Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dinner at Cynthia's

It was short dinghy ride to the restaurant, named Harris Restaurant. The restaurant was right on the beach. There was sand under foot.

Cynthia, pictured above with Captain Jean, greeted us like we were old friends and promised to take very good care of us. She didn't disappoint. She was a very hard working woman, and treated her other customers like she did us, visiting tables frequently, checking on the service. There were only two other parties, separate groups of Canadians, but everyone sort of merged together under Cynthia boisterous social skills. The meal consisted of soup, salad, some huge lobsters and pie for dessert. The setting and the meal were very special, but Cynthia was particularly special. I'd love to know her story. I'm sure it's a good one. The most interesting person I've met on this trip.

My admiration for Cynthia was even increased the next morning. I was out on the deck of the boat at about 6:30, reading. At 6:50 am, I noticed Cynthia exiting the small building that houses the restaurant, marching purposefully toward her SUV. She was all dressed in white now with a white knit cap. She got into the SUV and headed up the mountain. I followed her until she was out of sight. I'm sure a novel could be written about where she was headed.

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Little Harbour on Jost Van Dyke

We entered Little Habour at about 5 pm. There were a number of moorings and we found a good one right off the restaurant and bar that were the only commercial establishments in the harbor. It was surrounded by very steep hills, so the sun went down early.

Minutes after we arrived and secured the mooring, we visited by a woman dressed totally in black, with dreadlocks and a black knit cap. She was very friendly and gregarious and invited us to her restaurant for dinner that night, saying it was lobster night. We readily accepted and reserved a table for 7 pm. She said that the mooring was free and she would see us that night.

-- Post From My IPad

Sandy Cay, off the coast of Jost Van Dyke, BVI

Our ultimate destination for Monday was Little Habour on Jost Van Dyke. This would be a return trip to Jost, having spent an overnight in White Bay. Our overall objective is to sail generally toward our return to Nanny Cay. Ultimately, we will have circumnavigated Tortola.

On the fly, we decided make a side trip and anchor off Sandy Cay (pronounced "key," I'm repeatedly reminded. Repeatedly, because I keep saying it wrong). It's a tiny patch of land with a beautiful white sand beach. The picture above shows the entire island.

It was an idyllic setting. A few other boats had moored. A group of people were conducted a sand castle contest between the boys and the girls.

I went snorkeling, which was good, but challenging because there was some heavy surf around the rocks and coral where the fish were. It was also challenging taking pictures with all the swaying back and forth. This was my only decent shot.

The rest of the crew took a swim. Note that two members of the crew are toasting their wives. The other would have, but neglected to bring a beverage into the water.

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Location:Fleming St,Road Town,British Virgin Islands

To Soper's Hole, Tortola

We left Cane Garden Bay for Soper's Hole to restock a bit. Out of ice and figured we should top off the water. Soper's Hole includes a number of marinas. It's apparently the best place to go to weather a hurricane since it's tucked in from the open sea and surrounded by mountains.

The first mate took the helm and we did a broad tack that increased the distance, but allowed us to get some good speed. Lots of pretty severe heeling, which used to bother me, but no more. I'm now mostly convinced the boat won't tip over.

Soper's Hole is the first place we've been to that seems to cater to tourists. There were a few shops that sold "island wear" and touristy knick knacks. We also had lunch and the best conch fritters, so far.

Filling the water, sixty pounds of ice, disposal of trash came to $30, including tip.

-- Post From My IPad

Monday, January 10, 2011

Watching the Sunset on Cane Garden Bay, Tortola

Here's the Sunday evening sunset off the stern of the boat.

It was a quiet night. We stayed on the boat. First mate/Cook Dave produced another masterpiece, boneless chicken with Cane Garden Bay sauce, an eclectic collection of ingredients, including leftover pickle juice. We also had leftover rice, peas with garlic and a salad.

After dinner, we listened to the music coming one of the beach bars. There were two bands, a Jimmy Buffet cover like the one at Foxie's and a more rocking rhythm and blues/reggae band. We were told earlier in the day that the guitarist for the blues band was former lead guitarist for Bob Marley's Whalers.

Experienced our first rain. Very light, but required a bit of battening down of hatches. A lot more rolling overnight and awakened bright early by non-stop rooster crows coming from the shore.

-- Post From My IPad

Location:Long Bush Rd,Road Town,British Virgin Islands

Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Beach at Cane Garden Bay

Here's the view from the boat to the restaurant where we had lunch. It's the one right in the middle.

It seems all the islands we visited had this topography, little strips of land with big mountains rising behind. The islands appear to be underwater mountains with the tips popping out of the water.

What's has been most fascinating to me about this beach are the pelicans that dive bomb into the water for fish. The pelicans land like depth charges with their wings spread making a big splash and then munch away on their catch. There another kind of bird, some kind of duck, that mimics a torpedo, wings tight to its body and shoots into the water going under to get its prey. This will be part of the post return video.

What's striking is that this bird behavior is absolutely amazing to visitors, like me, but the locals, not surprisingly, take no notice.

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Back to Tortola

Our departure from White Bay was a bit complicated by reefs that were partially unmarked. Jean took the dinghy to investigate. Eventually, a large catamaran left the Bay, which gave us an indication of the route out. The on deck issues are getting smoother and smoother. Lifted the sails and cut the motor in a matter of minutes.

Travel to our next destination, Cane Garden Bay on northern Tortola, was the most challenging sailing so far. Lots of wind shifts. We had to do a number of tacks and adjust our route to accommodate the wind. Also, we had a bit of trouble finding Cane Garden Bay, since the coastline had a number of similar bays. We got there in time for lunch however. Here's the rest of the crew at lunch on the beach,

The following is probably the last picture that will ever show me with a beard. So white you can hardly see it. That's our boat off my right shoulder. The logo on the shirt is the company I used to work for before I decided to become a Virgin Islands beach bum.

-- Post From My IPad

Location:St Lucia Dr,,US Virgin Islands

Morning in White Bay

I'm trying to show the color of the water in White Bay in the above picture. Doesn't really do it justice.

I swam to shore to go shelling. Very few shells, mostly rocks. Good exercise, though.

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Location:Peter Bay Rd,,US Virgin Islands

Sleepless in BVI

It was a somewhat restless night. Very rollicky on the boat. something called the traveler was banging for a good part of the night until Dave finally got up about 4 am and fixed it. He spent the night sleeping on deck. I did another stargaze at 5 am. The big dipper was above in a very different configuration that I'm used to seeing up north. Also, it's not as well defined as up north and is more obscured by the other stars that are not visible in areas with more light pollution.

The banging didn't really keep me awake, but the rolling affected my dreams. I had a very vivid dream that I was watching a Red Sox game with my wife, Rita, when an earthquake hit. I dreamed the earthquake would not stop, kept rolling and rolling and created a giant mound in front of my house. The dream actually woke me up to the real life rolling.

-- Post From My IPad

Arriving at Jost Van Dyke island, White Bay

Sailing to Jost Van Dyke was pleasant, moderate winds with a few bursts. However, we did have to motor a bit. Our destination was White Bay, the next bay over from Great Harbor, home of the legendary Foxie's Beach bar.

We arrived about 5 pm, about an hour before sundown. White Bay has a white sand beach that creates that stunning blue/green color in the water you see in tourism ads. It also hosts the lesser know Ivan's Local Flavor Stress Free Bar. Jim and I swam from the boat to shore and had virgin Pina Colada's at Ivan's. It's a tiny place with walls full of shells and encomiums to Ivan, said to be the nicest man in the world.

Dinner on the boat was fish. We're running into problems with the refrigeration system and both the fish and chicken were submerged in solid blocks of ice. Dave managed to free some fish for dinner, created a fabulous makeshift sauce. So, we had grouper and something else, with rice and salad. Dave is an excellent field cook and works magic with whatever's available.

A mild debate ensued as to whether we should go to Foxies, which would involve a somewhat treacherous dinghy sail around a point and over some coral reef in pitch darkness. Some felt Foxie's was too touristy, others felt we needed to "check the box." The "box checkers" prevailed and off we went. It probably took us a half an hour to motor over, guided mostly by the lights on boats. As we turned the point, the "too touristy" crowd was vindicated by a massive cruise boat with blazing lights anchored in the harbor. Surprisingly, for a Saturday night, there was a very small crown. A Jimmy Buffet cover band played all the hits, like Bad, Bad Leroy Brown and Proud Mary. I felt like I was at a sparsely attended wedding reception. But you could really see how this place must really jump on special occasions.

One drink and we left to go to the more authentic bar back in White Bay favored by the "too touristy" opinion. Unfortunately, that bar was literally empty and there was no place to moor the dinghy. So, we went back on the boat.

I did some stargazing. A magnificent moonless night. The IPad app called Star Walk was tremendously helpful in identifying constellations and stars, the first time in my life I've been able to do that. We are sitting right under the Orion constellation, with Orion's belt never so visible to me.

-- Post From My IPad

Location:Fleming St,Road Town,British Virgin Islands

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Monkey Point

The wind has been good heading to Guana Island, a few gusts, but steady. We moored at Monkey Point which was said to have very good snorkeling. We found a mooring, had another fine lunch prepared by the First Mate, and set off on the dinghy. Captain Jean stayed behind to make sure nobody stole the rum.

Here's a view of the little bay, followed by a couple of pictures from the snorting.

This guy below doesn't seem to want me here.

Our departure from Monkey Point was amazingly expeditious. The crew is coming together to where we all seem to know what needs to be done. We had the sails up and killed the engine in about 5 minutes.

-- Post From My IPad

Spotting flipper

Our first mate took the helm as we sailed out of the Bitter End marina. Wind is pretty weak, so we are making a leisurely pace.

Dave spotted a fin off the bow of the boat. It was a dolphin that criss-crossed in front of the bow for about 2 minutes and swam away. Again, great video that will have to wait. Here's a still shot.

-- Post From My IPad

The Bitter End

No, this is not the end of the trip, just the name of a marina on Virgin Gorda. Our luck had run out on the wind. Pretty dead from the Baths to the Bitter End, so we went mostly under power.

We stopped there for shore leave. Nice bathrooms and showers and a pub. We actually secured a slip and were pleasantly surprised that the entire cast of our stop, including slip fees, refueling and topping off the water was about $110.

When we checked in, another yachtsman began chatting with us an older gentleman with a pleasant french accent. Jean revealed my pirate name, Boston Blackie and he said that the yachtsman said I must be feared on the east coast of the U.S. I acknowledged the fact.

Then he said that he had been with a congressman from Boston on a yacht sailing the islands a couple of weeks ago. They were on a 96 foot catamaran. Turned out to be a congressmen with whom I worked years ago. Further conversation revealed that his name was Albert Paiwansky and that Jean went to school in St. Thomas with his son. Later Jean revealed to me that he is one of the wealthiest men in the Virgin Islands. The family is very well know and made its fortune in rum, among other things. We went to his huge motor yacht and met his wife and daughter. His daughter went to the same school as Jean.

Albert came by to send us off as we set sail in the morning. A delightful man.

-- Post From My IPad

The Baths on Virgin Gorda

We got the last mooring at the Baths. Made a short pit stop at the Baths. The attraction is the formation of huge boulders along the beach. The form caves where you can squeeze through crevices as the sea sloshes around your feet. It's actually pretty scary and I couldn't help thinking what would happen if any of these boulders shifted.

-- Post From My IPad

From the Bight to the Baths

After a breakfast of bagels, cream cheese and fruit on the boat, we set sail for the Baths at Virgin Gorda still trying to shake the cobwebs from the William T. Thornton. Here's a view of the bar from a distance.

We'd all developed what Iron Davy called an "ear worm" from Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline. Our efforts to get rid of it were thwarted by Captain Jean periodic outbursts of "GOOD TIMES NEVER SEEMED SO GOOOOOD!" His hopes that the rest of us would chant "So good! So good! So good!" were disappointed. Instead he heard grumbling, at best and, at worst, "Will you shut the @#$#@ up!"

The trip from the Bight to the Baths was fast. I'm told that we made it on a beam reach and didn't have to tack once. Sails up, straight shot to the last available buoy at the Baths. We were heeling pretty good to where the port rails were almost in the water. Again, I've got video, but here's a still shot that gives a sense.

The beam reach thing is nice, but for a lowly seaman like myself, the no tacking is the best part. Sailing involves long stretches of relaxation, interrupted by intense effort and lots of orders being barked when it comes time to turn the boat. Our trip to the Baths was pure relaxation and I fell dead asleep. However, my slumber was broken when the Captain screamed "Furl the jib, furl the jib!" I stumbled around, burned my hands the rope, stubbed my toe on some immovable object and got a leg cramp.

Got a ways to go before I'm a sailor.

-- Post From My IPad

Location:Pears Village Main Rd,,Antigua and Barbuda

The Bight in Norman Island

Not sure what time we got in from Willie T's, but it was too late. We awakened to another beautiful day. We motored in to a near by beach to explore and watch huge pelicans dive bombing for fish. Here's a view of the bay from the beach.

I went for a brief snorkeling tour of the edges of the bay called The Bight. Quickly spotted a stunning stingray. I got a very good underwater video, but can't post it off the IPad, so that will have to wait until after my return.

I did get some good still pictures, though.

-- Post From My IPad

Location:Pears Village Main Rd,,Antigua and Barbuda

Friday, January 07, 2011

BVI - The William T. Thornton

We moored in "The Bight," a harbor on Norman Island. It's famous for a bar, that is actually an old fishing boat called the William T. Thornton or Willie T's for short. It's a floating restaurant and you can only get there by dinghy.

Before visiting Willie T's we had a fine dinner of steak on the barbecue with many vegetable sides, thanks to chef and first mate, Iron Davy.

By the time we got to Willie T's, the place was rocking and there was very little room on the dock to tie up the dinghy, but we found a place. It's a run down bar that is clearly a playpen for the idle rich. It's pretty small, so was packed with people. They run a video slide show of activities that occur there, many of which are not suitable for family discussion.

Above the bar, there hangs a water ski with five holes bored into it that hold shot glasses. The tradition is to fill the shot glasses with liquor, insert them into the holes and five people down a shot all at once.

I met a man named John who owns a pizza place in Old Orchard Beach in Maine named Bill's Pizza Parlor and a bizarre family from Colorado who own a family restaurant. Mother, Father and 24 year old son were partying together. Didn't seem healthy to me.

The highlight of the evening was when they played Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. The singalong was robust. I mentioned to John, a Red Sox fan, that it felt like Fenway Park during the 7th inning.

-- Post From My IPad

Location:Fortsberg Rd,,US Virgin Islands

Thursday, January 06, 2011

First Stop Dead Man's Bay

We set out from Nanny Cay on Tortola for our first stop at Dead Man's Bay, so named because it sounds cool. It's on Peter Island and is popular destination for yachtsman, where you can get close, drop anchor and shuttle into the beach. Good snorkling and, like everywhere else in the BVI, there's a bar.

The crew overlooking the beach.

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Seaman's Mate 3rd Class

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The Crew of the Livin' Wright

From left to right: David Durkin (Iron Davy), Bill Black (Boston Blackie), Jim Duys and Captain Jean Gaetjens.

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Briefing on the Livin' Wright

We had our briefing on the boat. Lasted an hour plus. Shocking how many things can go wrong a boat. The engine, the bilge pump, the electrical system, the head (God forbid) and on and on. We were briefed by Giles, a very young man who sounded like he was from Australia, but actually is a native and was educated in Southampton.

-- Post From My IPad

Livin' Wright - Day One

Awakened by roosters at about 4 am.

It's a beautiful day in Nanny Cay. We're still getting aquatinted with the boat. The challenge is organizing your life in a whole different manner. It's hard to keep track of where things are. And I have to get used to this obsession with protecting resources, water and electricity, mostly. Lots of gadgets to keep going.

Here's another view of the boat. That's Captain Gaetjens at the front filling one of our fresh water tanks.

-- Post From My IPad

Location:Waterfront Dr,,British Virgin Islands

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Pictures of the Livin' Wright

Here's a view of the Livin' Wright from the dock. It's bigger than it looks.

And here's my bedroom, I mean "quarters."

Location:Waterfront Dr,,British Virgin Islands

Alone in the BVI on the Livin' Wright

So, here I am on this massive 46 foot sail boat, by myself, at Nanny Cay on Tortola. For reasons I can't explain, I arrived about 4 hours ahead of the rest of the crew. I had an extended shuttle ride to the marina because "some tourist" barreled down the wrong (U.S.) side of the road and crashed into a local's car. The shuttle driver noted the injustice in the fact that the tourist walked away unharmed, but the local was apparently injured. But it created utter gridlock in Road Town, the largest "city" in the BVI.

I got a taste of the lifestyle when the shuttle driver saw an attractive, well-dressed young woman holding an umbrella and seemingly waiting for a bus. He stopped the van and invited her in for a ride, which she readily accepted. As she got in, he said, "I only stopped because you're so pretty." She seemed mildly flattered.

After he dropped her off, he shared with me his deep affection fo this particular woman and that he has repeated asked her for a date. She said that he was too old. But he was encouraged by the fact that she accepted the ride.

He dropped me off at the marina where I was directed to the boat and invited to hop aboard and get ensconced. No identification, no paperwork. Just jump aboard.

So, for the last 3 hours, I have been stowing our ample provisions and getting acquainted with the boat. It is bigger than I expected. The good news is that the accommodations are luxurious. The bad news is that it's going to be a bear to sail this beast.

I think everything seems to be working. If you are reading this post, it means I've figured out the wifi. I've concluded that my biggest challenge is going to be husbanding electrical power for my multiple gadgets.

My crew has checked in by text message and is due to arrive soon and the adventure will begin.

Location:Waterfront Dr,,British Virgin Islands

Heading to BVI

I'm sitting at Dulles about to board a flight to the British Virgin Islands. It's unlike anything I've ever done. It's the kind of thing you put on your "bucket list," except that I didn't have the imagination to put it there. I'm meeting three other guys and we're going to sail a 46 foot sail boat around the islands.

I have my captain, Jean Gaetjens, for taking the initiative on this. It's going to be quite an adventure.

While we're giving up some creature comforts, we will have wifi on the boat. I'm going to try to blog off my IPad so watch this space. And if I go quiet for a couple of days, call the Coast Guard.

Stay tuned.

-- Post From My IPad

Location:Compass Ct,Sterling,United States