Monday, March 30, 2009

Boat Wife - Projects and Downtime

[Maryanne]All our major projects are complete, and Footprint is mostly ready for our next big passage, there is still a list of minor things, and just having a boat creates a constant stream of maintenance, repairs, and things you just decide you need to do/have. So while Kyle is busy earning us a living, I've been working my way through some of these projects.

Actually it's a good job Kyle is away, since I tend to not want to put things away until I'm sure I've done with them, in other words I live around quite a mess for days (sometimes weeks) until I finally decide enough, and pack everything away (normally just a few hours before Kyle returns, but don't tell him).

Things quickly turn to chaos once I start any project!

Here is a selection of the things I've done so far:-
  • Sewing:
    • Repaired/secured sun damaged Life Sling case (used by one of us to recover the other if we fall overboard)
    • Repaired/replaced Man Overboard Pole flag and cover - used to mark the place where we were stupid enough to fall overboard... It flies a big flag high up so it should be easier to find the person in the water (or at least find the Man Overboard Pole again).
    • Repair Dinghy Cover
    • Repair Flag
    • Made a strap to secure our wash water bucket in place, we'd been using a bungee, but the sun is killing it. The strap should last much longer.
    • Made 2 rain catchers - I didn't have enough material to make the large one I'd planned, so I made 2 small ones (they are totally different materials, otherwise I'd have sewn them together, I'm not that crazy). Just as I was about to install the grommets I discovered I don't have the right tool. My tool is for plane grommets, and I have ones with teeth.... Foiled again, new tools on order

  • Sealed boat front window screws (this job seems to need doing fairly regularly (especially after a session pounding to windward). I get the hint that it is time when they start to leak).
  • Fixed a leaking water jug (Of the 7 or so Martha Stewart water jugs we purchased that are just the right size, only 2 remain.... Oh to meet Martha in a dark passage way....).
  • Purchased new buckets to replace broken/lost ones
  • Fixed my watch strap (OK not remotely boat related, but I did it!).
  • Extended Visa
  • Filled Propane tanks
  • More Laundry
  • Lots of grocery shopping (We understand prices in Bermuda are going to be very high, so we are trying to stock up for the next 4 months of basics while we are in the BVI - the boat is going to sink...... ahhhhh.

Of course in fixing things, apart from making a huge mess of the boat, I also, invariably, break something else - this way, the list of chores is never complete. This time is no exception. On replacing an external electrical box cover, the bolt sheared off - so now I only have one bolt holding on the cover just fore of the mast... Doh! That leak I was searching for has now no doubt got worse.

Oh, and sewing isn't that safe either, from time to time my sewing machine gives me an electric Zap - adding yet another job to the list (find short).

It's not terribly exciting for you dear reader now is it? But if Kyle does sneak a look at what I've been up to, hopefully it will make certain that he doesn't think of sending me back to work or anything crazy... I'm enjoying being a boat wife.

Local Beaches and coves - plenty of peaceful places to loaf

And naturally I don't just do boat projects. I get plenty of time off (hey, I'm my own boss, I can set the work hours right?). I try and get off the boat every day, and if there are no chores that require me to go ashore anyway, then I just explore. At first I concentrated on the trails around the beach of Trellis Bay, but I've slowly been getting further afield (other beaches, venturing down mystery roads, etc).

I've also met lots of nice people over the last week, AND my trip to immigration to extend my visa was all pleasant - whew. :-)

Life is good

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Boat Wife - Laundry day(s)

[Maryanne]Kyle goes off to work, and I stay at "home" and get all the standard chores done. A very classical male/female divide that just happens to work for us for now, but always makes me chuckle at my "domestication".

So, Laundry. I wanted to give you guys a flavor of what doing laundry means to us on Footprint.

The picture above is from several years ago (2003), when we were traveling from Ohio to Virginia with our previous boat Prydwen. The story is the same, we would move on our route until Kyle had to go to work again. We'd find a suitable base, He'd head off for work, and I'd have a few days catch up with the chores. In this case, we found ourselves in Croton-on-Hudson in NY, I had a rather large backlog of laundry and some damp quilts from the bed (It was early June, but still cold and we were suffering with condensation issues - living aboard, cooking and breathing, with no ventilation because the hatches are all battened down against the cold soon causes condensation!).

Unfortunately, they rarely put laundromats beside the river, (not even in the fancy marina we'd managed to negotiate a deal with) and for this particular stopover I was glad to borrow a Marina cart and pushed it, fully loaded, the 2 miles or so to the nearest laundromat.

So now we are in the BVI. I'd watched an adjacent boat put a little bit of laundry out to dry several times a day and assumed they had one of those small, hand operated, washing machines. We have neither the space, nor the spare water for such a thing, but it reminded me we were in serious need of clean clothes and bedding.

I'd previously run a reconnaissance trip and found several laundromats in the nearby East End in Tortola. I also found one in an East End marina (which was both nearer and cheaper! Yay!).

So - I packed up as much dirty laundry as I could stuff in my huge hiking back pack (2 loads), and along with detergent, loaded it and my bicycle into the dingy, and rowed off to shore. Once I arrived at shore I set up my bicycle, loaded the pack on my back, put on my helmet and pushed the bike over the beach to the road. I was a woman with a mission.

But wait a minute, there is laundry machine in one of the back rooms of a local cyber cafe.. Hmmm, maybe I don't need to be peddling anywhere? I'd already seen someone that looked as though he were the owner as I passed the front - so I turned around and asked if the laundry machines were available to use? After a bit of checking, "Sure" he said, "cold water only and $20 a load". Gulp. Thanks, but no thanks, I only paid $12 a load for someone else to wash/dry/fold my laundry in Antigua, $20 seemed WAY off.

I stuck to my original plan. Heck I probably need the exercise.

So off I set, looking as though I'm all ready for a month hiking trip. I found the Marina laundry, verified I could use it, even though I wasn't a resident/guest at the Marina. Bargain almost half the price of local laundromats - just $1.50 a load for washing and a $1.50 for 20 minutes of dryer time... I got my 2 loads done for under $10 and that includes the $2 soda I purchased.

When my brother discovered my saving, he (bright as a button, and with all my missing humor quota) replied If you had biked 2 miles more would you get 4 loads for free?. Now that's thinking!

Actually, sitting in a laundromat waiting for washers and dryers to finish is not exactly stressful (unless there is a shortage of machines and a bunch of folks ready to fight for the next one to become available - and that really does happen). The hard work is really getting there, and then fighting the boredom once you're there, so I take a good book, chill out, and feed the machines as necessary.

So, laundry dry and folded, back in backpack, cycle/row home, unload.

Next day - repeat with remaining 2 loads of laundry. (This time I found the local baker and had a Swordfish Pasty and some delicious cookies for lunch while I was waiting - just $3.25).

But does anyone feel sorry for me I ask? Sure you don't, I'm "stuck" in the BVI so it ain't all bad! :-)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

BVI Day 4

[Kyle]We slept in a little the next day but a swell was working it's way into the anchorage and it was starting to get a little uncomfortable. The surf breaking on the reef and on the rock was pretty impressive, though, and made for some great breakfast entertainment along with the diving pelicans.

We cleared the bay and headed north for the upwind beat back to Trellis Bay along the northern coast of Tortola. We would head out until we couldn't see enough detail, then we would tack and head in until we got nervous about being too close. Eventually, we ended up tacking back and forth up a narrowing gap between Guana Island and Tortola, enjoying views of the many beaches and bays along the way. The pace gradually picked up until we were short tacking our way through the narrow gap against the current. Several times, we'd think we made it, then the wind would shift and we would have to tack again. Maryanne is great in these situations. She just seems to instinctively know what needs to be done. We work so well as a team that we can tack back and forth, back and forth without saying any more to each other than "Okay, now!". That's fun sailing.

We came through the gap and found ourselves in a little spot of protected water bounded by Tortola, Guana and the Camanoe islands. There is a tiny deep water channel Between Camanoe and Little Camanoe that opens up right at the entrance to Trellis Bay. The last time we arrived, it was the night of the Full Moon Party. This time it was slightly less crowded. We tried and tried to find a place closer to the dinghy dock, but eventually ended up almost exactly in the same spot as last time near the shoal in the middle of the bay. Maryanne said that was okay, it made for great entertainment watching dinghies run aground trying to take a short cut across the bay. In the last hour of daylight, I got to see three of them. One guy got up speed and used inertia to make it over, one guy in a charter dinghy with six others looked embarrassed and flustered, Two young boys just tilted up the motor and started rowing, which I thought was better than the adults handle it.

[Maryanne]If you are on a dingy, then clearly you came from a boat, with charts, right??? AND the water is really clear, so all you really need to do is look where you are going. For a while I tried to wave down and warn dinghy users when I saw they were obviously headed for the reef, but after being ignored (who wouldn't ignore some random woman waving like crazy), told "I KNOW" by some that actually came to see what I was waving about, and a few other comments, I gave up and just enjoyed the show. If I'm ever about to do something stupid like drive my dinghy (or any other boat) motor over rocks and coral, PLEASE someone wave and yell at me! I promise to be grateful.

[Kyle]From here, I have to pay for all of my goofing off with a burst of work which will have me gone for three weeks before I get to return for more goofing off.

BVI Day 3

[Kyle]Day 3 we slept in a little before performing one of my favorite sailing maneuvers for the second day in a row: leaving under sail! This time was a little more challenging because the anchorage was really full and we were in the back and we would have to tack upwind out of the harbour. Maryanne gave me that "are you sure this is a good idea?" look at first. I reminded her that it was just these sorts of nail-biting exercises that make us good sailors. You've got to stay in practice doing the hard stuff. Anybody can sail in a straight line on an empty sea. Tacking out of a crowded harbour requires skill, coordination, teamwork. She didn't appear to be buying any of it, but went along anyway because she knows how I am.

We did a really nice job of it. We even did one particularly nice tack while simultaneously shaking out more sail to pick up speed. We were like a crew of five and I bet not one of those charterers even noticed. That's alright. Better that than have a thousand people paying attention as we plow into another boat.

From Great Harbour, we sailed the long way around Jost Van Dyke to the completely deserted north side, where we tacked back and forth before clearing the island and heading to Cane Garden Bay on Tortola. Through the binoculars, Cane Garden Bay was looking like another White Bay and I was getting worried about my choice. Once we got closer, we could see that the anchorage was much bigger and the party more subdued. We managed to find a nice spot in the quieter southern end of the bay. We had just enough time for a snorkel on the reef and a swim ashore for a walk before returning to Footprint to watch the sun set over St. Thomas and Jost Van Dyke.

Sunset From Cane Garden Bay, over Jost Van Dyke, BVI

[Maryanne]Anchoring is getting to be a real pain in the charted anchorages of the BVI - anywhere popular is filled with mooring balls, and although described as "inexpensive" in our cruising guide, they seem to range from $35 a night up to $65. That is the price of a cheap motel right? So far we have always found an area to anchor (we are grateful for our shallow draft), but "they" are not making it easy. I'm not sure what the legality is of installing mooring balls in anchorages that are clearly marked as "anchorages" on the charts, but it sure makes for good money for someone. As soon as we get off the beaten path, the mooring balls are absent and we can find a whole bay to ourselves. Now we don't anchor on a coral reef or anything silly like that, and I know using a mooring ball is way easier than hauling all that anchor chain in, or even trying to set an anchor. But really, what do you get for your money? No fresh linen, no air conditioning, no breakfast, you just save 10 minutes of effort - hardly worth the cost!! Grrr.. OK, end of rant for today.

BVI (Mostly) Day 2

Early start, but worth it

[Kyle]Since we knew we had to clear Customs and Immigration in two widely separate places, we got up early on our second day. We pulled up the anchor at the first hint of light and sailed out of the anchorage as quietly as church mice. I love doing that. By the time the sun rose over the Sir Francis Drake Channel, we were just clearing the western tip of Norman Island and were headed to the south coast of St. John, USVI. St John is mostly nature preserve and is very pretty. A we sailed along, I imagined all of the cool trails and camping there, but we were on a mission - Customs.

Cruz Bay, St John, USVI

We came into the very pretty little harbour of Cruz Bay, St. John, and tied up to the much better protected (than Road Town) Customs dock. Once inside, U.S. Customs and Immigration were courteous and efficient but not friendly. We were back outside in three minutes. Then Maryanne noticed that we had been given no evidence whatsoever that we had cleared in or out - they kept all of the forms. H.M. Customs in the BVI was sure to give us trouble over that. We went back in to double check and they said we were in the system and that's all that was needed. Three minutes later, we were back on the dock shrugging our shoulders.

Since we were officially in the U.S. for the day, we topped up our tanks with fuel and water and headed back to the BVI, this time to the island of Jost Van Dyke (pronounced Yoast Van Dyke). The anchorage was pretty deep in Great Harbour and the holding was poor so it took us several tries to get the anchor to hold in a spot that allowed for plenty of swinging room. Once satisfied, we got in the Portland Pudgy and headed to shore to clear in.

We walked into the Police Headquarters building and were immediately greeted with an angry stare from the Customs woman. When it became clear that the Customs agent was not going to speak to us, (we were the only three in the room) Maryanne explained that we would like to clear in, please.

"Where's your form!" was the response.

"We don't have a form. We just got here. Where may we get a form?"

"You don't have a form?"

"No. Sorry. We've only been in the country for 15 seconds. Where would we have obtained a form?"

This question did not make her any happier and with a huge melodramatic roll of her eyes, she produced the form and stabbed a finger at a desk to fill it out. We took about half a step. "What are you doing?! Go to Immigration first!" She pointed in that direction.

The Immigration lady was not as nice. When we said we didn't have forms, she demanded a dollar. Maryanne started counting change out, the woman rolled her eyes and said, "Just give me a quarter!"

Maryanne made a joke about how it was getting cheaper all the time, which flopped. Like the Immigration woman in Road Town, she said many contradictory things and was clearly not happy with us for being, uh, alive, I think. She kept saying we were giving her a headache and saying how stupid and troublesome we were, all while appearing to be completely exhausted by the effort of keeping her head up. By the time we were dismissed back to Customs, that woman was looking like Mary Poppins by comparison. We both left biting our tongues and fuming. Those two horrible women had performed the miracle of actually making us miss the slightly less horrible woman in Road Town. It was a complete shock to us. The Customs and Immigration people in Virgin Gorda were really nice! It occurred to me much later that most other people on boats in the BVI (over 90%) are charterers who have probably been sent the forms in advance by the charter company and are not asking to stay the maximum legal amount of time (most only stay a week or two). Those boats are registered in, and never leave the BVI. Still, I get a feeling everybody is a "headache" to that woman.

Walk back down the hill towards White Bay, JVD, BVI... In the bay you can see one of the biggest privately owned sail boats in the world, at 88 m (290 ft) the very modern Maltese Falcon, we have seen it almost everywhere we've been, from Antigua onwards.. It obviously moves around a LOT faster than us. Oh, and if you have a few $1000 to spare, you can charter her, and the submarine that comes with it!

To shake that off, we walked up, and then down a very steep hill (they don't do switchbacks here) to the next bay over: White Bay. To be honest, I was disappointed. The bay was very white (ooh, the glare!) and beautiful, but it was packed, just jam packed, with what looked to be the overflow from the Cancun Spring Break crowd. Boats were everywhere. Drunks were everywhere. It was way too busy. We had heard that Jost Van Dyke was quiet and unspoiled. It is true that there are no Radissons or Hiltons on the island, which is good, but the place looked like a water park on a hot Saturday.

Scenes From White Bay - you'll have a hard time believing Kyle's "Crowds" Story. These were very carefully selected photos.

We walked to the far end and found the One Love bar, which wasn't too crowded (yet) and went in for what turned out to be a deeelicious frozen rum drink of some kind that they had on special. Since we had to go back over the big hill and since I wasn't smart enough to pack the gold brick, we stopped at one drink and headed back over the hill to Foxy's in Great Harbour.

Scenes From Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, BVI

Foxy's is kind of a famous hangout on Jost Van Dyke. It was much quieter. Maryanne and I enjoyed a Presidente beer each while sharing a big hammock and reflecting on our marriage (our anniversary was four days earlier when I was at work). Hungry and fed up with paying quadruple for beer, we rowed back to Footprint for a sunset curry.

BVI (Mostly) Day 1

When sailing around the BVI it is never far to the next island - this is easy, and beautiful sailing

[Kyle] I had a few days off for us to go sailing within the Virgin Islands. The BVI has an irritating rule that a boat can't stay for more than 30 days without paying a $200 temporary importation fee. This means that it is necessary to sail to the USVI to clear in then out before returning to the BVI for another 30 days.

[Maryanne]Given our plans, when we first arrived in the BVI we were all ready to pay up the $200, but were advised at the customs office NOT to do that, at least not until we were sure we needed the 30 days, and they even suggested we pop over to the USVI and back to reset the clock, and avoid paying the fee...

[Kyle]I know a lot of people must be wondering why we don't just stay in the USVI in the first place. Mainly, it has to do with convenience for my commute to work. The St. Thomas airport in the USVI is much more difficult to get to if we don't want to stay in the busy Charlotte Amalie harbour. It's 2 cabs and a ferry versus a 2 minute walk from Trellis Bay in the BVI. St Thomas also has fewer flights and they tend to be fuller, which is double bad.

The problem with having to sail to the USVI is that the nearest port of entry, St. John, is on the opposite side of the island from the BVI. This means that for any reasonable period of time, our choices become between skipping the BVI and sailing directly to St. John, or enjoy the BVI and make St. John and back a day trip. We decided to stick with the BVI for now.

Our first day out, we got started early so that we would have time to clear out of the BVI in Road Town (the capital). The bay was filled with swell and the Customs dock was a frightening concrete thing that was exposed to the worst of it. It took me several tries to get Footprint turned around in the high winds and swell and gently backed up to the dock. Once tied up, the boat was pitching so badly that I was afraid she'd be smashed on the dock if left unsupervised. Maryanne ran in to get the process started while I observed our home to make sure she would be okay. It turned out the wind was keeping Footprint slightly off the dock, although it still looked pretty ugly. Satisfied for the time being, I went in to find Maryanne just finishing up with Customs, who were busy giving evasive answers to her simple questions. From there, we stood behind a very stern sign saying to wait here and only here for Immigration. The desk behind the sign was empty but there was a camera and we were in full view of the Immigration lady. After ten long minutes of this with me getting increasingly agitated about the security of Footprint, Maryanne politely asked the Immigration woman if we were in the right spot. With this, she immediately began insulting us for being so stupid as to read the sign when obviously we weren't being served. We were supposed to see her and only her. She said she had seen us but that there was to way she was getting up and walking the ten steps to see us or even going to the trouble to call us in from her desk. We were stupid for not knowing that. Once we got into her office it got worse. She treated us with total contempt. She said six contradictory things in seven statements and when we asked for clarification, she just scowled at us. Eventually, we were allowed to leave. We had no idea what happened, other than that woman was mean, mean mean. Wow!

We got the hell out of there in a hurry and it took us longer than we wanted it to to shake off that horrible experience, even though, otherwise, it was a beautiful sailing day.

We sailed across the Sir Francis Drake Channel, around Peter Island to Norman Island, where we found a spot with one other boat in a beautiful anchorage in deep blue water.

We spent the rest of that day snorkeling the reefs in and out of the anchorage. The coral was the healthiest we've seen in the Caribbean with lots of colorful fish of all varieties in huge numbers. I even had a big barracuda give me the stink eye and a show of teeth when I got a little to close or something. [Maryanne]Barracudas rarely attack humans without provocation (provocation such as you are poking, or spear fishing them!), but it does happen. Mostly, it is thought that they are mistakenly attracted to something shiny (like light reflecting on your mask), but they have also been known to deliberately launch themselves out of the water and onto boats to attack humans from time to time.... Ya gotta be careful out there.

[Kyle]The day ended with a beautiful sunset over St. John while we watched a dozen or so pelicans catching an easy dinner.

There were a host of pelicans roosting in the trees around the bay - this one had just caught supper before heading off to find a tree for a nap

Sunset View from Benures Bay, Norman Island

Friday, March 13, 2009

Our Life

Kyle ties up the boat at the dinghy dock. The coffee mug is mine; the sun is just up and it's way too early for me to function without help!

[Maryanne]Kyle left for work a couple of days ago and I thought I'd share with you folks his commute plan.

  • Day before he needs to start work
    • leave boat early in Morning and row to shore
    • Walk to airport (this can be several hours in some places, but here it's just 5 minutes from the dinghy dock)
    • Get flight to Puerto Rico
    • Get connecting flight to Newark
    • Take bus to crash pad for night
  • Day of work
    • Take bus to airport from crash pad
    • Turn up for work on time

If only Kyle could manage a train ride in there, he'd have most modes of transport covered (there may even be a train involved once he gets to Newark)!

While Kyle is away this time, I took a Ferry back to Virgin Gorda and met with my new Hero and his family - those that found my purse and managed to track me down to reunite us. I was very happy, and Young Christian, the 10 year old who started the recovery process, really is my Hero.

Since then, I've been getting a cell phone service sorted out, looking for propane refill stations (still looking), laundromats etc. Trellis Bay is quite remote and with few facilities, so I took my bicycle off to explore this afternoon... I almost made it as far as Road Town (The capital) but there were hills involved, and once Road Town was in sight, I could see even more hills.. I figured I'd left it too late for the day to go all the way there and return before dark - so I'll save those extra hills for another day.

An oar broke the other day, and (since the last time) we have spare oars which we've been using. Today I finally got around to fixing the broken one (we already had the spare part aboard - all I had to do was drill out the old connector piece, and install the new one with my trusty rivet tool). The old (now fixed) oars are MUCH BETTER; it has been so windy there really was an incentive to fix the oar since the old oars have much larger blades and are longer - I appreciate the extra leverage with all this wind.

We can only stay in the BVI for a month before we owe Temporary Import duty on the boat (about $200), so Kyle has been busy rescheduling our sailing time to include a couple of passages to the USVI to break up our planned time here. The USVI are really close, so it's no big deal. At the moment, I have no idea where we are going when, so it shall be a nice surprise when Kyle gets home and tells me the final plan.

I'll keep you posted

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Full Moon in Trellis Bay

[Maryanne]I spent the first 40 minutes of today frantically searching for my purse to take with me on today’s planned exploration! No luck, even when I enlisted Kyle’s help (he normally manages to save me once I reach such a frantic state). I felt sicker and sicker and remembered more and more clearly the guy I’d seen at Spring Cove counting out money behind the rocks. Eventually we left the boat without my purse, trying desperately to remain positive that we’d find it when we returned.

After a pleasant stroll around the bay we settled for lunch at a cafĂ© with free wifi. There was the email from kind holiday makers on Virgin Gorda – they had found my purse in Spring Cove (without the $ but at least I’d have my cards, drivers license etc). They found me easily enough since I had my boat card with my email address in my purse (accidental luck there on my part). So – I lost $200, but I have my purse, the world is full of kind people (among the others) and I’ve proven yet again that I'm still an idiot. I shall not let that ruin my life in paradise here! Kyle and I retraced our mental steps and we know exactly where we lost the purse - it was while setting up for a photo of the two of us.... That makes for an expensive (but memorable) photo now.

Spring Cove - where I set my purse down and then forgot to pick it up - Doh! One very expensive picture

Oh well, enough of that! We are now in Trellis Bay, which is on Beef Island, linked by bridge to Tortola, in the BVI.

Trellis Bay Scenes - note the mini-fireball under construction in this bottom picture (center)

[Kyle]When we finally did get ashore, we had a walk around to orient ourselves and find out what’s what. We walked to the airport to check on the flights/loads/requirements to jumpseat etc. The beach is literally as close to the airport as the parking lot. Once back to the beach we explored fully; Trellis Bay is less of a town than an artist community, it is mostly populated by craft shops, cafes, and a small campground of visiting artists in the mangroves. There was one grocery store where every item was $1000, some artsy-socialism experiment to prevent some items from being more favored by society than others.

We walked along the beach to the north of the village, and despite the anchorage being full, nobody else was bothering with the long sandy beach, so again we had it to ourselves. The water is shallow and warm and we had fun wading in and looking at the various sea creatures while just enjoying our time together and having a long meander of a conversation – it was great to have that kind of time together (again!).

The Last Resort Restaurant/Bar, on tiny Bellamy Cay in the middle of Trellis Bay - we spent an hour fussing over the cat and enjoying doing nothing much

After lunch, we returned to the boat to catch up with our blog posts and then headed for happy hour at “The Last Resort”, a bar/restaurant set on its own island in the middle of the bay. Despite it being happy hour, and the place being huge (and fully booked for later in the restaurant), there was only us (and the employees of course). We had a couple of $2 beers each (BVI is already proving to be more expensive than St Maarten) and enjoyed the company of the many pets on the island, especially Honky, the friendly fat white cat who was happy to hang out at our table and receive a bundle of fuss.
Once happy hour was over, we took our cheap asses back to the boat and had dinner (A huge veggie chili).

Even though I had to get up early for my commute to work, we went out one more time for Aragorn’s Full Moon Party on the beach. Again, the artists were out in their stalls selling a bunch of really cool jewelry and other art. There was a band playing reggae/calypso covers as well. The main attraction was the fire balls – large iron balls/cubes cut with images out like a Halloween pumpkin by Aragorn (a local artist) and set ablaze every full moon. Because the fireballs are so well ventilated, it took a while to get them started, judicious use of lighter fluid and blow torches! Once it got going, it really was a sight to see, with the flames leaping and the carving silhouetted, the party goers illuminated by the flames.

Fireballs are the key attraction at the Full Moon party in Trellis Bay, Beef Island/Tortola.

Since the fireballs were on stands, set in about 3’ of water and 50’ from the beach, I spent much of my time wading around taking pictures from various angles getting close enough to feel the enormous heat and concerned about losing my eyebrows, or my camera melting. [Maryanne]Yeah, Kyle was a kid at a fireworks show with nobody telling him to be careful – he got so close, and with a manic smile on his face, he was loving it – I didn’t have the heart to show any worry for him and ruin his fun.

[Kyle]One the fireballs started to die down, out came the mocko jumbie stilt walkers/dancers - Originating in Africa, now traditional Caribbean carnival entertainment. We first noticed them getting ready sat atop a mini-van strapping on their stilts. Once they got up and started walking around, the dexterity was impressive; they had no problem walking over the uneven beach surfaces, nor ducking under banners and trees.

Satisfied with our evening, we started the row back for a few hours sleep before I started the commute to work. We were offered a tow by Caroline in a huge, powerful charter dinghy which turned the 15 minute row into a 30 second sprint. She was really nice and offered her phone number, and her help with anything else we might need to know about the area.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spanish Point, the Baths and Beyond

[Kyle]We arose early with a plan to head to "The Baths", the BVI's best known attraction. We had originally planned to get up earlier still, and use one of the day moorings at The Baths, but the prior evening a local had shared that we were only about 20 minutes walk away, hardly worth pulling up the anchor to move to the next bay! We were a little apprehensive knowingly approaching such a big tourist site (we don't like crowds, especially the cruise ship magnet points). However as Chris (fellow Gemini owner on Gypsy Cat) reported in his blog, "Not going here when in the Virgin Islands is like going to Paris without going the Eiffel Tower". So we went. We were glad we did; it was beautiful, it's in no way obscenely commercialized, and the crowds really were not that bad.

The Baths, and Devils Bay

Basically its just rocks on a beach, but this doesn't do it justice at all! From the park entrance, a winding path leads through 6' boulders down to a lovely tan beach where house size boulders partition the beach into several little pools with blue surf coming in. The day we chose, the conditions were still rough, and the park was flying the red flag (mooring field closed and no swimming, although everyone seemed to be ignoring the warnings. The mooring field was already full and there were swimmers and snorkelers crashing through the surf).

We got there early-ish and the beach was scattered with tourists - not as bad as we'd expected. We wandered from end to end (taking LOTS of pictures) before deciding to take the path to what I'd assumed to be the more secluded Devils Beach to the South. From reading the description in our guides, I'd mistakenly thought that the attraction was Devil's cove and the path was merely the means to get there. However, it was the path was a grand attraction in itself. The start involved crawling on our hands and knees into a cave formed from boulders resting atop each other - into a "room" with a beautiful pool of blue water, welcoming us to the other side. The path continued in and out of caves, around giant boulders, and through more pools. Some spots were narrow, with just enough room to squeeze through, others were steep with wooden steps or ropes placed to aid the walk. Each little cavern was beautiful. Every corner we turned opened up into an abstract vista of carved rock, light and shadow. I'm surprised our camera didn't overheat, we certainly had to change batteries out a few times! The trail eventually opened to Devil's bay and a beautiful pocket sized white beach, crowded with locals and visitors, splashing around or lounging and reading books; still a bit too crowded for our taste. We noticed a trail extending southward from the beach and set off to explore further. After yet more spectacular scenery, we eventually spat out onto a deserted little sandy beach - here we took our dip, splashing around for around 30 minutes with the place to ourselves, enjoying the water, the surf and the sun, before deciding to explore further south - you never know what is around the next corner.

[Maryanne]Just to be clear these "caves" are not real caves, but these giant boulders have been tossed in a pile, and landed on top of each other; you can crawl, walk and have a party in the various "caverns" left in the gaps between the boulders - it's really amazing, and as usual our pictures can never do the scene justice.

Beyond Devils Beach there is more and more stunning scenery and beaches, but this time the tourists don't follow. We spend hours here, and Kyle finds a crab to befriend

While Maryanne Discovered this guy - petrified - and stuck in the rock

[Kyle]The next beach was also deserted and composed of fist size (and larger) pieces of coral of all different shapes. The huge boulders here were just as dramatic as The Baths. Eventually, I scrambled to the end of the beach and got as far as I could before finding a vertical face there was no chance of me passing. After yet more photographs, we returned on the path back to Footprint. Our guidebooks had told us that the crowds tend to thin out after 1pm. However, we found the beaches and caves busier than ever at 2pm. At one of the choke points on the trail to the Baths, we had to wait for a chain of 40+ people passing in the opposite direction. By that time we were starting to feel like elephants in the circus, each holding on to the others tail - time to leave.

On the way out, we stopped by the shack of a local artist who makes jewelry from Conch shells. Maryanne and I particularly liked the necklaces, so we decided to splash out and purchase one. Arthur was low key, friendly, and a pleasure to give a sale too - he even charged us less than the already inexpensive ticket price (without us even asking), and gave us a spare lanyard to hold the conch pendant.

Maryanne, being a "non-standard-issue" type girl, reacted the way most women would have to a diamond; (which is definitely the opposite to the way Maryanne would react to diamonds). I must say it does look beautiful on her.

On the walk back to Spanish town we passed by the entrance to Spring Cove, and decided to investigate. What a wonderful detour! With the same swimming holes and rock structures of the baths, but filled with a smattering of locals celebrating the commonwealth day holiday at the main entry part of the beach (with Picnic tables and BBQs), but otherwise deserted - we had loooooong stretches of pristine beach to ourselves. The water was what the British call more-ish, like when you get a craving for something and just can't stop gobbling it down - I could not stay out of it; it was so warm and beautiful.

Exploring Spring Cove area

Kyle and Maryanne Find a dinosaur footprint, and Kyle scrapes himself somehow scrambling around on the rocks

We could find no return to the road, so we walked back to the beach where we'd entered. Here, Maryanne spotted a guy hiding among the rocks counting out money; she deliberately spoke to him and smiled, but certainly felt it peculiar. She suspected (but did not want to accuse) that he'd "found" a wallet. We returned to the boat, all aglow from our wonderful day, amazed at the beautiful life we lead and with each other. We still had a few hours before the sun set, so we decided to sail to our next stop - Trellis Bay. Mostly so I could sleep in guilt free the following morning.

As we turned the corner into the bay we were shocked at the huge mass of moored boats. Memories of Block Island and Cuttyhunk came flooding back. We were not sure if we'd find space at all, let alone to anchor. We eventually did what always seems to work for us, we found a spot too close to shallow water for most other boats to dare, and were able to get the anchor to set well (2nd time); I double checked the anchor by snorkeling on it just before the sun set. Safe and secure in the busy anchorage and pleased with ourselves and our lucky life, we enjoyed a home cooked meal and went to bed late, knowing we had no timetable for the following day.