03/04/2010, North Sound, Virgin Gorda
True to our vow of more exercise after all the calories of Anegada the steep hillsides of Virgin Gorda beckoned and Don and I exchanged our flips for sneakers and headed up...and up....and up. My calves were screaming but the view was fabulous and from the top we were able to see North Sound and the famed Saba Rock Yacht Club where Don had bought me a new hat. My fluorescent orange one had to go I guess.
Turn around and there was the deserted southeastern bay, fringed with a protective reef, the entrance traversable with local knowledge only. According to the locals there is a good hurricane hole in the far SE corner in the mangroves, good to know just in case.
03/01/2010, Anegada, British Virgin Islands
Don and I wanted to explore more of this pristine corol island so different from the rest of the island chain with its majestic high mountains and cooling breezes. We spied bicycles for rent at a small bar near the main dock and this year we decided to leave our bikes in storage so getting around is always a challenge but also part of the adventure. The island being only eleven miles across we thought..."no sweat" and we definitely could use the exercise! Later Don spotted scooters for rent on the main ferry dock all lined up and lonely, waiting for customers. As the temperature rose, the heat reflecting off the sand became blinding and multitudes of sweat being very much present, our plans quickly became more in tune with motorized transportation.
After a few inquiries and unanswered phone calls regarding the scooters it was determined that the small grocery store rented compact cars for the same price as a scooter. Cute little cars from China, big enough for two, four if you're friends, and probably available from your local WAL-Mart very soon is our prediction. We set out to circumnavigate the island and the paved road quickly became non-existent so our choice proved to be a wise one.
The day turned into a pub crawl and we started and ended at a fabulous spot at Cow Wreck Bay. A beach bar and restaurant on the north shore behind a reef, with beautiful sand, good rum, and great grouper sandwiches. This was an obvious destination spot as there were many tourists in cabanas already sipping away at 10 AM, backpackers, cruisers, locals.
Continuing on our journey to the next recommended stop Don and I took all the "off" roads we found along the way and accidentally visited the quarry and local land-fill, empty partialy completed villas and a few salt pond dead ends. We also spied the famed flock of flamingos that reside here on the salt ponds in the center of the island. Too far away for a good picture, but we did see them, the little, faint, pink dots.
Our next destination was the east side of the island to visit Flash of Beauty at Loblolly Bay, famed for its snorkeling and pristine beaches.
The east trades were blowing hard when we arrived and the reef sand swept with little visibility. After an aborted attempt at swimming we took a rest in the scarce shade and had a very wet rum instead. Only a few palm trees fringed the beach, the wind making any plant life struggle for survival. Under thatched umbrellas and LOTS of sunscreen, this spot was extremely picturesque and hard on the eyes without sunglasses.
02/27/2010, Anegada Island, BVI
Eleven short, flat miles north east of Virgin Gorda sits Anegada, the Drowned Island. A stark contrast to the volcanic mountainous terrain of the rest of the chain, Anegada is flat, dry, and only 28 feet above sea level at its highest point. Reminding us of the Bahamas, only a palm tree or two, scrub brush and cacti, and fringed by dangerous coral reefs and pristine waters. For some reason we had to listen to Iron Butterfly when we arrived...must be the name.
A main hub for the bareboat fleet there are five restaurants on the beach, all waiting for business. As deserted as Virgin Gorda, we were told the charter boat fleet wouldn't arrive until Monday, so we are enjoying the relative isolation. The Anegada Reef Hotel serves a decent Mahi burger, or Triggerfish if you prefer, fresh caught by this friendly local fisherman.
Or if you prefer you can come in for dinner and have fresh caught lobster grilled on a BBQ. We found this quite interesting as all the restaurants in the Virgin Islands offer fresh caught local lobster, and we have seen only two spiny lobsters the entire time we have been here. Where the secret stash is we have yet to find.
But no matter where you go, everyone knows how to make a painkiller!
02/24/2010, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
As two back to back cold fronts approached us, and the prevailing east winds moderating, Don and I decided to make a quick trip down to the French island of St. Martin for a few weeks before more company arrives in April. Most of our cruising friends have long since headed down island and as usual we are the last, we are slow moving and tend to stay in one place for awhile if we like it. A mere hundred miles, the sail to St. Martin can be a rough trip if the weather does not cooperate so the cold fronts moderating the conditions looked hopeful.
We left Red Hook, St. Thomas at daybreak, just as the ferry boats were warming up for their daily runs. This makes the convenient but rolly anchorage of Red Hook an easy place to provision from and then quickly make an escape. Hoping to sail and not motor the entire one hundred miles, we were extremely dismayed when the predicted 10-12 knot SW to W turned out to only be 3-4 knots and variable and then quickly turned NE to E, the direction we were heading, twelve hours earlier than forecasted! Alas such is the boating life, flexible and unpredictable. Don, still recovering from a rib injury, reinjured himself while wrestling with the sails and was grimacing in pain with each roll of the boat. This is always the time we ponder ROLLER FURLING...but it's not going to happen! We own twelve headsails, dont ask where they are all stored.
So, in the spirit of "Why are we doing this, delicious French bread and cheese, ....who needs it!" Don made a command decision and we pulled into Spanishtown, BVI to check in and spend some time in the beautiful British Virgin Islands instead. It's British so we know they have good beer. We had been here briefly over Christmas but didn't get to spend as much time as we usually like, exploring and enjoying for weeks...months...?
St. Martin will still be there whenever we get there, someday.
Settling into Virgin Gorda for a few days and watching the parade of charter boats come and go we spent a little time ashore at the Beach Bar at Vixen Point near the famous Bitter End Yacht Club. Columbus supposedly named the island Virgin Gorda as it resembles a fat woman lying on her back, it seems many stories about Columbus have to do with women. Sailors.....they are all alike! Ten miles long and with many high peaks, anything over 1000 feet is designated National Park land in order to preserve the natural beauty.
A beautiful spot perfect for a leisurely swim and a self-medicating rum and coke for Don, white sand and turquoise water. Yet deserted and rather lonely looking we thought, the down turn in the global economy definitely having an effect on these enchanted isles.
02/22/2010, Christmas Cove, USVI
For those of you who have been asking me about the Mola quilt, it's not finished but here is the latest. After a year in Panama and having bought enough molas to sink the boat, I am slowly but surely finishing up some craft projects that these beautiful textiles lend themselves to so well.
Molas are the national treasures of the Kuna Indians of the San Blas Islands of western Panama and the main income source for the Kuna Yala. Handmade, layered appliqués, these beautiful pieces of artwork start out as the front and back panels of the multicolored blouses worn by the women; they also keep the panels separate and sell them to visiting cruisers and tourists.
As soon as you drop anchor in any one of the hundreds of beautiful islands a dugout canoe will make its way to your boat with a wide selection of molas available for purchase. Stoic and harsh bargainers, these resourceful women are the main income producers of this matriarchal society. One of the last independent nations not seduced and conquered by modern civilization, the San Blas Islands remain one of our favorite places.
02/12/2010, St. Thomas, USVI
For two months Don and I have been in the USVI, going back and forth between beautiful, peaceful anchorages that afford us gorgeous sunsets, clear reef snorkeling and the hustle bustle of the busy cruise ship port of Charlotte Amalie, ST. Thomas. We were delighted to hear from our old cruising buddy Keith of s/v Scalawag who was looking for a break from the subzero temperatures of his home in Alberta, Canada. Lucky for us on his way to the boat show in Miami he decided to take a side trip down to the paradise of St.Thomas and spend a few warm days aboard the Starship along with his girlfriend Michelle. After some shopping in the duty free zone, a few tropical punches to get in the "island mood", and plenty of door pics, we headed out of the main harbor and sailed up to one of our favorite islands, St. John.
St. John is almost entirely a national park with mooring balls set in all the anchorages to protect the coral from boaters. From here you can see the adjacent islands of the British Virgin Islands, a mere two to three miles away. We took the hike to the Annaburg Sugar Mill, ruins of a colonial sugar cane plantation restored by the National Park Service. With an unobstructed view of the island of Tortola, BVI and Drake's Channel full of sailboats, this made for an interesting and beautiful side trip.
As always the clear warm water treated us to many spectacular reef fish encounters, a few hawksbill and loggerhead turtles, and a school of huge tarpon that swam by us at a leisurely pace, on their way to somewhere in the deep blue. Michelle had never snorkeled before so it was quite entertaining to watch someone try to breathe thru their snorkel and giggle at the same time. Don and I are always glad to have company, especially when they bring us boat parts and chocolate, and Keith as always came thru!