03/31/2010, British Virgin Islands
The Starship has returned to the US Virgin Islands for a few days to do some much needed reprovisioning, laundry, water refill, and other general housekeeping duties that are difficult to do in the picturesque but expensive British Virgin Islands. We are expecting back to back company visits from family and friends so it is well worth the public transit system of two dollars to the center of the island and a reasonably affordable market. The open safari trucks that are used as people movers provide not only natural air-conditioning but unlimited views of the beautiful scenery and local island life. Roadside lunch trucks with their delicious aromas of ribs and peas and rice, resident domino players occupying any available shade, and children neatly uniformed in bright pink plaid traveling to and from school, all delightful glimpses of the interior life away from the economically necessary tourist resorts and cruise ships.
Don's son Shawn from Lake Tahoe surprised us with a last minute visit before the spring semester, and after a few last minute shopping trips (more beer!) we headed back to Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. Shawn wanted to try out kite-boarding while he was here and the trade winds were not cooperating. Instead of blowing the usual 15-18 knots out of the east the mosquitoes were enjoying the easy 8-10 knot ride out across the water and into our hatches. Kite-boarding we were told requires steady trade winds and the weatherman promised it would be coming in a few days so we took a leisurely motor sail thru the islands back up to Virgin Gorda, sampling beaches and cool water along the way.
Virgin Gorda is a major kite-boarding mecca for the British Virgin Islands due to its relatively shallow east facing sound completely protected by reef from the ocean swells. At the Bitter End Yacht Club Shawn met up with a local instructor and secured some lessons for the next morning when supposedly the wind would be blowing. After two days of barely rideable winds, one broken down chase boat, and a very pink tan Shawn finally rode the wind successfully and I fear will now have a new expensive hobby. Back in Lake Tahoe a wetsuit is mandatory for kite-riders and Shawn emphatically states he will be visiting us again this summer!
03/15/2010, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
Nearing the end of our visas Don and I stopped in White Bay, Guana Island for the night. Private and deserted we had only this mega sailing yacht for company. Possibly our next boat in our next life? As we headed to the island of Jost Van Dyke we passed a small fishing boat headed out to sea with a load of empty lobster traps. No wonder our lobster hunts have been so unsuccessful. Must go deeper!
Jost Van Dyke is one of our favorite islands, dry and arid, a combination of mangroves and cactus, numerous birds, and bugs of course. It seems where there are mangroves and birds there are always bugs. Goat is on the menu at Foxy's Taboo on the beach along with hamburgers and hand thrown pizza. We would have opted for the goat as we know they are wild and hormone free, we can hear them every morning and evening from our boat on almost every island we have been to in the BVI. Delicious and the local specialty, goat roti has become one of our favorites!
03/10/2010, Road Harbour, Tortola
In need of FedEx to send off our taxes we sailed downwind at a blazing 3-4 knots to Trellis Bay on the main island of Tortola. There we picked up a mooring ball and rented a car, a real car, and reminded ourselves to drive on the left. No pub crawl today. Tortola is the main hub of the BVI, it's where the airport is, the cruise ship dock, and the only grocery store of any merit.
After asking directions from three different locals for FedEx in Road Harbour, all of which involved a large banyan tree that we never found, our taxes finally were on their way. A little sight seeing was in order and Nanny Cay Marina was our destination where Don surveyed a boat for a friend of ours from Canada looking to go cruising. He loves boatyards so any excuse to go and look at boats in the dirt or in the water will do.
We squeezed in a little more sight seeing and incredible panoramic views of White Bay, Guana Island before returning to the boat for the night. Back in Trellis Bay where there is no town or market to speak of for miles, but the Loose Mongoose beach bar in front of our boat had a wind down cold Red Stripe waiting for us and fast wireless internet. "What a fantastic modern age we live in!"
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!