Rhone Photo GalleryA section of the stern. Photograph by Jeff Yonover.
We wake pretty early and Dusty makes eggs benedict for breakfast; soon afterward, Andy and Dusty pull up My Ann's anchor and we set sail for Cooper Island Resort Marina, where we'll be picked up by Sail Caribbean Divers and make a two-tank dive on the Rhone. Though summertime is the low season in the BVI, Sail Caribbean is rocking, as it runs teen summer camps, including a sailing and diving camp. We see a lot of the kids on various vessels throughout the week and it looks like they're having a complete blast.
But back to the Rhone. The RMS Rhone was a royal mail steam packet ship that transported cargo between England, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. She was one of the first iron-hulled ships, powered by both sail and steam. She was wrecked off the coast of Salt Island on October 29, 1867, during a fierce hurricane with the loss of approximately 123 lives. Her bow section is still relatively intact, and although the wooden decks have rotted away, she still provides an excellent swim-through for divers. Her entire iron hull is encrusted with corals and overrun by fishes (and a local barracuda named Fang who likes to hang out under the bowsprit.), and the cracks and crevices of her wreckage provide excellent habitats for lots of marine life. As every dive briefing mentions, the Rhone was featured in the 1977 film The Deep, including a scene of Jacqueline Bisset diving in a T-shirt. Some of you may remember the scene; some of you may want to rent it to see it.
You can swim through the bow as there are numerous openings and it's not an overhead environment. We find tons of sergeant majors and squirrelfish, plus colorful corals and sponges. There is a full set of wrenches, still visible on the deep part (each wrench being about 4 feet long and weighing over 100 pounds, a few brass portholes and even a silver teaspoon said to be the captain's teaspoon. The lifeboat davits look like giant hooks lying on the seafloor. The large wrenches (or spanners) are located in 55 feet of water. The wreck features the "lucky porthole," a brass porthole in the stern section that survived the storm intact and remains shiny because divers — including me — rub it for good luck. You can also spot some black and white tiles in the southern mid-section of the stern. They're pretty cool. Today, the wreck is extremely popular. Our group was alone in the water on the first dive on the bow section, but by the time we jumped in on the stern section, two more dive boats and a group of snorkelers aboard a dinghy had arrived. Party on the stern :) !!!
We spend the night at Mountain Point on Virgin Gorda where My Ann's boat captain Andy and Jeff slip into make a night dive. They're immediately tailed by a good-sized gang of tarpon. Dusty is busy making yet another fabulous dinner. This is our last night aboard the My Ann, so it's bittersweet. We're looking forward to exploring Tortola, but we've really loved the pampering we've received.
The rendezvous diving with Sail Caribbean Divers and the diving we've done from the yacht have just been fantastic. Our days have been relaxed with a lot of fun mixed in. And the meals! They've been worthy of a feature article in our sister magazine, Saveur.
For more on the British Virgin Islands, visit the BVI Tourist Board website.