A Bit of Both Virgins: March 15 2011
Short distances are the name of the game in the BVIs. Hugh was on a plane back to Boston and we were off to find a sheltered spot for a couple of days of strong winds (Feb 24). We moved from the north side of Beef Island to the south side in order to duck behind Buck Island. The winds blew but we were snug...only minimal rolling seas. As the winds lessened we made our move to Soper's Hole on the western end of Tortola. Yippee, it's time for Mom and Dad to arrive! Taxis are crazy expensive so we stayed on a mooring ball for two nights and rented a car for one day...cheaper than a cab out and back to the airport...and much more pleasant with the current wind direction (Denzil Clyne Car Rental, ph 284.495.4900). Gosh, there they are exiting customs and immigration with giant smiles...us, too (Feb 27). But they are sooo bundled up?! Crazy coming from Los Angeles where the temperature was 40 degrees F when they departed...bbbrrrr...nice to be in the Caribbean sun. We took the scenic ridge road back to Barefeet across the island and back to Soper's Hole. It provided some fantastic panoramic views but...eegads...the roads are incredibly steep. A bit heart pounding but the rental car had plenty of power. First stop was a painkiller cocktail at Pusser's Landing. Welcome to the BVIs! Later, layers of clothing were shed aboard Barefeet and they enjoyed being back on the water. Oh, and a fun visit from Becky and Bob of s/v Stardust got Mom and Dad quickly into the cruiser community. The next day was a celebration...Happy Birthday Dad! Island gifts were found ashore in the form of swim trunks and a t-shirt, Barefeet was decorated for the party and dinner was a feast of pork roast, mashed potatoes and asparagus followed by a key lime pie (Feb 28). Soper's Hole is a nice spot but we want to show off the islands...so we better get moving.
Pier House Key Lime Pie: 10 graham crackers, crushed; 1/4 cup sugar; 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted; 4 eggs, separated; 1/2 cup key lime juice; one 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk; 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar. 1) Mix together graham crackers, sugar and butter. Press into 9" pie pan and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F. 2) Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 3) In a mixer beat yolks on high until thick and light in color. 4) Add condensed milk, mix together on low. 5) Add half of key lime juice, tartar, then remaining key lime juice. 6) Pour into prepared crust and bake for 10-15 minutes or until firm to touch. 7) Refrigerate for several hours.
We have been keeping an eye on the weather ever since we arrived in the BVIs in the hopes of getting favorable conditions allowing for a trip to Anegada island...15 miles northeast of Virgin Gorda. It appears that a weather window is opening in a couple of days; therefore, we moved from Tortola to Virgin Gorda as a staging ground (March 1). We tossed out the fishing line for the twenty mile trip...but had no takers. Although the trip was a bit bouncy we were anchored in well protected North Sound near Biras Creek in time for sundowners...no white caps in the bay or in our cocktails. The next day we wandered around Bitter End Yacht Club (www.BEYC.com) and Biras Creek (Mar 2). The place is loaded with character in the form of wood carved Indians and maidens, the laid back Fat Virgin Cafe and tons of natural beauty. The waters are turquoise blue; flowers are vibrant red, purple and pink; sand is soft and white and the gentle hillsides are draped in green. This scenery never gets old. Later, sundowners were festive at Saba Rock's Happy Hour joined by Kurt and Katie of s/v Interlude. Mom and Dad are putting faces to names of many cruisers that have been friends of ours for quite some time; in Asia, in the Med, across the Atlantic and in the Caribbean.
The weather has cooperated and it is Anegada or bust! The entire trip saw ocean depths not more than 70 feet...sadly, the shallow banks did not improve our fishing luck (Mar 3). Anegada is often called the "drowned island" because its highest point is a mere 28 feet above sea level...created by the movement between the Caribbean and Atlantic plates. The island is surrounded by reefs with wreckage from more than 500 ships strewn throughout. Today, the channel through the reef is well marked with lit buoys...a clear path to the Setting Point anchorage. Activities are outdoors and lovely. The island is eleven feet long with 22 feet of pristine beaches with isolation just a short stroll away. Dinner was another Anegada staple...lobster. Reservations were made early in the day for the Anegada Reef Hotel; two lobsters, one lamb chops and one BBQ baby back ribs (yes, Erin and Chris have yet to acquire a taste for lobster). There is a single seating at 7.30pm but the preparation is theatrical and begins earlier as 55-gallon drum grills are fired up at the water's edge (www.anegadareef.com). Flames dance below the palm trees and a buzz accompanies the dinner preparations. We happily watched the goings on at the outdoor bar chatting with Sydney the bartender. The tiki torches were lit, tables were set and it was time to be seated. Wow, the lobster was sweet and succulent...and repeatedly basted with melted butter, lamb was tender and ribs were dripping with sauce. We sat under the stars and pinched ourselves for such good fortune.
The next day we ventured to the north side of the island to Loblolly Bay...a beautiful beach but snorkeling was disappointing due to mostly dead coral (Mar 4). The great snorkeling happened the next day with guide Kelly (email@example.com, ph 284.544.2313). Kelly is 21 years old, born and raised on Anegada and starting up a water sports business. He took us out to East Point on his zippy 250 hp speedboat (Mar 5). Wow, water clarity was amazing, coral was better but the real highlight was the sea life. We saw a graceful spotted ray fly just in front of us, countless small fish, a turtle...and a barracuda as big as Erin. Gulp, the barracuda started to get a bit spooky when we noticed him following us around the reef. No joke, he followed us for 25 minutes at a distance of between five and ten feet. Certainly not known as "man eaters" but seeing anything swimming close that is as big as us was a bit unnerving. A quick removal of Erin's earrings and he was gone...hhhmmm, seems they do get curious about shiny objects. That was a great snorkel but enough for now. We need to move back to the clump of BVI islands. It was a four hour spinnaker/motor from Anegada to Diamond Cay of Jost Van Dyke. We were revived from the journey with sundowners joined by fellow cruisers from s/v Interlude and s/v Wings. After formulating a plan to visit the bubbly pool the next day we headed into Foxy's Taboo for a casual dinner on the covered porch (www.foxysbar.com).
Holy cow the bubbly pool is awesome! Rendezvous was at 9.30am followed by a hike along the northeastern side of Jost Van Dyke (Mar 6). The mostly flat trail climbed then dropped into a small clearing with a rock encircled bay (ask to see the map at Foxy's Taboo). Northern swell was at approximately five feet which created walls of water that squeezed through a tiny opening in the rocks. The result was a bubbling mass of water that filled a small, circular bay...hence the name bubbly pool. It was fun to watch as we all bobbled and tossed in the filling and emptying bay. Between sets the bay cleared crystal clear which gave us a good view of the bottom and just exactly what was underfoot...sand or rock. After enough time in the water we rested in the shade of a sea grape tree before returning to Barefeet. Hey, it's another party as we celebrated Erin's birthday...a bit early but fun to be together. It was grilled steak in a rum and brown sugar marinade with baked potatoes (with SOUR CREAM), salad...and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Yum! Mother Nature continues to dictate our itinerary resulting in a direct hop back to well protected North Sound of Virgin Gorda (Mar 7). The fishing line again was deployed...and hey...fish on! Barefeet hooked a five pound little tunney easily identified by tell tale back stripes and belly dots. Looks like dinner is sorted! Once anchored in North Sound it was a joint effort preparing the fish and dinner...nothing much since this fella was less than 12-hours hook to table. Delicious!
It's Mom and Dad's last day so there's no need to move the boat (Mar 8). We walked along the trails of Virgin Gorda looking for iguanas...with their favorite snacks in hand (hibiscus flowers). Drat, we are a bit early and will need to come back another day. It seems these prehistoric guys don't stir until the afternoon. Subsequent trails climbed hills under light cover that exploded onto spectacular vistas. A bit more packing, sunbathing and organizing and before we knew it...it was time for Happy Hour at Saba Rock (www.sabarock.com). Painkillers are a mere $2.50 and the perfect farewell sundowner. What is that...a pub menu?! We were romanced by the dozen or so burger options with delectable topping combinations and decided to stay for dinner...shoestring fries were not a bad idea either. Another visit has ended but what a great time we had! Mom and Dad caught the North Sound Express (ph. 284.495.2138) to the airport and it is again just the two of us on Barefeet (Mar 9). Hopefully, they will return to LA temperatures warmer than when they left.
Cruiser get-togethers are bittersweet at the moment because the Caribbean is a "choke point" of travel with future destinations either south to Panama or north to the USA. Our direction is solidly north but many good friends are headed south. "Goodbye" is rarely spoken and the simple assumption is made that we will be together again in an anchorage down the way...all the while repeatedly exchanging contact details. But there is no slowing down the social calendar of a cruiser. Dinner for us was King Ranch Chicken Casserole with David and Sheryle of s/v Samsara who we have been traveling with since Barcelona. They are headed south which means our time is short...but we have an open invitation to visit Melbourne, Australia. It was a marvelous night.
King Ranch Chicken Casserole: 6 tortillas, cut into strips; 1 cooked chicken, shredded; 1 can cream of chicken soup; 1 can cream of mushroom soup; 1 cup chicken broth; 1 small onion, chopped; 1 bell pepper, chopped; 1/4 cup jalapenos, chopped; 2 Tablespoons tomato paste; 1 tsp chili powder; 2 cups cheddar cheese, grated. 1) Combine soups, broth, chili powder and tomato paste; blend until smooth. 2) Layer chicken in greased casserole dish. 3) Add layers of tortilla, bell pepper/onion/jalapeno, sauce and cheese. 4) Repeat layers ending with cheese. 5) Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes until browned and bubbly. Serve atop white rice or biscuits.
The sleepy iguanas were found...okay, just one...but, boy, was he excited to see the hibiscus flower in Erin's hand (Mar 10). He came running down the trail as fast as his sideways waddle would allow. And his big, fat belly meant that he must be familiar with the hibiscus drill. Wow, what fun! We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in the BVIs but before we can stay longer we need to leave because our 30-day visa is just about to expire. March 11 was a long day with many To Do's. We moved 20 miles from Virgin Gorda to Road Harbour where we picked up ordered generator parts from Parts & Power...hey, it's popcorn Friday (free bags of hot popcorn as we browsed the aisles)...and checked out of the BVIs (Parts & Power, Port Purcell ph.284.494.2830). It was another 14 miles to St John of the US Virgin Islands where we checked into...the USA. Wow, that was pretty surreal...and anticlimactic as we entered the factory-type environment of customs and immigration that resulted in not a single piece of paperwork in our hands...that's how they do it here. The designated anchor spot at the mouth of Cruz Bay is crazy rolly...no need to sleep here so with a bit of daylight left we moved around the corner to Caneel Bay where we picked up a mooring ball and toasted our completed day...aaahhhh.
But we could not congratulate ourselves for too long because we needed to be in St Thomas 1) to meet friends Rob and Tracy and 2) to make an engine appointment for Barefeet. The five mile distance from St John to St Thomas was quickly completed followed by a winding path through the mangroves into Saga Heaven Marina (west of Nazareth Bay)...not much more than a rickety wooden dock behind the crumbling Schnitzel House restaurant...but at $50 per night the price could not be beat (Mar 12). Barefeet was tied up and we hopped onto a Safari/Gypsy bus in search of a rental car. Gosh, not a single one in sight until we entered the main port of Charlotte Amalie (pronounced uh-molly). With our new wheels from Budget we could continue our errands; Sprint SIM card, watermaker pump head, ATM and a visit to Frenchman Bay to see Rob and Tracy. We surprised them at the pool and spent the afternoon catching up and making plans for dinner. We feasted at the Island Time Pub in Red Hook on some of the most amazing pizza we have had in a long time (Chris' pizza not withstanding). We smelled the aroma as soon as we walked in and knew we were hooked. Our topping of choice was buffalo chicken and it was superb...layer of blue cheese dressing, followed by buffalo chicken bites, then cheese and topped by chopped celery.
The next day Chris stayed on the boat to await the engine technician (Mar 13). Repair logistics were coordinated by friendly Jose Valdivia at Compass Point Marina completely via email (firstname.lastname@example.org, ph.340.779.1660). And despite the fact that it was Sunday engine-guru Alva came out for a look-see but could not hear or see anything amiss. We think we are pleased and hope that the diagnosis holds. While Chris was on the boat Erin headed into Charlotte Amalie with Tracy for some jewelry shopping. Jewelry seems to be the souvenir of choice in St Thomas with glittering diamonds, rubies, sapphires...you name it....if it sparkles it is here. The charming, narrow alleys were not overly bustling because there was only one cruise ship in town...later in the week there will be FIVE! We were glad for the mellowness. Most restaurants on St Thomas are open air with cool breezes and lovely water views. Mim's Seaside Bistro takes full advantage of both (Watergate Villas, ph.340.775.2081). The steaks and seafood were tender and flavorful...and the potato skins appetizer hit the spot. Thanks Rob and Tracy! We continued the next day with boat errands and a move to anchor on the west side of Hassle Island in the port of Charlotte Amalie...beside another PDQ...s/v Seaman's Elixir (Mar 14). What a fun meeting we had...and hope for more because we are both headed north to the Bahamas and the USA. But for now we will get caught up on boat projects and cleaning before returning to the BVIs toward the end of the month.