Sunday, March 22, 2009

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

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