to see what we were doing!

Sienna explained that she saw a jellyfish and started swimming back to the boat. I didn’t believe her as she’s made similar comments before and there was no sign of the stinging fish.

Low and behold, right in front of me I could see three lovely transparent box-looking jellyfish

I assumed that when I saw a jellyfish I’d get out of the water. For some reason, I didn’t freak out. I was so enthusiastic about the coral and life in the sea that I decided to simply swim away from the stingy inhabitants.

At first it was hard to focus right in front of my nose and then down on the coral but it worked. Interestingly we all got stung quite a bit but I don’t think it was from a full-blown jellyfish. Perhaps there’s jellyfish particles in the sea?! The stings were not too bad. Every time I felt one I just wiped it off and carried on. When we returned to the boat none of us had any marks so it really wasn’t too bad.

Like a drug, the coral beckoned us to view more

We ended up quite a distance from the boat so Simon swam back to get the dingy. We then took our gear to the patch of sandy land nearest to the boat. We hauled the dingy up the sandy beach and we were all in awe by the lack of anything on it!

There was sand and then a higher patch of sand – perhaps more compact? And then there was a single structure to house a light that no longer works.

Hogsty Reef

A rainbow at Hogsty Reef

On top of the compact sand there were hundreds of birds

The inhabitants didn’t seem very thrilled by our appearance so we kept well away from them. Several birds were on the sand and looked like they might have been sitting on eggs so we stayed on the further end of the island.

Simon and Kyle put on their snorkels and headed over to the shipwreck located at the entrance of the reef. Sienna and I followed. Again, we had a wonderful snorkelling experience. The wreck was very visible and once again there was an abundance of all sorts of colorful fish. Simon found the engine and we all gathered around to check it out. There were no jellyfish or stings so that was great.

All of us feeling a bit exhausted clambered back into the dingy and headed back to the boat

Simon saw a stingray so jumped back in. Kyle followed. I took the dingy back to the boat with Sienna and decided to have some girlie time.

Sienna and I ate lunch, I painted her fingernails and we played some games together.

While us girlies were doing our own thing, Simon and Kyle took the dingy to the see a shipwrecked Liberty Boat made in the 40’s that ran aground in the 60’s. It was 2.7 miles away from Britican so it gave Sienna and I some good alone time.

While Simon and Kyle were gone I couldn’t help but wonder what I’d do if both of them were eaten by a shark! I know it’s a terrible thing to think but what would I have done?! Sail the boat to Cuba? Carry on with just Sienna and I to Florida?!

Perhaps I should stop reading thriller books during my night watch!

Sim and Kyle came back. I was very happy to see the dingy speeding over to Britican. They both recited all the fish they saw and explained that the wreck was very interesting to snorkel around.

Feeling tired everyone took a nap. Kyle and I crashed out in the cockpit listening to laidback house music, Sienna was in her bedroom and Simon was in the aft berth completely passed out.

Hogsty Reef

Here’s what the reef looks like on our plotter

Around 5pm I woke everyone up

We cleaned up and prepared for dinner. The plan was to take the dingy over to the sand patch to have a BBQ but our light was fading fast. A storm was on the horizon and we couldn’t determine how fast it was moving.

Just before we started preparing for dinner, we were all sitting in the cockpit chatting. And then we all got a feeling that something wasn’t right.

It wasn’t a feeling that a shark was around or that the storm was imminent. We all instantly heard a noise that didn’t jell with our surroundings. Being 40 miles from any land, off the beaten path, with no one around we all noticed an engine.

Was it another boat? Could it be a plane?

Suddenly on our horizon off the beam of the boat we noticed a very low flying helicopter heading straight for us. Instantly I thought it could be the US Coast Guard…and I hope it’s not because my mom has been watching our track and thinks we’re marooned.

Sure enough, it was the US Coast Guard. I have no idea why they have a presence in the area?! The helicopter circled us and I noted an external camera that looked like it was filming us.

We all smiled and then the helicopter made a larger circle around the whole reef and was gone

For a few seconds I felt angry. I thought, ‘how the heck is it possible that we’re finally in the most remote place EVER and we get a visitor?!’

I got over it quickly as my stomach started to rumble and that always helps to change my focus.

Simon pulled out our Cobb grill. Kyle pealed some potatoes and chopped up some corn on the cob. We grilled the potatoes, corn and a few steaks. The meal was delicious. And what made the whole night truly spectacular was a bright rainbow set to a black sky to our bow and a truly amazing sunset off our aft. All of us couldn’t stop commenting about how beautiful our surroundings were.

And then it happened…

We all watched the very last bit of the sun go down and all four of us witnessed the green flash.

Hogsty Reef

The first I heard of the green flash was when we crossed that Atlantic. Our crewmember, Murray, said that he’d like to see it during the crossing. When I asked what it was, Murray explained, ‘Just as the sun dips down below the horizon, if you’re on the sea and there’s no clouds it can produce a green flash.’

At first I thought Murray was joking but over the course of the summer I met several people saying they saw the flash.

Night after night I kept my eye out for the supposed green flare and never saw a thing

At Hogstay Reef I mentioned the flash and explained if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in the next few seconds. We all waited and watched and low and behold, we all saw a green hue just as the last bit of sun dropped below the horizon.

It was anti-climatic. Heck – I thought a beam of green light was going to spread out across the horizon and somehow blow me away with delight. Instead, I simply saw a bit of green as the sunset. I must have played it up in my head too much! Either that or what we saw wasn’t the real green flash.

Needless to say, I can now say I think I’ve seen it!

Overnight sleeping was slightly difficult. The swell was a bit too rough for my liking. Considering our surroundings it was worth living through it.

The next day we did some cleaning, attempted to fix our second alternator. For some reason the output reads that it’s good but somewhere along the wiring the electricity is not charging our battery bank. Unfortunately we had to run our generator instead.

Midmorning we all clambered carefully into the dingy. The swell caused the dingy to rise high above the sugar scoop and then dip down low.

Jumping from one boat to the other was a serious task

Hogsty Reef

We aimed the boat for a second patch of land about 2 miles from the boat. It was the only other part of land that can be seen running along the horseshoe reef. Half way across I noticed lightening and thunder and not knowing how fast the storm was coming we all decided to return to the coral nearest us. Sometimes storms move fast and the seas were getting very turbulent – especially for a small little dingy.

We anchored in sand along the reef closest to the light structure but still within the reef.

To say that the reef was extraordinary is an understatement

Having dived 50’ in the British Virgin Islands a week prior I could compare a typical deeper dive to the reef we could touch from the surface. The colors of the reef were amazing. The fish were abundant – we saw schools of 50 blue fish, 50 black fish… Tiny yellow, orange, purple and blue fish. The coral was just as colorful – if not more. I noted purple fans, yellow-orange brain and red coral that flowed in every direction.

There were little passageways for us to explore heading towards the coast

The coral fans were almost breaking on the surface but the passages went deep enough to swim around. Everywhere I looked there was color and life. I couldn’t help but humanize the fish thinking what they must be talking about with each other. When looking into crevices I’d find loads more fish – many peeping out to look us over.

Out over the deeper sandy patch we found a barracuda and one trigger fish just minding his business swimming slowly and deliberately.

I wanted to stay for hours but the seas increased in chop and the dark clouds were looming

Simon, Kyle, Sienna ungracefully pulled ourselves up into the dingy and headed back to Britican.

With dark clouds and no chance of any snorkeling left to do, we decided to say ‘goodbye’ to Hogsty Reef and start making our way along our longer passage to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We pulled up anchor around 2pm and started off with very little wind but enough to fill our sails.

Hogsty Reef

To my absolute delight I was happy to find that the swell died down and my slight seasickness completely disappeared. Woo Hoo!

We started off with our front sail poled out on one side and our main let out on the other side – this sail configuration is sometimes referred to as ‘wing on wing’.

The first evening after leaving Hogsty Reef was rather difficult due to a lack of wind. Nothing’s worse than having the main flapping and the boom banging.

We tried our best to change our direction to make the best of any wind we could get

Before bedtime the four of us played Uno as the sun set. It’s interesting to see the evenings get longer as we move north. I didn’t think it would be so drastic but in the British Virgin Islands it was pitch black when putting Sienna to bed at 8pm yet now it’s still light.

Due to the banging sails I had a terrible night’s sleep. At 2am I woke to do my watch and lucky for me Kyle came up at 4am – an hour too early. Doing a two hour watch is definitely better than three hours!

Unfortunately, however, Sienna woke at 4am and it took me until 5am to get her back to sleep. First we tried falling asleep in my bed, then moved to Sienna’s bed, so to stop waking Simon and in the end of the two of us finally passed out in the saloon. Usually Sienna sleeps perfectly fine – even in Force 10 storms.

It’s funny because it’s the actual lack of wind that’s been walking us up!

Below is the brief video I put together for Hogsty Reef. Make sure to sign up to my newsletter to ensure you get notification for part 5 when we sail from Hogsty Reef to Fort Lauderdale Florida: Newsletter Signup!

Hogsty Reef Video

 

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