Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Revisiting the BVI...

We’ve decided that we’ve got three homes: our land homes, our sailboats, and the Caribbean. And, especially, we just can’t get enough of the Caribbean, particularly when it’s cold and rainy in northern California, so we flew off to the British Virgin Islands again for two weeks over Spring break.

3/23 - Our flight across country has almost become routine. We’re up at 05:00, taxi to the airport, fly to Dallas-Fort Worth, then Puerto Rico, and then Tortola where we taxi to the Fort Burt Hotel. It’s all fast food, because our layovers are short, but we know at the end of the flight that Sharon, Buxton, Bastille and others at the Fort Burt will be there to greet us. When we start calling the flight attendants by name we’ll know it’s truly routine.

3/24 - Saturday was check-in and provisioning day. At Conch Charters we discovered that we’d fouled up our timing and missed the sleep-aboard scheduled for the night of our arrival. No problem, we’ll just take things on island time.

We strolled into town, passing the site of the new Queen Elizabeth II Park, conveniently located across from the main government building. Our main goal was to go to Rite Way for provisioning, but we also had another motive. We’ve already booked for six weeks in the BVI in December/January and wanted to do some planning. Thus, we stopped at the Village Cay Marina so Deb could check out a beauty parlor for next winter, and then we walked another mile or so to Joma Marina, the home of BVI Yacht Charters, with whom we’ve booked Syros, a 2007 Cyclades 43.3 (by Beneteau) for our winter trip. After we’d put faces on the folks with whom we’d been in email contact, we went off to provision for this trip.

Rite Way is a five minute walk from BVI Yacht Charters, so we spent an hour at the market and then caught a taxi back to Conch with our supplies. After putting our perishables on ice and having burgers for lunch at The Pub (the earliest cruisers restaurant in Road Town), we went down to do a pre-charter check on the boat. Here’s where the problems inevitably begin.

“Inevitably” perhaps requires a preface...

Our first charter with Conch in the spring 2006 was wonderful. We got a boat that had only recently come into their charter fleet – Elbereth, a Beneteau 36 – and we had a great experience with her. That led us to book with them again for December, and we got a 40’ Jeanneau for the trip. Unfortunately, this boat was a disaster. Black mold in the V-berth forced us to close it off, a leaking water tank under the V-berth required us to bail out the forward bilge by bucket more than once, and generally poor maintenance frustrated us the entire trip. But, we had already booked Elbereth again for this spring, and we didn’t want to lose the charter completely, so we negotiated a substantial discount because of the problems with the Jeanneau. “We’ll give them another chance,” we thought.

The people at Conch are very nice, but, as we discovered, they’re really a second-tier, maybe even third-tier charter firm, and this shows in the way they maintain their boats. It really showed with the Jeanneau, and it was confirmed completely by this second experience on Elbereth.

Elbereth had been in really good condition in March 2006, but not any more. On our pre-charter inspection we discovered that all the non-fuel filters were clogged (bilge, icebox drain, shower drains, and fresh water), the galley dry storage compartment lid was broken and needed immediate repair, the engine oil was low, the stainless on deck was rusting everywhere, and generally the boat was not very clean. Later when diving the boat at an anchorage, we found a beard of algae on the bottom, little paint left, and gouges into the gel coat. Perhaps worse, on our pre-charter inspection, we discovered the refrigeration cold plate had been removed and not replaced. Of course she was advertised with a refrigeration system, and we were not told of this change prior to arriving.

But, we’re experienced with this sort of thing, and decided it would be a good experience. Since we’d already decided not to buy meat, but to eat vegetarian on the boat and have our meat when we ate ashore, an icebox should be good enough. Conch gave us a cooler and promised all the ice we could pack away, so we loaded up: two blocks in the cooler, four blocks and a bag in the refrigerator (now icebox), and we still managed to get our food stored and put some beer on ice.

Next morning, however, we then discovered that the icebox sump pump was broken. Since we couldn’t drain the icebox without it, we had to have a new pump installed. Trust me, you wouldn’t want Conch keeping up your boat! And, this is why we’ve had it with Conch and will be going with BVI Yacht Charters on our next trip.

3/25 - After a roily night aboard in the marina, Conch’s folks got to work on the new icebox pump. We walked down to Bobby’s Market to get a few things we’d forgotten at Rite Way, got our cooler with more ice, and Conch’s main dock man Miles got us off the docks by 12:30. An hour and a half later we were mooring at Norman Island and heading into shore to have Pina Coladas at the Pirates Bar. We lazed about the afternoon, had snacks aboard for dinner, and were in our bunk but 20:30. Cruising again at last!

3/26 - Our standard mornings begin at about 08:00. I’m often up by 07:00, whereas Deb loves to sleep in, rocked like a baby in the V-berth. I do my best to move about quietly, making coffee for us, and then reading in the cockpit with my first cuppa until Deb arises. Then we have coffee together and I usually cook up a couple of eggs and toast for us. This first day out was no different, and after breakfast we decided to sail up to Cooper Island.

En route, Deb decided to work on developing some on-the-water-and-underway exercises. She is a very active person and truly hates being confined on the boat, even though she's mad about sailing. It's a conflict that brings her close to tears sometimes. Her answer now is to develop an exercise program that she (and others so conflicted) can do underway. Here she is working out one of the exercises, which she will ultimately write-up when she's done.

At Cooper we had lunch aboard, went ashore for a walk on the beach, and then returned for Deb to have a bit of a swim followed by cocktails on the foredeck. The weather was overcast and muggy, but the rain held off. We had a stir-fry dinner aboard, played “If…questions for the game of life” – asking questions such as “If you could make one fairytale or fable come true with yourself in it, which would you pick?” (Fortunately, we have the little book If…(Questions for the Game of Life), so we don’t have to make these up. It’s more fun with a bunch of people than with just two, and we soon tired of it and were sleeping by 21:30, despite the jerk in the cat on the next mooring who ran his genset all night so he could have air-conditioning.

We did see a cruising family at Cooper aboard a Dufour 385 that was carrying a flag we didn’t recognize. It had a web address on the hull (www.sailabout.no) that answered the question for us: Norway. We never met the family, but when we got home I looked up the web site, and discovered that they keep their sailing log online through Mailasail (http://www.mailasail.com) , which offers a web diary with GPS position tracking for cruisers(http://blog.mailasail.com/). This is very cool, a really nice way for cruisers to keep in touch with friends. You should check it out.

3/27 - The skies were overcast again and it was really muggy and the weather report forecasted rain. We headed east toward Gorda Sound, motor sailing with the mainsail only, but the weather worsened. Clearly rain was on the way and since we were going head into the wind, we decided to abort Gorda Sound and head over to Marina Cay. A lot of others must have had the same idea, since when we arrived at 13:00 there were already no mooring balls available. As we started anchoring, the skies opened up. I was on the foredeck in a driving rain, and naturally it would take us three tries to set the anchor. As we dried off, we watched others coming into anchor, most having some trouble holding. One Horizon Charter boat tried some six times to anchor and never got enough scope out to hold. Ultimately, Providence smiled on them, and they picked up a mooring abandoned by someone else.

When the rain lifted, we dinghied into Marina Cay for a drink at the restaurant bar. We met Steve and Emily Imbrogno from Florida at the bar and discovered they were long-time BVI folks. In the 1980s, they sailed over from Florida, lived aboard in Tortola and worked for the Moorings for eight years. Now they try to return every year to visit friends, and this trip decided to charter for a week, something they haven’t done in a long time. The next day we both sailed out for Gorda Sound, and we took photos of each other along the way.

After we left the restaurant bar, we walked up to the “happy hour” bar at the top of Marina Cay, where we met Peter and Maria Schell, who we had anchored next to during the downpour. They were aboard Mama Cocha, their own Concorde 46, a Dutch-made aluminum boat. They left Holland almost six months before, sailed down to Spain, thence via the Azores to Martinique, and finally up the Caribbean chain to St. Martin and finally the BVI. They’re plan is to spend a year in the Caribbean, then go through the Panama Canal, sail to Hawaii, then make the northern loop to Vancouver, B.C., down to San Francisco, and eventually wind up in Australia. We invited them to stay at the Encinal Yacht Club when they arrive in the Bay Area. Hope they do. If you read Dutch you might enjoy their website.

We tried to get a booking for dinner at the restaurant, but we were too late. This week was the 36th BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival, and this combined with the bad weather that kept people at anchor had swamped Marina Cay’s restaurant. No worries, we had music, dancing, and dinner aboard, and were fast asleep by 20:30.

3/28 - After breakfast, I dinghied into the fuel dock for four blocks of ice and two bags of crushed ice, stopping on the way to say hello to our new acquaintances, who were all up on deck enjoying the sunny morning. We repacked the icebox and cooler and weighed anchor for Leverick Bay in Gorda Sound at 10:00. It was a slow and relaxing sail across the Sir Francis Drake Channel toward Virgin Gorda, and we snapped a couple of photos of Steve and Emily on their catamaran along the way. Then we motored sailed the easterly passage to Gorda Sound. In just under five hours we were picking up a mooring at Leverick Bay, which we think is a real hidden treasure.

Most people head to the Bitter End Yacht Club or Saba Rock at the east end of Gorda Sound, which we must admit we had done on previous trips. But we decided to try Leverick Bay this trip, and we weren’t disappointed. The Leverick Bay marina is small but generally a slip seems to be available. There are about twenty moorings, and we found one easily. Cruising guides warn that a northerly swell with good winds can fetch all the way across the sound and into the mooring field, and we discovered on the day we left that this was indeed true. But it was calm while we were there.

We went in to the dock master to pay our mooring fee and then had lunch at the Leverick Bay resort’s beach front restaurant. Very good fish and chips and salads! As we sat down to eat, the skies finally opened up. It poured, and Moskito Island, directly across from us disappeared behind the sheets of rain. We had no choice but to have a couple of drinks each, and Deb found herself giving encouragement to another female sailor on taking the helm when mooring and anchoring (somewhat to the dismay of her husband, I think).

After the rain lifted we wandered around, checking out the resort itself, the boutiques, and finally going to the grocery for some more water and a couple of other items. When we got back to the dinghy, I had to bail 4 inches worth of water from the bottom. The rain didn’t lift for long, though, and it scotched our plan to go back for drinks after dinner (they had a piano in the restaurant, which I thought I might get a chance to play). Deb wasn’t hungry, so she snacked a little and I cooked up a stir-fry for myself and then we sat up until 22:30 or so talking about politics, business practices, and such. When we finally crawled into our bunk, it started raining again and did so for at least four hours.

3/29 – The weather was still pretty poor in the morning. We lazed about, finally finishing breakfast around 10:15, and we watched a mega power yacht, Gallant Lady, pull away from the marina with her passengers and crew of eight. We were sure we saw this same yacht around Norman Island in December. I discovered after our trip that she’s a 172-foot Feadship (a Dutch firm) owned by the JM Family Enterprises, an auto dealer group in Deerfield Beach, Florida, which keeps her in the Virgin Islands during the winter. (They also own four other yachts ranging from 160 feet to 40 feet, each also named "Gallant Lady.") Much of the $2 million yearly expense of owning and operating Gallant Lady is a business write-off, since the family entertains business clients on it. Apparently there are several of these handsome 172-foot yachts around the world.

Once we’d wiped the envy from our chins, we hopped in the dinghy and took a ride over to look at Drake’s Anchorage Resort on Moskito Island. The island is now generally spelled Mosquito, but in fact it was named after the Indians who occupied the Moskito Coast around the Bay of Honduras and Belize, even though it was Arawaks who were on this little island. The resort, built in the 1960s, is now abandoned, but it was the first bar and restaurant for cruisers on Gorda Sound. “Keep off” signs now warn cruisers about coming ashore and trespassing on private property. Frankly, I think the BVI need something like California’s Coastal Commission to protect its beaches and shoreline from being gobbled away by private landholders.

We then decided to dinghy over to Saba Rock, about two miles. About half way there we saw Steve and Emily’s cat – the one we’d taken photos of on the way up the day before. They were leaving the Bitter End and passing Prickly Pear, and we diverted over hoping to intercept them. They recognized us, and we rendezvoused and exchanged emails – at least we’d be able to swap photos – and then they headed off, hoping to make the eleven-mile sail to Anegada that day.

We went on to Saba Rock for lunch, stopped at the Bitter End and picked up some water in their store (they had larger bottles than Leverick Bay’s market), and then returned to Elbereth. We thought we’d try the restaurant again that night, but the menu was really pricey so we decided not to. Prices at restaurants serving boaters have really jumped in the BVI. We tend to eat a couple of appetizers and have a drink or two, and we didn’t get away from places for much under $70, even at lunch. And, honestly, the food is not that good. I think we only had dinner off the boat three times – twice at the Fort Burt Hotel, which is really good and pretty reasonable, and once at Quito’s Gazebo in Cane Garden Bay, which was pretty good but very pricey. The only food we’d really recommend besides the Fort Burt was the baby-back rib appetizer at Marina Cay (expensive but really good), and the lunch menu at Foxy’s Taboo on Jost Van Dyke (the best quality and most reasonably priced food we had).

The afternoon ended with rain, cleared up for cocktail hour, and then rained hard again with occasional lightening all evening. We cooked a veggie stir fry and feasted on goat cheese and crackers and martinis.

3/30 - It became choppy in the mooring field by morning, and after breakfast we decided to get some ice and then motor to Saba Rock to escape the chop at Leverick Bay from the wind waves. The rain was gone, but it the winds were up and the skies threatened all day. About 11:00 we motored over and picked up a mooring, had lunch aboard, read, and figured our expenses so far (we were doing pretty well).

Around 14:00 we dinghied into the Bitter End to take a walk. We found a nice path that took us over to the Biras Creek Resort, a posh place that until recently wouldn’t let anyone but guests on their grounds. But now under new management, we were welcomed, and in fact the general manager, Mike, took us for an hour-long tour of the resort in his electric cart. They’ve got a great secluded beach on a small bay on the Atlantic end of the island, tennis courts, and really nice cottages. It’s expensive, but we were both duly impressed, and it certainly isn’t snooty any more.

As we walked back to the Bitter End, Deb remembered that the little boutique at the Fat Virgin restaurant on the edge of the Biras Creek resort was where she’d bought some beautiful glass fish. So we took the dinghy over, and she found five more of the little darlings to take home with her (now she has a wonderful collection on her dresser at home, which truly sparkle when the sun shines through). We finally returned to Saba Rock and had an early dinner of chicken wings, fries, and Bushwackers (me) and tequila shots (Deb). They have a wonderful tank of fish, lobsters, and eels outside the restaurant, and we spent quite a while watching the them, walked around the little island, returned for two more drinks at the bar, and were asleep in our bunk by 20:30.

3/31 - Our plan today is to go to Anegada. On our first two trips to the BVI, we did not want to hurry on a one-week charter to make it. This time, with two weeks, we decided to put it in our plan as a definite destination. Despite the old adage "red sky in the morning, sailors take warning," the Atlantic storm that brought us rain for almost three days had passed and we decided to push off. But, first, we needed to top off our ice box, so we went ashore for a couple of bags.

At 10:00 we dropped our mooring and departed for Anegada. I put two reefs in the main and reefed the jib. As we came out of the channel into Gorda Sound we found some pretty big seas, but we decided to push on, hoping the NNE winds would become a bit more easterly further along. We made way for an hour, but we were slipping badly. We had at least six to eight foot swells perhaps eight to nine seconds apart, and when on course to Anegada the winds were almost on our nose. The ride was cruddy and slow (about two knots), and if we altered our course to tack our way to Anegada, we’d turn what we’d hoped would be two to three hour sail into a six hour sail. As we were out there, I remembered our first trip to the U.S. Virgins two years ago and the forty mile crossing we made from St. John to St. Croix two days after a storm had come through. The seas were pretty mixed up and we were glad we had a heavy Island Packet 370. In fact the seas didn’t settle down until four days following the storm, when we made an idyllic return crossing. Now we were in similar conditions with mixed up, après-storm seas but in a light-weight Beneteau 36.

Since we’d made a late start and since there was no indication the seas were improving, we decided to bag Anegada and divert toward Savannah Bay on Virgin Gorda. We broad reached there quickly, but decided that the north swell would make Savannah Bay an uncomfortable anchorage, so we tacked starboard for a beam reach ride across to Marina Cay. We were thinking baby-back ribs, which we hadn’t been able to get on our last visit, and we also knew we could get block ice there.

This time we got a mooring just off the reef. We dinghied over to Trellis Bay, about a mile away on Beef Island, just next to the airport serving Tortola. Trellis Bay is a favored anchorage for privately owned cruisers, who come in to re-supply and meet friends coming in to Tortola by air (it’s a five minute walk to the airport terminal). It’s also home to De Loose Mongoose restaurant, which we visited in December by land, and also an art center, cyber café, and a little market. In the center of the bay on a little island is the Last Resort restaurant.

I stupidly took the dinghy onto the reef that juts out from the Last Resort, because I was too busy looking at boats, the shore, the island, and such and not paying attention to the obvious signs that we were heading onto the reef. Thankfully there was damage to the engine prop, and I immediately killed the outboard and raised it up. We paddled our way off into deeper water, restarted the engine, and continued to De Loose Mongoose dock. After an hour or two, we went back to Elbereth, and eventually into the Marina Cay restaurant for drinks and our rib appetizer dinner that night at 20:30. As we were going in, I noticed an Island Packet on a mooring and told Deb that I bet it was Honnah Lee, the IP 370 that we’d chartered with Island Yachts almost two years ago. Lo and behold, at the bar we met two couples who were on the Island Packet and it was indeed Honnah Lee.

Over dinner we started a heavy conversation that consumed the rest of the evening. One of the wonderful things about our cruising trips, indeed about our sailing life together, is that we have really strengthened our relationship. We’ve worked on (if not worked out) all those sorts of relationships issues that couples always have. Sailing has been an important part of our therapeutic life. There have been times when the boat just isn’t big enough for the two of us, but when out at sea there’s no getting away from each other really and we end up working things out. Truly we’ve become much closer because of this.

4/1 - We rolled out of our bunks rather late in the morning, had breakfast, and then went to the fuel dock for a block of ice. As we got ready to depart, thinking we’d go on to Cane Garden Bay on the north shore of Tortola, we listened one more time to the weather report and watched the swell. Winds were already gusting to 25 knots and 30 knot gusts were predicted. The north swell had not abated, and we remembered that Cane Garden Bay is not particularly comfortable in a north swell. Since it was already noon, we decided to bag the trip and stay another day. We went back ashore, ran up to the top of Marina Cay to get some exercise, and then had lunch.

The afternoon sped by. I took advantage of our mooring adjacent to the reef, swam over to snorkel it, and discovered lot’s of fish and even some good coral (one of the problems with the BVI is the fact that so many people are here that the coral on reefs near the most crowded anchorages is dying – I cringe at my driving the dinghy on to the Trellis Bay reef). Meanwhile, Deb spent the afternoon writing. I read on our trips (this trip four or five books), and Deb writes just as much. She’s working on a novel and also is developing a couple of sailing articles. This day she worked on a short piece she’s going to call “Mooring Sense,” which is based on our experiences mooring and our watching so many other people mooring their boats. From complete ineptitude to hot rod racers to poetry in motion, mooring can be an adventure.

We ended the day with Bushwackers, tequila, baby-back ribs and calamari. A lovely evening and in our bunks by 21:00.

4/2 - Up and at it this morning at 06:30. We’re definitely pushing on today. Two blocks of ice to top things off – so far we’ve used 12 blocks and 10 bags of crushed ice; but, since refrigeration is the biggest drain on boat batteries, think of the money we’ve saved on diesel fuel by not having to keep running the engine to recharge the batteries.

We departed at 08:50 and sailed west along Tortola, between the airport on Beef Island and Great Camanoe and Little Camanoe islands, past Guano Island and then tacked northwest, jibed to a southwest tack, jibed back to a northwest tack, and a third jibe to southwest. The swell was not as bad as the day we aborted going to Anegada, but close, perhaps six to eight foot swells, 10 seconds apart, but the winds weren’t quite as gusty – maybe a touch over 20 knots. We overshot Cane Garden Bay, thinking at first it was Brewer’s Bay, but we easily turned back and arrived at noon.

What a lovely spot! A curving white sand beach stretches at least a mile, with beach bars and restaurants along much of it. It reminded us a bit of Grand Case in St. Martin, though not as sophisticated. We moored, went ashore, and had a pretty decent lunch at the Big Banana Paradise Club. We were actually looking for Stanley’s Welcome Beach Bar, alleged home of the “Cheeseburgers in Paradise,” but Joe Russell and Mark Bunzel’s Exploring the Virgin Islands cruising guide, which we feel is generally better than the more well-known Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands by Nancy and Simon Scott, mislabeled the restaurants on their Cane Garden Bay sketch map. Later we found Stanley’s, but we were too hungry to pass up the Big Banana.

After lunch we walked to the west end of the beach and back, stopped at Myett’s for a drink, and then walked along the road that parallels the beach down to the Callwood Distillery. Callwood’s has been making rum since the 1700s, and the Callwood family has operated it since the late 1800s. It’s the oldest operating rum distillery in the Caribbean. They continue to use traditional distilling methods, first squeezing the sugarcane, then fermenting the juice, and then distilling it, letting it sit for ten-days, and distilling it again. For white rum the distillation is aged for four years in glass bottles, for dark rum in oak casks. We sampled the dark or amber rum, called Arundel, and found it to have a bit of a scotch whiskey flavor. I prefer a sweeter rum (Cruzon Single Barrel is best, or Mount Gay Eclipse), but Deb liked it.

We continued our walk, going east along the road, passing Bobby’s Market Place, and down along a sea wall to the end of the beach. Finally we returned to Elbereth for cheese hors d’oeuvres. We admired Flying Colours a 54-foot Little Harbor with two guys aboard that was moored behind us, and watched the sun set over Jost Van Dyke. We decided to stay aboard for the night. On the night of the full moon, which this was, there are a couple of big parties on Tortola, one at Trellis Bay and an even better known one at Bomba’s Surfside Shack on Cappoon Bay, which is just over a hill and west of Cane Garden Bay. If we’d been with a bunch of friends, I’m sure we’d have gone in and taken a taxi over to Bomba’s, but we decided to wait and go in to see Quito Rhymer play solo at his restaurant the next night.

4/3 - No question, we’re staying another day. Cane Garden Bay is really a relaxing place to be. We lazed about in the morning, watched the Little Harbor sail away. We occupied the morning watching first a big power boat moor where Flying Colours had been, then watched them move to anchor on the east end of the bay very near the shore, to be replaced at the mooring by three smaller power boats who all rafted up. We sunbathed, had breakfast, then lunch…a lazy, beautiful day in paradise. The rains were gone, the weather was gorgeous, we relished it all.

In the afternoon we went for a walk, climbing a couple of roads looking for a pathway off the main road that would take us to the top of the hill on the east end of the bay. We had no luck but got lots of exercise and enjoyed watching people and the scenery. We like the character of life – poor but proud – things take time on Tortola, but life is good. We picked up a couple of things at Bobby’s, used the ATM, and finished the afternoon with a drink at Stanley’s Welcome Beach Bar.

At 19:00 we went ashore for dinner at Quito’s Gazebo. Quito played solo that night starting at 20:30, and his stuff reminded me a lot of the coffee house folk music I used to listen to when I was going to college in Oregon during the 1960s. It was alright, melodic, but it wasn’t very inspiring. Rather than stay and have more to drink there, we went back to the boat and had some rum in the cockpit, until a light rain pushed inside and to our bunks. It was a good day.

4/4 - We decided to push off for Jost Van Dyke today. Around 10:00 we dropped the mooring, raised the sail with one reef, and headed off for the short sail over to Foxy’s Taboo on the east end of Manchioneel Bay. We hadn’t gone long before we shook out the reef and sailed across on a lovely, light wind beam reach. Preparing to anchor, we were pleased to see that a small mooring field has been added near Foxy’s Taboo, nine balls in all. We picked up one and then went ashore to take a hike.

There’s a spot on the north side of Jost Van Dyke about three-fourths of a mile from Foxy’s Taboo where the ocean waves pour through a formation of rocks into a protected pool. The waves create a whirlpool effect. We hiked out to the “bubbly pool” but made a wrong turn along the way to climb up a hill that overlooked the ocean down a rocky slope. We discovered a blowhole, and after we got to the bubbly pool, we walked along the top of the hill back to the blowhole area. We sat for a few minutes and marveled at the waves and the water falls created by the withdrawing water, and listened to the earth breath. Whewwwww … whewwwww … whewwwww.

On the way back, Deb found several lovely little shells along the shoreline to go with her glass fish collection, and we made our way to Foxy’s Taboo for lunch. This was the best meal we had on the entire trip. Deb had a fantastic salad, and we both had lamb kabobs with the tastiest sauce I can ever remember having. Moreover, through lunch local musician Ras Rio played some of the best Dylan music that either of us had heard in a long time. He had so much more soul and was so much more alive than Quito Rhymer! We’ll look for him again on our next trip.

Foxy’s Taboo has a great boutique, as well. Deb found a couple of things, as did I, and we had a nice conversation with the young woman managing it. Turns out she’d come to the BVI for two months five years ago and was thinking about moving on to Central America. The BVI, she said, was starting to cater more to mega yachts and wealthy tourists and losing sight of the more sustainable tourism provided by bareboat charters and small resorts. Business, she said was reflecting this, and it was down a lot this year.

We ended the day by snorkeling off an old cement dock about a hundred yards from the boat. The water was a bit stirred by the surge, but there were lots of fish and big schools Silversides. It was great fun.

4/5 - Today is our penultimate day aboard the boat. Knowing the end is near, we lingered through the morning. Rather than sail off to another anchorage, we decided to spend a second day here. We went in to the Taboo for lunch, and then took a long walk up to the top of the hill separating Manchioneel Bay from Little Harbor, home to Sidney’s Peace and Love. It was a really steep climb, but the views were well worth it.

In the afternoon we dinghied over to Sandy Spit at the west end of Manchioneel Bay. Along the way we saw the infamous Educated Ice, the Jeanneau 40 of our last charter with Conch. We decided not to motor over and chat with the people, but the next day, when we sailed toward Soper’s Hole, they sailed off our beam for a large part of the way.

We spent the evening with oysters, crackers and cheese, martinis, and dancing in the cockpit, and ended it watching the moon rise over Tortola. Deb’s fighting a cold, and I’ve had a cough that’s hung on since arriving in the islands with laryngitis. Maybe it’s time to head home.

4/6 – We arose at 07:00. We both had cups of “Airborne” along with our coffee and breakfast. Then we set off for the long sail back to Road Town – altogether 19.6 nautical miles. It took almost six hours, and we arrived at 15:00, cleaned out our stuff from the boat, we’re spared having to pay for fuel because the marina office was closed for Good Friday, and got Conch to pay for half our ice costs, which totaled $70.

Because we had a 07:30 flight in the morning, we had booked a room at the Fort Burt Hotel. Our regular standard room wasn’t available, so we splurged with a top floor mini-suite. We showered, had a cocktail sitting out on the balcony overlooking Road Town, and then went down to the restaurant to visit with Sharon and Buxton and have dinner, which is always one of the best meals of our trip.

More photos

Trip log (93.6 nautical miles total)

3/25 - Road Town to Norman Island: 1:35 hours, 6.62 nm, average 3.6 kts, top speed 6.9 kts
3/26 - Norman to Cooper Island: 3:29 hours, 13.18 nm, average 3.9 kts, top speed 5.2 kts
3/27 - Cooper to Marina Cay: 2:30 hours, 8.61 nm, average 4 kts, top speed 6.8 kts
3/28 - Marina Cay to Leverick Bay: 4:50 hours, 11 nm, average 3.9 kts, top speed 5.8 kts
3/31 - Saba Rock to Marina Cay: 2:55 hours, 14.4 nm, average 4.9 kts, top speed 8.0 kts
4/2 - Marina Cay to Cane Garden Bay: 3:07 hours, 15.9 nm, average 5.1 kts, top speed 9.0 kts
4/4 - Cane Garden Bay to Jost Van Dyke: 1:13 hours, 4.3 nm, average 3.5 kts, top speed 5.2 kts
4/6 - Jost Van Dyke to Road Town: 5:54 hours, 19.6 nm, average 3.4 kts, top speed 5.6 kts