Friday 11/29. Today is the day. Our flight leaves at 5:50AM from Inter Continental. That means we have to leave the house by 4:00, which means getting up about 3:00. Barb went to great lengths to set the alarm for 3:00, and since I was afraid we might just roll over and go back to sleep, I set my watch also. Well, praise the watch, because after setting the alarm, Barb forgot to turn it on. In reality, it probably wouldnít have been a problem, because neither one of us slept much. Too excited I guess.
The flights were fine, even though they were early. We left right on time for Atlanta, had about an hour to make our connection, which made a right-on-time departure for St. Thomas. The only problem with the flight was that there were about 20 empty seats in first class, and we had non-upgradeable tickets. The flight from Atlanta is about 3 hours, and it seemed so long because we wanted to get here. We finally could see the island ahead and to the left a little. Off to the right, we could see Puerto Rico. We were descending, and descending, and descending, and there was nothing but water under us. The island was off to our left about a half mile, but nothing solid under us. Suddenly, about the time I was genuinely concerned, there was runway and we touched down. Turns out, the runway is built out into the water about half a mile. And it is only about five or six thousand feet long, so hitting it right on the end is important. (We were not on a small plane. It was a 757.) The pilot stood on the brakes and we stopped with a good 1000 feet to spare. We taxied back to a modern terminal. Apparently there was no real terminal until about ten years ago when American Airlines contributed to have one built. They have the most flights here, although it is also served by Delta, Continental, United, US Airways, and a host of little planes. All the flights show up here between about 1:00 and 4:00 and are all gone by 6:00. As we pulled up to the gate, we were the fifth 757 there. There are no jetways Ė you go down stairs to the tarmac. As we walked into the terminal, the first thing that greeted us was a booth giving away small glasses of rum punch, made with Cruzan Rum, the local brand. Iím liking this place already.
Renting the car was not a big challenge. But, the cars are not you big fancy normal, new rent-a-cars. They are either jeep-type things or little econo-boxes. We got the econo box, but we did spring five bucks a day more for the air conditioned model. Itís a Toyota Echo with 33,000 miles on it, and quite a few dings and dents. And this is Budget Rent-a-car, not Rent-a-Wreck. Anyway, getting the car was not a challenge, but driving it was. I did not know until a couple days before leaving, that they drive on the left here. As if that wasnít bad enough, the cars are normal American style cars with the steering wheel on the left. So, I have to really concentrate on driving on the WRONG side of the road. If the cars were right hand drive, I would call it driving on the OTHER side of the road. But this is just WRONG!
There is one major road that leaves the airport and runs the length of the island. The main town, Charlotte Amalie, is several miles east of the airport. We are staying at the Holiday Inn Windward Passage, which is right on the waterfront. We are only on the second floor, but we have waterfront room, looking over the main harbor. From our balcony, we can watch the cruise ships come and go (2 or 3 a day), watch the seaplanes come and go (2 or 3 an hour), watch some ferries come and go (havenít counted), and watch numerous private boats of all descriptions. What is amazing is that this all works, especially when a seaplane drops in for a landing. I did ask and found out that the boats have the right of way over the planes.
After checking in, we called our old friends from Kemah who now live here. Floyd and Jennifer both got laid off from Enron last year, and after not finding jobs in Houston, they picked up and moved here. They had their boat delivered here, and were going to live aboard, but found that living in a good marina here is quite expensive, and living on the hook when you have to dress up nice for work is a challenge. So, they bought a condo out of town a ways. Since marking road names is not one of the islandís strong points, they drove in to the hotel to meet us, and we followed them back to their condo. We drove a few miles on the "main road" and then turned off onto a narrow road that climbed steeply up the mountain. After a couple of miles, we got to their building of four (I think) units. I parked the econo box as close to the edge of the road as possible, and in the process, dropped the front wheel off a six inch or so edge of the concrete. I thought we might have to lift it back up, but I was able to spin it a little and get it back on the pavement. We enjoyed sunset from their balcony, watched the cruise ships leave port and could see the lights of St. Croix in the distance. Another friend of theirs who is an Englishman who works at a yacht charter place (not the one weíre using) brought a pizza over and we ate and drank rum and cokes. We stayed there catching up with them until about 8:30. Even under the slight influence of the rum, I was able to find our way back to town and stayed on the left hand side of the road all the way. I did make one wrong turn, but immediately realized it and turned around. After our early morning, we got a good nightís sleep.
Oh, I shouldnít forget the weather. The high is about 85 and the lowís are about 75. Scattered clouds, and the occasional sun-shower that lasts a minute or two.
November 30, 2002
Floyd and Jennifer picked us up at the hotel about 9:30. We went just about a half a mile to Frenchtown Marina, where they keep their dinghy. We went into a nice coffee shop right by the marina, and had coffee and cinnamon rolls. We then piled into the dinghy and headed for their boat. We stopped at Crown Bay Marina, where the high-rollers are. There is a very nice grocery store there where we got ice and beer. There is also a restaurant called Tickleís, where another friend of ours back in Kemah used to work when she and her husband lived down here. From there we headed around to Honeymoon Bay on Water Island where their boat is on a mooring. It was interesting to see the boats moored in Crown Bay. Some liveaboards, some transient, some here long term. Just before we got to Jenny Lynne (their boat), we saw a sea turtle swimming near the surface. We sat aboard Jenny Lynne and chatted for awhile. Then we went snorkeling right from the boat. There isnít a ton of marine life there, but since it was Barbís first time to snorkel, it was a good warm up for the rest of the trip. We werenít in the water more than ten minutes when Floyd spotted a ray that was about two feet wide. Floyd, Jennifer, and Barb had been ahead of me, and the ray swam off to the side when they spotted it. I was behind, so I was able to head if off and it turned back towards the group. It then parked on the bottom (we were in about 10 feet of water) and just sat there looking at us for a minute. Then it swam off. We continued over near the shore where there are more rocks. We saw quite a few other small fish, and a school of small yellow-fins. I did see one good sized parrot fish. We were in the water about an hour. We went back to Jenny Lynne and ditched our snorkel gear, then took the dinghy to shore.
On the beach is Heidiís, which is a roach-coach style truck that serves lunch and dinner on Saturday and lunch on Sunday. I only relate it to a roach-coach to give an idea of itís size and style. It was basically a self contained restaurant, serving burgers, chicken, salads, steaks, drinks, etc. While this bay is only home to about ten moored boats, and Water Island is only home to about fifty residents, there are day visitors who come by boat, and there is a party barge called Kon-Tiki that visits for about an hour with people from the cruise ships. We beat Kon-Tiki to the beach by about fifteen minutes and got our orders for cheeseburgers in before the mob showed up. When the food came, Barb suddenly didnít feel well, so a local dog named Batgirl got to eat most of her burger. The rest of us enjoyed some very good food.
We went back to the boat and got our stuff and headed back. On the way, we stopped at Hassle Island to visit a spot they called the Flintstone furniture. Hassle Island has only a few real residents, and the side where this spot is, is deserted. The "furniture" is a bunch of stones that were arranged and then cemented together to form a L-shaped "couch". There is a large rock in the middle with an old table top on it. People have used this spot over the years as a party place. There was a little stone statue with shells arranged around it like a little shrine of sorts. We sat there for a little while observing the many lizards of various shapes and sizes who ran around very near us. Speaking of lizards, there a large iguanas all over the place. We saw some in the trees outside Floyd and Jenniferís condo, and we saw more today when we were on the beach at Honeymoon Bay.
After the stop at the Flintstoneís, we came on back and docked the dinghy. They dropped us off at the hotel where we rinsed our gear and ourselves. Barb and I then drove back to Crown Bay Marina and had dinner at Tickleís. We had a good dinner, and watched the weekend boat people. There were quite a few large powerboats from Puerto Rico there for the night. After we ate, we stopped at a local grocery store on the way back to the hotel. We bought crackers, a gallon of water, a two liter bottle of Pepsi, and a quart of rum. If I said the crackers, water and soda was $10, I would think that was a little high. But, adding the quart of rum, made the total $13. So, the lesson here is Ė drink the rum. It really is cheaper than the Pepsi.
December 1, 2002
Today Floyd and Jennifer are going to take us on a tour of the island. They picked us up at the hotel about 9:30 and we headed to breakfast. We just drove a few blocks to the heart of downtown Charlotte Amalie and parked. We walked to a place called Bumpaís which is a small place on the second floor of a little building. You go upstairs from the rear, pass by the counter where you place your order, and then go sit on the balcony. We had a nice breakfast, and timed it perfectly as a pretty good rain shower passed through while we were under cover eating. We proceeded from town up the mountain to a place called Mountaintop. Mountaintop is a building on top of the mountain (duh!) where there are several shops, and a bar which specializes in banana daiquiris. Having a banana daiquiri is a tourist must. This place is a regular stop on the cruise ship tours. The real reason to go here is the view. From a large deck on the north side of the building, you have a beautiful view of Magenís Bay which is on the opposite side of the island from Charlotte Amalie. This is a postcard looking turquoise bay that is rectangular in shape, with the entrance on the west end, and the north side comprised of a narrow peninsula called Peterborg, where famous rich people have houses. At the east end of this bay is a beautiful white sand beach, and a little further east of that the Mahogany Run Golf Course.
We proceed from there back to Charlotte Amalie, with stops at two other scenic overlooks, one looking north to the Atlantic again, and the other looking south over Charlotte Amalie and the cruise ship docks. From town we now headed east along the main road, past Frenchmanís Bay where Floyd and Jennifer live and on to the East End. We drove by a few major points of interest that we will need to know tomorrow Ė K-Mart and the grocery store. I hate K-Mart, but tomorrow Iíll make an exception. We then went to Compass Point where the marina where we will be getting the boat is. There was a little crafts fair going on there, so we browsed that, and then we went to VIP Yachts to introduce ourselves. The boat we will be getting was there, and we were allowed to go aboard and check it out. The name of it is D & Dís Texibbean and its home port is Houston! Weíll have to see if we can get the name of the owners and let them know that some "locals" used their boat.
From there, we went into Red Hook, which is where the ferry docks from the eastern islands are. We stopped and asked when the ferry that John & Peggy will be on tomorrow should arrive. Then we stopped at a burrito place for lunch. From there we came back to Charlotte Amalie by completing the circle around the east end of the island. We bid goodbye to Floyd and Jennifer at the hotel and came to the room for a nap.
For dinner, we walked a few blocks into downtown. Most shops and restaurants closed early today (Sunday) or were not open at all. They tend to work on the cruise shipís schedules, and there was only one cruise ship in port today. But, we found a place that is open every day, and has a two-for-one happy hour on fancy boat-drinks. Turns out they had pretty good food too.
December 2, 2002
Well, they are throwing us out of the hotel today. Guess weíll have to go be boat trash again. On the hotel/boat subject, even though weíre in Paradise, we havenít totally left the world behind yet, since the hotel does have those annoying amenities like TV. So, weíve been seeing TV, and the NBC station weíve been seeing is from NY. So, weíve been seeing NY weather and local news. Saw that it was 31 in NY this morning and the high temps for the week will not be out of the 30ís. Have I mentioned the high here is 85 and the lows are about 76?
We went to breakfast at a little place called Bobbyís that is down an alley amongst the tourist shops. It is one of the few breakfast places weíve seen, but we heard from Floyd and Jennifer that it was good. Seemed to be nothing but locals in there, so that was a good sign. It was good. After that we did a little tourist shopping. They have lots of jewelry and perfume stores, and it is all duty free. Barb found some cologne that her son wanted. We then stopped by the Harley dealer. Yes, the Harley dealer. It is basically a storefront that sells shirts and other Harley stuff. But, they had three used bikes there, crammed in the corner. The girl said there are 42 Harleys on the island. I never saw one on the road. Of course, we got shirts.
On to the marina. We got out there about 11:30. Long before "boarding time" of 4:30. They are a very nice bunch of people who work there. And Iím sure we are benefiting from the fact that Kris has chartered with them twice a year sine 1983, and used to own a boat in their charter fleet. We were going to leave our bags there so we had room in the car to pick up our friends. They told us to go ahead and start putting things on the boat. So we ditched our bags on the boat, and headed down to Red Hook, on the east end of St. Thomas, to await the ferry from Tortola which should have our boat-mates John and Pege on it. We think we know that they are leaving West End Tortola at noon, which should put them in Red Hook about 12:40, although everything really does work on island time, and the people who work the ticket booths at the ferry dock are less than helpful in determining when this ferry should arrive. We watch several ferries come and go from various islands over the next hour or so, and when we have about convinced ourselves that something must have changed in the plans, there they are. They have been staying at a hotel on the beach in Cane Garden Bay on Tortola for a week already. Some people have all the fun! We load their stuff in the car and head back to the marina. We make a quick stop at the local grocery for a couple of six packs of beer to hold us for the afternoon until we do our main provisioning.
Back at the marina, we start to unpack and get settled on the boat. About 3:30, Kris and Karen arrive from the airport. They have some bad news though. The other couple, who are sharing their boat, have missed their flight in Houston. Lucky for them, they have been able to make alternate flight plans which still get them here tonight. When dealing with getting to semi-remote places like this, you canít always just count on there being a "next" flight. It might be tomorrow or next week.
Late in the afternoon, we went off on our provisioning run. There is actually a Super K-Mart a few miles from the marina, and a nice grocery store next door. Much discussion had been had between the experienced sailors and me about the best places to provision, based on quality, availability, and price. We found it easier to just get everything at as fewest places and get on back to the boat. Barb and Pege stowed everything somewhere and we relaxed for the evening. Dinner was a selection of dips and chips and crackers and cheese and salmon, and sausage. Just like a party. Kris went to the airport and retrieved the missing people. Surprisingly, we stayed up until midnight.
December 3, 2002
Just like camping, we wake up with the sun. We technically donít start the charter until noon, so we have all morning to putz around and get ready. We spend time going over the boats with the guy from the charter company. We note a few things that need attention, and they take care of them for us. Lunch was the same as last nights dinner. I can get used to eating like this.
About noon, we headed out. The channel from the marina to open water is a little narrow and shallow, although there was nothing about it that I havenít experienced before. Because of this though, someone from the charter company takes you out until you are well into the channel and itís obvious where you have to go. They give you instructions and then set you free. Somebody else has followed in a dinghy, and they take the person back to the marina.
We are officially on the journey now. We are following the other boat, since he knows where we are going. It is windier than usual, and we are going to a place that requires us to go directly into the wind. So, we are motoring, not sailing. Just like Galveston! We put the main up just to get a little stability to the boat, since the seas are a little rough. Although John & Pege say this is the roughest they have ever seen down here, I have seen rougher in Galveston Bay. We travel past St. Thomas on the left and St. John on the right. We are heading north between the two, and then turn east along the north shore of St. John. It is amazing how close the islands are to one another. When you look at a map, you expect some distance, but there is probably less than a mile or two between islands in most cases. Charts are not necessary since the water is pretty much deep everywhere, and you can always see your destination. After about an hour and a half, we are at our first destination Ė Leinster Bay. We pick up a mooring buoy. Another first for this captain.
Weíre here. Captain jumps in the water. The water is warm and clear. We relax on the boat. Pege fixes us a wonderful dinner of pasta, brisket (came from home), and a fresh salad. Iíd say it doesnít get any better than this, but it might. Weíre off to bed relatively early tonight. Just like camping Ė you come and go with the sun. Have I mentioned the weather is 85 highs and 75 lows?
December 4, 2002
It rained off an on during the night. You know the minute it starts raining when you have an open hatch directly over your face. John had been sleeping on deck, so he knew it too. We both got up and closed hatches, which of course makes it hot and still inside the boat. By the time we did this, the rain stopped. I spent the next couple hours opening and closing as each little shower passed. Only once was the rain substantial, but that only lasted a couple minutes too.
After these showers passed, we all got a decent sleep. We woke at dawn and watched the sun rise over the hills in front of us. Coffee and snacks downed, weíre ready to go. Our first stop today is to clear into the British Virgin Islands. We motor across the Sir Francis Drake Channel about a mile to Soperís Hole. We pick up moorings side by side and Kris and I dinghy off to take care of paperwork. Kris has done this many times, so I just followed his lead. There is a form for the boat, and a form for each person. There was a person for Immigration and a person for Customs. They both needed to have a little more fun in their lives. But, we had no problems, and $150 later, we were good to cruise in the BVI for six days. Kris and I went back to the boats and got the crew. We dinghied over to the other side of the bay to the famous Pusserís Rum Bar and Restaurant. While women and some men went shopping, John and I went to the bar. This was the first on-the-water bar in Paradise that we came to on the trip, and we wanted boat drinks. There is a drink called a Painkiller that has Pusserís rum, coconut cream, orange, and pineapple juice, and who knows what else. They are very nice. There is also a deal where you buy a Painkiller at each of three different Pusserís bars, have them sign a certificate and you get a flag. We got the certificate signed there, and then Pege and Kris went by taxi to Road Town to get something straightened out with Krisí cell phone. While there, Pege had several Painkillers and got several certificates signed. So we have two out of three already. After Pege and Kris got back from Road Town, we ordered food for lunch. After eating and before hitting the water again, we went into a jewelry store that has replica coins made from silver salvaged from the Atocha which is the famous Spanish galleon found by Mel Fisher. The booty from this wreck consisted of many coins and bars of silver. Most of the original coins have been sold already, but they are making the replicas from the silver bars. We bought a couple for necklaces.
Time to sail again. Weíre off to The Bight at Norman Island. Norman Island is near the eastern end of the BVI. It is a couple hour sail up the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Unfortunately, the wind usually blows right down the channel. So, we had to tack several times to get there. (That would mean zigzag to you non-nautical folks.) Krisís boat beat us by a substantial amount, but we got there. It was a nice sail Ė on the verge of boisterous sometimes and almost calm sometimes. We actually ended up motor-sailing the last forty-five minutes or so since I was worried about running out of sunshine. I neednít have worried but this way we got here with an hour and a half of sun left.
So far a boat has come by to collect our $20 mooring fee. A boat has come by to sell us jewelry or sarongs for the ladies. And a boat has come by to sell ice, drinks, ice cream, brownies, and other treats. Got a bag of ice and a brownie for later.
There are only two things to do at The Bight. One is visit the William Thornton, which is an old boat which is permanently moored and has been turned into a bar and restaurant. A bit before sunset, we dinghied over there and had a drink. From there, we dinghied (in the dark) to the other place. Itís a restaurant called Pirateís. It used to be called Billy Bones. It is owned now by a guy named Elvert who was an Olympic sailor. We had a nice dinner, quite a few adult beverages, and Elvert talked to us for quite awhile telling us stories about the island. We dinghied back to the boats in the dark, but Kris had a spotlight to find his, and we were the next boat over, so no problem.
We did have a little incident when leaving the William Thornton. I got in the dinghy first, and everybody else was piling in behind me. I grabbed the starter cord on the motor and gave a good hard pull. Unfortunately, my elbow hit Barb in the forehead right over her left eye. I damn near knocked her out. Luckily the strike was square on her forehead and not her nose or eye. She had quite a goose egg there for a day or two, but surprisingly, no bruise. After that I yelled "Clear!" before starting the motor.
One thing we have learned here is it showers every night. On this night we had pretty high winds all night, and several showers blew through. Theyíre long enough that you have to close the hatches and get stuffy inside, but so short that you wish you could ignore them.
December 5, 2002
Another great morning. Although it looks like it could rain today during the day. We wait till about 9:00 to depart, but a storm comes over the hill (where we couldnít see it coming) and hits us just as we leave the shelter of the bay. It blew very hard, and rained very hard. Kris turned back to the protection of the bay, but I pressed on. After getting knocked hard by a gust, I dropped all sail. We braved the rain and kept motoring so that we would get a head start on Kris since his boat is faster. After about thirty minutes, the rain was gone. We raised sail again and pressed on, although without Kris in front, I didnít know exactly where we were going. They eventually caught up and passed us. Todayís goal is variable. Depending on conditions, we may go to the northeast end of Virgin Gorda where we can visit a place called The Baths. If it is too rough, we may stop sooner. Well, it was pretty rough, so we ended up going to Manchioneel Bay on Cooper Island.
This place is very pretty. There is an eleven room hotel on the beach, with a restaurant, beach bar, house cat, dock and beach. I went ashore to check on dive trips because this is the place where the wreck I want to dive is. Got that arranged in a few minutes, so Iím diving tomorrow. We napped during the afternoon and then went ashore for drinks. We had many Painkillers, Bushwhackers, and Cooperís Dreams. About 7:00, we went back to the boat for dinner. Tortilla soup and tacos.
The wind is not blowing so hard tonight, but this anchorage is quite rolly. I thought this would be a problem for sleeping. We went to bed, expecting a shower sometime, but I hoped we would get a few hours of sleep with the hatches open. About ten minutes after getting in bed, the shower came. I jumped up and ran around shutting hatches. The shower didnít last long of course, but I fell asleep before re-opening the hatches. Turns out the rolling wasnít a big problem, and we all got a good nights sleep.
Have I mentioned the weather is 85 highs and 75 lows?
December 6, 2002
Woke and had a light breakfast before my dive. The dive boat comes to us from Road Town, Tortola, which is a couple miles across the channel. The dive site is just around the corner from where we are Ė about a ten minute ride. There are only three divers and two dive masters. The Rhone was an English mail ship that sunk in 1867 during a hurricane. It was a 310 foot long steel hulled steam and sail driven ship. It hit the rocks and when water came in the ruptured hull and hit the boilers it blew up. It broke in half in the middle. The bow is in about 80 feet of water and the stern is in about 40 feet. We did two dives, one on the bow and one on the stern. It was great. Lots of critters. It was also interesting that the dive master knew the guy in Houston who taught me to dive. The only problem in the dives was that I got sick between the two dives. It was quite rough on the surface where we were moored, and the rolling got to me. But after hurling, I was fine for the second dive.
I was back at the boat at about noon. My crew was onshore at the bar. Had to get a dinghy ride in and join them. We went back to the boat and had a light lunch, then off to then next destination. We are headed for Trellis Bay at the north-east end of Tortola. It is only a couple of miles across the channel. There isnít much wind today, so we motor-sail for about an hour. We pick up moorings in Trellis Bay. There are several neat places here including The Last Resort, a cyber cafť, a store, and a couple of artistís shops. We also are just a little ways off the end of the runway. The planes are small and will stop after dark. We tried to upload some pictures at the cyber cafť, but they have Macs and they wonít even recognize the format of a diskette from a PC.
We decided to eat onboard tonight and had an excellent dinner of filet mignon, baked potatoes and salad. Life is good.
December 7, 2002
We hit the water early and head across a small channel to Marina Cay, where we are going to top off our water tanks. Jaribu goes in first while we pick up a mooring to wait. There is only space for one boat at a time at the dock. After they finish, we pull up. This place is also one of the stops to get the certificates signed by the Pusserís Rum folks, so while John and I do the water, the rest of the crew go to get Painkillers. Ah, boat drinks at 10:00AM, what a deal.
We leave here and sail west. Finally we are going downwind instead of beating into it. The wind is not too strong, so I set up to sail wing and wing. We do well for awhile, going almost directly downwind. The sailors reading this know that the danger of sailing downwind is an accidental jibe. Let is just suffice to say that an accidental jibe is not a good thing, and yes I did and Iím glad itís not my boat. But nothing was damaged. One of the highlights of the trip happened during this sale. While sailing, I spotted a dolphin just off the bow. Pege ran forward and laid down on the deck with her arms over the side. There were two dolphins and they swam with us for several minutes. At one point, one came close enough that Pege was able to touch it as it swam by. This was cool.
We sailed to Cane Garden Bay on the north side of Tortola. I think this may be the prettiest place we have been so far. Unfortunately, we are not staying here. Just dropping by. This is where John & Pege spent the first week of their trip before they met us at the boat. We go ashore and immediate head for Callwoodís Distillery. This is a tiny ancient place where they distill rum. It is a stone building that looks like it should fall down any minute. We go inside and find someone there Ė the hours are variable. John & Pege have met the lady who is working today before. She has three of her five children there with her, and we chat and talk to the kids and take pictures before buying some rum.
We walk back to the beach to a place called Myettís. While the rest of the crew order us beer and conch chowder, I go upstairs to a new Internet access place that this place has set up in their office. I get the pictures uploaded and send mail. Iím amazed that I havenít missed being able to get mail more.
Jaribu has already left and gone over to Jost Van Dyke. (Jost is pronounced Yost.) We go back to the boat and head that way. Jost is just a couple miles across the channel, so we simply motor over. It takes about thirty minutes. We are going to anchor in Great Harbor which is where Foxyís is. We find Jaribu and pick a spot nearby to anchor. The bottom here is hard, and my anchor does not want to dig in. Since it is not very windy, I finally give up and just rely on the weight of the anchor laying on the bottom to hold us in place. This may be a problem if it gets windy, but for now itís ok.
We go ashore to Foxyís. Foxy is an old island guy who has run this bar and restaurant forever. There are thousands of t-shirts and business cards stapled to the ceiling as mementos of peopleís visits. We have been given a t-shirt from the guy in Kemah who sailed Floyd & Jenniferís boat down here. He was unable to get to Foxyís when he was here, so we are going to try and hang it. After talking to several bartenders, and people in the gift shop, we are able to procure a staple gun and the proper size staples to fit it, and the shirt is hung. Pictures are taken to show Bobby when we get back home.
Foxy himself, is sitting on a bench over in the corner near the music stage. If you had no idea about this place, you would think he was a hungry local waiting for a handout. John and I go over and say hi. John asks about his development of a music stage out back, which we knew about from previous visits. He says nothing has been done with that since their last visit, but to follow him. He takes us out back and proudly shows us his new 750 gallon brewing facility for making Foxyís beer. We chatted with him for several minutes and then went back to our table.
We are just sitting drinking and watching people. A huge catamaran pulled in with about 100 people on it from St. Thomas. Foxyís food is a barbeque buffet deal, and they are doing a special serving for these people. While watching, we start talking to a couple (Kay and Paul) at the next table. They are from Australia and are two years into a three year circumnavigation. We are chatting with them when we find that if we want to eat here, we should have made reservations already. This is how they know how much to prepare. The guy in charge acts like this is going to be a problem, but Kay goes up and asks him if she can change her reservation for two, to be for six. The cook happens to be standing there and says no problem, there is enough food. So, weíre in.
We are soon called to our dinner seating. We order more drinks and chat with Kay and Paul. It is amazing to hear their stories. They have been avoiding tourist places on their whole trip, and the only reason they ended up here was because they had some repairs done in Road Town. The ended up in Great Harbor for the night because it is a free anchorage instead if a $20 per night mooring ball. Anyway, we talked for a couple hours, ate a great dinner that had ribs, chicken, and fish, and drank and drank. We picked up the tab for Kay and Paul, and they invited us to their boat in the morning for coffee as a thanks.
We finally head back to the boat. Itís one of our latest nights of the trips and it was great. Have I mentioned the weather is 85 highs and 75 lows?
December 8, 2002
We sleep a little later than normal, although the sun is a great alarm clock. The night stayed calm, and we only dragged a few feet when there were a few puffs of wind during the night. About 10:00, we dingy over to Wirlinga (the Aussieís boat) to visit. We have already had our coffee and breakfast, so we decline Kayís offer to make coffee and scones, but we sit and visit some more. Paul showed us the boat Ė a 57 foot aluminum hulled homebuilt boat. After the tour, we settle in the cockpit and they tell us some more stories of their trip. Kay gets out some pictures from Africa to show us. Wish we had more time to spend with them.
We go back to the boat and head out immediately for our next stop. White Bay is just around the corner to the west. It is just a day stop. It is normally off limits to charter boats because it is shallow and there is a reef to negotiate on the way in. But, since Kris knows the company, we have permission to go here. We anchor and go ashore to the Soggy Dollar Bar. This is the reputed home of the Painkiller. So of course we have several. We also have conch fritters for our lunch snack.
Jaribu heads out ahead of us again. We leave about an hour later, and head east along the coast of Jost to Little Harbor. Little Harbor is the home of Stanleyís Peace and Love. Stanleyís is a self-serve bar and t-shirt shop by day, and a restaurant in the evening. We go ashore and have several beers and by a few shirts. We sit and chat with some other charter boat people from Massachusetts. Before dark we head back to the boat. John and I make a quick trip to the other side of the bay to a little store to pick up some beer and ice.
We have another wonderful dinner on the boat. The crew of Jaribu have elected to eat at Stanleyís tonight. We need to eat all the food we have onboard. We make it till about 9:00 tonight and retire.
December 9, 2002
After another night of wind and occasional showers, we awake to another beautiful morning in Paradise. Todayís plan is to go just around the end of Jost Van Dyke, near Sandy Cay and snorkel. We motor around there, just about twenty minutes, and drop the anchor. We are in a cove where we can see through a passage that looks north into the Atlantic, but is only a foot or so deep. We can see the waves from the Atlantic breaking on the other side of this short cut in the island. The group from the other boat dinghy ashore to look at a new bar that Foxy is building on this side of the island. Barb and Pege jump in and swim off to snorkel over in the corner of the cove. John and I relax and keep an anchor watch. We seem to be secure, but if we were to drag, we would be in water too shallow quite quickly. About noon, everyone has returned to the boats, and Jaribu takes off. We decide to go ahead and have lunch there. The next stop is Cane Garden Bay again.
After lunch we motor the two miles or so directly across the channel to Cane Garden Bay. We stopped here the other day, but didnít spend the night. This time we will. Although it is only about 2:00, we get the next to last mooring in the bay. Lots more boats come in after us, so they have to anchor. There is lots of room to anchor, but Iím glad Iím on a mooring. After freshening up, we go ashore. We immediately go to Rhymerís beach bar and start downing Painkillers. After three, we move on to our next goal. Getting my hair braided. Barb and Pege both had a few braids with beads done when we stopped here the other day, and we have decided that I need some too. Down the beach a few yards is Marsha, in a little hut. The ladies pick my bead colors (black and clear) and turn her loose while they go shop elsewhere. I now have three tiny braids on each side which are made from the hair on the sides of my head that never stays in my pony tail anyway. Marsha also sells ankle bracelets, so we got me one of those too. Iím turning into an island boy.
We go back to the boat shortly after dark and have dinner aboard. We manage to stay up until 9:00 tonight, consuming a few adult beverages. There is a band playing at one of the beach bars, and we can clearly hear them on the boat. We turn in shortly after 9:00, but are awakened at 11:35 by tonightís shower. The band is just finishing their last song, and we can here people chanting "one more song". They played three more.
Have I mentioned the weather is 85 highs and 75 lows?
December 10, 2002
Today we go back to the USVI. We leave Cane Garden Bay about 9:00 and head first for Soperís Hole which is where we originally entered the BVI. Here we can ditch all our garbage, pick up a few last minute items (like Pusserís Rum to go home) and ice. We are only here about an hour. We leave Soperís and motor sail west to Lind Point, which is just around the corner from Cruz Bay. Cruz Bay, St. John is where we have to clear back into the USVI. But, the harbor has lots of large ferry traffic, so it is recommended to leave the boats on moorings around the corner and dinghy around. We get through immigration and customs with no hassles except that the form VIP gave us in advance is now obsolete. So, we have to fill out new forms, with all the same info but in a different format. Typical government stuff. Once done with that, we go into the town for lunch and shopping. We have lunch at a nice open-air cafť. We then proceed to look for gold chains for the coinís we bought in the BVI a few days ago. A couple of jewelry stores later, chains have been procured and the guys leave to get the boats. The ladies are staying to shop more and will take a cab to where we are going to move the boats.
While here, I see my phone is back in US service, so I check for messages. I have two from the shipyard where my boat is being worked on. It is not good news of course. They tell me that the rudder shaft seal that was leaking is leaking so bad because I need a new rudder shaft. Estimated price, $3000. I tell them to put in a new seal and Iíll worry about that later. They also say that the new speed transducer I bought is the wrong one. I donít see how this can be, but I ask him to call the store where I got it and see if he can straighten it out. Even though I have told him several times, I donít think this guy gets it that Iím out of the country.
John and I dingy back around, and we follow Jaribu to Leinster Bay. This is where we spent the first night out. There is nothing on shore here except a park. People can leave their cars about a mile down the shore and walk down here to snorkel. This parking lot is where the ladies can taxi to. When we get here, John snags the mooring line with the boat hook and while he is trying to get the line attached to the boat, the boat hook goes overboard. I wait until I see he securely has the mooring line on, and I jump over to retrieve the pole. Fortunately it floats, but it is drifting away fast. I got it though and all is well.
About 5:00, we expect the ladies to be back, but we canít quite see the place where they will be dropped from where we are moored. The original plan was that Pege would call my cell phone, but I have found that on this side of the island, I am picking up BVI service not US, so I wonít get the call. So, I hop in the dingy and just go down there. It is too shallow for me to get the dinghy to shore, and the bottom is very rocky and the rocks have sharp critters on them. So I just hang offshore a little and wait for them. They show up in about fifteen minutes, and they have to walk about a quarter mile to a place where I can get the dinghy to shore. Back to the boat.
Dinner tonight is steaks and baked potatoes and salad again. Damn, a repeat performance. Life is tough. We donít make 9:00 tonight. About 8:30 we crash. The first shower comes a couple hours later. I didnít look at my watch after closing the hatches, and I had trouble getting back to sleep this time. Iím thinking about the problems with my boat. There more I think about it, the more Iím sure they have mixed up parts. I clearly remember reading the instructions that came with the new part, and Iím certain it is the right one. Iíll have to call him back. I finally fall back to sleep. As it turns out, everybody had restless sleep and we donít get up until 8:30. Our latest morning.
December 11, 2002
Today is a lazy day. We are only going to move a short distance down the island to our next anchorage, so there is no rush to leave. We relax and watch the world go by. About mid-day, we are ready to go. Jim, from the other boat, decides to hike across the island to the next bay. Kris takes him to shore by dinghy, and then we head out. The next stop is on the western side of St. John and is called Maho Bay. There are very few boats here and we are able to pick up moorings quite close to shore. This should result in less wind overnight, but it also turns out to be close enough that we get some mosquitoes and no-seeums. I guess we canít complain, since we have had no bugs at all during the trip so far, except the two flies who have traveled with us the entire trip.
Since the mooring fields on St. John are part of a national park, the moorings are free. In the BVI, they were $20 per night. As a result, there are no "parked" boats in the BVI. There were a few in Maho Bay that appeared to be a little more permanent. One in particular caught my eye. It was an old wooden boat with a black hull. It had two masts that appeared to me to be angled back quite a bit, like on an old pirate ship. There was considerable stuff piled on the deck, and awnings over the whole deck. I would say this boat has not sailed in some time. Late in the afternoon, we took a dinghy ride. When we passed in front of this boat, I realized that the angle of the masts was not because they were swept back Ė it was because the boat was listing to one side quite a bit. There was an old guy on deck who was wearing nothing but a long gray beard. There was a women with him who had on only shorts. They just gave us a wave as we went by.
We proceeded around the corner in the dinghy to a small beach. We beached the dinghy and went to look for the store which we were told was at this beach. There was a small stairway in the trees at the edge of the beach. At the bottom of these stairs was a sign that said STORE, with an arrow pointing up. What looked like about ten steps turned out to be 164. These stairs were in sets of ten or fifteen, with little landings along the way. At most of the landings, boardwalks went off into the woods. Along these boardwalks were little buildings which were guest quarters. These buildings were about fifteen foot squares, and the sides were half walls and half screened. I didnít see what the interior looked like, but it seemed to have a sleeping area and a cooking area. In any one of these huts, you would hardly have been aware that any of the others existed. The woods surrounded each one and each had a partial view of the bay below. We kept climbing, and sure enough, at the top was a small store and the check-in desk and activities desk for this Ďhotelí. We had sought out the store to get a bag of ice. After the steps though we treated ourselves to Ben & Jerryís ice cream bars. Then we got our ice and headed back down. Itís amazing how going down steps can hurt as much as going up Ė itís just different muscles.
Back on the boat, we receive some bad news. Now that we are back on the other side of the island, my phone works, and I find I have a message. It is to tell me that my good friend Tilton has taken a dramatic turn for the worse in his fight with cancer. I speak with his good friend Trey, who has been helping him through this whole ordeal. Heís not sure how many days are left. It puts a damper on my mood.
We put our last bag of ice to good use. After all, we need to finish all the supplies on the boat tonight, and that includes the beer and rum. We eat good again and have a few beverages. The weather is probably the calmest it has been at any time during the trip. The moon is almost half full, and illuminates the bay just a little. Our plan is to leave the anchorage at 8:00, so we need to be up early. But given the calm waters and the alcohol, it seemed like a good idea to go for a skinny dip. Our laughing and splashing brought a spotlight from Jaribu. They claim to have pictures, but I donít believe it.
Have I mentioned the weather is 85 highs and 75 lows?
December 12, 2002
The night was calm. We actually were a little hot since there was no breeze. At 6:00AM, just the break of dawn, we got our wake up call from Mother Nature in the form of a shower. Since we needed to be up early it was ok. The shower passed in a few minutes and we made our morning coffee. By 8:00 we were off and headed back to the marina. It took a little less than two hours. Just outside the marina, we call VIP on the radio, and they send out a dinghy with a guy for each of us to take the boats in. The marina is very shallow, so they prefer to let the employees bring the boats in and out. We get parked in the slip, and the task of finishing the packing and unloading is accomplished.
We have two hours to kill before our cab to the airport, so we shower at the marina, have a few beers, and fill out the Ďhow did we doí forms for VIP. Karen and Pege took an early cab into Charlotte Amalie to do some final shopping. At noon, a van shows up to take us to the airport. We say our goodbyes to the VIP staff, who we feel like we have gotten to know. As we pass through town, we pick up the girls and continue to the airport. A side note about one of the VIP staff Ė Valma is the young lady who took care of my reservation and was my contact with VIP for the months before the trip. She is leaving VIP in January to begin training for the next summer Olympics. She is a runner. She competed in Sydney, and hopes to make the team again. She promised to stay in touch via e-mail so we can track her progress.
The airport procedures are a little different than most. Since St. Thomas is a US territory, Customs and Immigration is done on the St. Thomas end. But, it is still an international deal, so you have to clear Customs (different rules that other countries), then clear USDA to make sure you arenít smuggling produce, then go through passport control, then normal airport security. Remarkably, we all get through with no unusual problems. We are on two different flights from St. Thomas. Four on Delta to Atlanta and four on American through Miami. The flights are non-eventful and we get to Houston about 9:45. Since there is a two hour time change, our bodies are ready for bed, and we still have to get the car and drive home. The temperature is about 50, and it has just stopped raining. What happened to 85/75? Weíre back to reality.
Even though everybody said the weather was only fair by their standards, I thought it was great. The only downside was that we didnít actually sail as much as I would have expected, since the winds we not always favorable. But, thatís ok.
I have a better appreciation for my own boat now. It seems every time I closely compare it to other boats, I am reminded that I accidentally got exactly what I wanted on the first try.
Iím glad I had this opportunity to have my first charter and first Caribbean trip along with a very experienced person who guided me through it all. Next time Iíll be much more confident in planning the trip myself.
The trip was wonderful. I have now fulfilled a goal I set for myself about eight years ago Ė to sail the Caribbean. Obviously there is much more to see and I still hope to do it long term someday. But, now I can say I have done it. The past year has made me think a lot about my big goal. Loosing my friend Jack in February and now Tilton has made me question my original plan to wait to cruise until I can do it as a permanent retirement. We never know how much time we have, and I would hate to be caught waiting for the perfect time and have it never come. I can already say I have come a lot closer to living my dream than most people do. Maybe things will have to be rearranged.