Monday, May 5, 2014

Day 3--Virgin Gorda, BVI on Thursday, April 24

Oh Boy--what a great day of sailing! We are definitely getting our sea legs and beginning to live in the sailing rhythm!  Our trip seems to be exploring the islands around Tortola starting with Peter Island just south of Road Town, Tortola and moving counter-clock wise.  Yesterday we sailed east to Cooper Island and today we sail out east/northeast to Virgin Gorda.  Here we are sailing to the Baths located on the southern end of Virgin Gorda.

The Baths are protected by the BVI National Parks so there's a whole list of DON'Ts to protect the reefs.  Don't anchor.  Don't use Park's moorings unless you have paid for a permit (we have, thanks to Conch Charters). Don't use Park's moorings if your boat is longer than 60 feet (okay, we're good with our 34 footer).  Don't bring your dinghy to the beach (okay we tied it off on the buoy lines surrounding the Baths boulders).  Don't spend the night on the Park's mooring (fine, fine we just stopped to snorkel and swim ashore--we have lots more sailing to get us to the other end of Virgin Gorda and the Bitter End Yacht Club).  And, I have to say that snorkeling in the Baths was very nice.  Corals and little tropical fish were abundant.  On shore we found a little outside bar (well, they're all outside here!) and had a refreshing beer before swimming back to the dinghy.  Nice!

So the rest of the afternoon was spent sailing up Sir Francis Drake Channel to Gorda Sound--the northern end of Virgin Gorda.  Ahhhh--wonderful, wonderful sailing--we could do this forever!
Tucked into Gorda Channel are rental moorings at Saba Rock Resort and Bitter End Yacht Club (not really a yacht club--it's a resort).  We tied up to Saba's moorings as they will come pick up your trash and they give you free ice and water!  This is what Saba Rock looks like from our mooring.  Dinghies just tie up to the porch.

We called in a reservation to  Bitter End Yacht Club for dinner and dingied over early to look around and enjoy happy hour.

We watched the sun go down and dined sumptuously!

Day 2-- Cooper Island on Wed., April 23

Okay!  Now we've got a little bit of internet so I'm trying to get our blog caught up.  We definitely are thinking of all you folks at home.  On day two, we were thinking about GE and Rosemary Cooper as we did a short sail to Cooper Island!

We didn't go ashore, just cooked on board and chilled.  This means we didn't go get the official "Cooper Island" shirt like GE has.  Maybe next time.  The picture above is our first selfie of this trip.  We put the camera and little tripod on the cockpit table.  John is clicking the remote--hopefully we'll get better at the selfies!

Below is a picture of Rosemarie's salon--we thought you'd like to see it.  For a 34 foot sailboat, she is quite roomy and comfortable!

Day1--April 22, 2014 Tuesday

Wow!  What a full day beginning with lots of boat prep minutia and ending with our first lovely evening in paradise.  Here are pictures of the Conch Charter docks in Road Town, Tortola; a view of Road Harbour from The Pub Resturant as we had breakfast; our boat Rosemarie and Tortola in the background.

After provisions arrived and we got the orientation chat, we motored into the wind—straight south—for an hour to Great Harbour on Peter Island.  Nothing is there and that’s exactly what we needed!  Well, there was a nice little beach-side restaurant called Ocean Club and a very quiet, restful night tied to a mooring ball in Great Harbour, Peter Island.

This peaceful calm on Tuesday was especially appreciated since Monday’s  adventure to get to the BVIs was long and challenging.  We had a full day of flying and hanging out in airports.  For some reason United Airlines routes its flights to British Virgin Islands through Newark, New Jersey.  We started at RDU around 6 am, which is way too early for us.  By 5 pm we were in the basement of the San Juan airport waiting for a little 10-seater Cessna to fly us to Tortola.  That flight gave us a great view of San Juan and most of the beautiful islands along the Caribbean.  Sorry we don’t have pictures; the camera was stowed with our bags.  We’ll try to take some aerial shots on the way home.

After an easy trip through customs and immigration, we took an exciting taxi ride from the Beef Island Airport, Tortola to Conch Charters in Road Town.  The island is very mountainous and the cab driver was very fast and quick to veer out of the way of other cars.  Also, they drive on the British side of the road which takes getting used to.  We arrived around 6:30 pm only to find the charter office closed.  Yikes!  Not to worry, mon – there was a note on the door telling us that our boat was the Rosemarie on the dock right behind us.  Sure enough, there she was lights on, wide open, and a welcome bottle of rum was on the salon table.  AAAAh! 

The arrival process was not complete, however.  We had not had anything to eat since a 10:30 am lunch in the Newark Airport.  Under normal circumstances, this would not have been a problem because The Pub Restaurant is located right beside the marina.  But since it was Easter Monday or maybe some quirky islandness, the restaurant was not open.  John volunteered to hike into Road Town and get some takeout from Pusser’s Pub while I stayed with our stuff on the boat.  Of course everything moves slowly in the islands, so he had a long wait while they cooked and boxed up our supper.  Finally, after several near-death experiences with the crazy drivers careening up and down the road, John got back to the boat. 

It was a rigorous prelude to our sailing adventure and even a good night’s sleep did not happen.  Boats tied to dock are often noisy and bouncy—this one certainly was.  Plus a noisy pump kept cycling on and off all night and that’s not the sort of thing you want to turn off—ya know.

Day 11--May 2, 2014 Friday

Wow!  What a wonderful trip.  The pilot of the little Cessna flying us out of BVI said, "I've got just one question for you all.  Why are you leaving?"  Yeah?--that's the question!  We were tempted to deplane right then and live the "island life" forever.

Our day started with packing up our swimsuits and cleaning out the boat's icebox and cabinets.  The charter company advised folks to leave good food out on the salon table rather than throw it away.  Their boat-cleaning lady has lots of kids and appreciates the leftovers.  We tried to eat up everything, but were surprised there was so much left.  We met the cleaning lady and she was very pleased with our donation.  So glad we didn't have to throw out perfectly good food!

Conch Charters had their checkout lady come and lookover the boat.  She seemed okay with everything--we didn't break  or bend anything--except the padlock that we destroyed in the lost-key debacle. They didn't charge us for that padlock--nice.  Their divers will later go under the boat and take pictures of any dings or scars that looked bad.  If they find something, they'll let us know, but we were very gentle with their boat.  I'm sure they will find nothing.  Our checkout lady didn't think there would be a problem, so we left on a good note.  The office had already called a taxi to take us to the airport and it was waiting for us in the parking lot.

Taxi rides on Tortola are exciting experiences so we settled in for 30 minutes of wild riding through towns and alonegmountain cliffs.  We tried to video a short movie of the ride, but somehow it didn't work.  There were goats wondering all over the place in one little town.  It would have made a nice little video--sorry about that.  Here's one picture of the taxi barreling up a mountain road.

At the airport, clearing customs and immigration was easy enough.  Then we loaded up in a very cute little ten-seat Cessna with a blue fuselage decorated with tropical fish/conchs and pink wings!  Check this out:

We sat right behind the pilot and had a great view of everything.  Here are three pictures of Trellis Bay which is very near the runway.

Then we spied the site of our misadventure with the Bubbly Pool and the boat key.  This is Little Jost Van Dyke and the East End Harbour.  We couldn't see Foxy's Taboo or the Bubbly Pool, but we know they are there!

And looking through the windshield we could see the US Virgin Islands --either St. John or St. Thomas.

We deplaned in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

And, one last look at that cute little tropical plane.  Yea, Cape Air!

Now we are homeward bound, via Newark, New Jersey!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Day 10--May 1, 2014 Thursday

Today is our last full day in the British Virgin Islands. Our plan was to snorkel on the Wreck of the Royal Mail Steamer Rhone located in about 30 feet of water just a couple of islands east of where we were on Norman Island.  Of course, the wind was coming right out of east so it took a lot of tacking back and forth across Sir Francis Drake Channel to get to the outcrop of rocks on Salt Island.

Just before noon, we made it to Salt Island and the very nice park service mooring balls for the big boat.  We took the dinghy over to a smaller mooring line and jumped overboard.  Gooooolllly!  The wreck was impressive to view.  Our underwater camera is a old one, but we did get some shots.  The water was clearer than the pictures and the date stamp on these pictures is wrong:  it really was 5/01/2014 not 4/25/2014!

Here is the huge propeller resting on the rocks about 30 feet below.

You can see what must be the drive shaft long the bottom and the ribs of the ship.

The R.M.S. Rhone got caught in a hurricane on October 29, 1867.  She survived the first half of the hurricane, but in the lull in the middle of the storm, the captain tried to steam over to the shelter of Road Town, Tortola.  As they weighed anchor a shackle broke and dropped the 3,000 pound anchor and some 300 feet of chain.  So the only thing to do was to steam out to get sea room to weather the second onslaught.  She almost made it past the rocks when a big blast of wind forced her on the rocks at Salt Island.  There the R.M.S. Rhone heeled over, broke in two, and sank instantly, taking most of her company with her.

As impressive as the Wreck was, we didn't stay long.  We jumped back on board and headed north to the harbor at Road Town.  It was a nice snorkel, but if you got to go, you got to go!

Our last sail was most pleasant--a broad reach for a couple of hours.  John sailed and I made sandwiches.  Then we lunched and enjoyed the last of this fantastic sailing experience.

We had called ahead to let Conch Charter know that we were bringing the boat.  The normal checkout would have been noon on Friday (May 2), but we needed to catch a taxi to Beef Island Airport by 9:30 am to get our 11:30 am flight home on Friday.  Conch said that was fine, just get to their harbor by 4pm Thursday. 

We were there by 3:30pm Thursday and called Conch for their boat captain to come out and maneuver us into the docks (pretty tricky as you have to back in between a bunch of boats).  Conch must have learned years ago that it was better to send one of their captains out to your boat via dinghy rather that have the boat renters try to do all that backing--yikes.  So as instructed, we hooked up to one of their moorings and waited for a captain to be dinghied out.  First we used the waiting time to tidy the boat.  We coiled lines, secured things, etc.  Then we started washing down the cockpit (food and wine stains, ya know).  Still no captain, so be began tidying ourselves!  We still had plenty of warm fresh water on board so we showered and changed clothes.  Finally it was getting near closing time for Conch Charters, so John called again. They seemed to think we wanted to spend the night on the mooring since we didn't have to check the boat in until noon tomorrow.  Noooooooo indeed, John cleared that up and right after that a very nice captain was brought out to our boat.  He checked things out, rearranged where the dinghy was tied up and off we went to the docks.

After that, we hiked into Road Town proper to visit an ATM and have supper at Pusser's Pub.  Here's John with his Island Hoppin' IPA at Pusser's.

And here are some flowers and signs we saw along the road to Road Town.

We got back to our docked boat before dark and turned in early.  Tomorrow will be an air travel day flying from Beef Island to San Juan to Newark, NJ, and finally into Raleigh/Durham around midnight.  The hardest part of a sailing adventure, may be the flights getting to and from the boat!

Day 9--April 30, 2014 Thursday--Still at The Bight of Norman Island

Although we invested in a company that guaranteed that we would be able to get internet service onboard our boat anywhere in the BVIs, it just wasn't true.  Rarely did our online service work.  So we became dependent upon the connectivity of local bars and restaurants, which is not always an unpleasant thing--but not as convenient as hooking up to the internet onboard.  Also, if we could have gotten reliable service onboard, we could have called home via Skype quite easily.

Today (Day 9) Thursday we decided to invest in finding a good bar with internet.  Well, that wasn't too hard!  Our boat was moored in The Bight of Norman Island right in front of a brand new fabulous beach bar & restaurant--Pirate's Bight.  Although we were a couple hours ahead of the bar's lunch-time opening, we had gotten the password last night and were ready to log on as we lounged at the beach in front of the closed bar.  Here's a picture of me--hard at work!

And, as nice as this looks, I welcomed the opportunity to move into the cool shade of the building when it opened for lunch.  The laptop's power needed boosting and I needed a cold beer!  We had an excellent lunch--John had ribs with a great BBQ sauce and I had some lime chicken wrap something.  We kept blogging until we got all the recent pictures posted.  Then we made plans to visit the floating bar/ship William Thorton--fondly called the Willy T for happy hour.

This big old steel schooner is permanently anchored in the bight and has been converted to a party bar--definitely seemed to be something we should check out.  We posted some pictures of the Willy T in yesterday's blog, but here are the up-close-and-personal shots. 

Here's the floating dinghy dock along the port side.  The bigger boats can tie up along the starboard side.  I thought at first that the only way you could get to this bar was to boat over, but then we did see some folks swimming over from some sailboats moored/anchored nearby.

The stern had two levels and some folks were jumping off the top level when we arrived.

Here's the bar area on the first level--nice. huh?

Also, there was a nice Galley area where John and I perched ourselves at one of the picnic tables to play some dominoes.

In the middle of our third game (I was winning, by the way), a local fellow came over saying he wanted to play with us.  Well, okay--what can you say?  As it turned out, he was the cook waiting for the bar owner to arrive with some fresh fish.  The galley wasn't open yet and the fish hadn't arrived, so the cook wanted to play dominoes with us.  He would not tell us his name, so I first called him Willy T, for the boat.  He thought that was rude (funny, a guy joining our game uninvited would think something was rude), so we called him Thornton  which was the official name of the boat.

Shortly after joining us, the bar owner pulled up in his fishing boat so the cook had to go.  We probably would have stayed for dinner had we seen any fresh fish coming off that boat, but there didn't seem to be any.  Here's the cook Thorton up on the bow.

We decided to go back to our boat to make our own supper and get to bed early.  Tomorrow, Friday, will be our last day and we were hoping to snorkel on the Wreck of the Rhone in the morning before sailing back to Road Town by 4 pm to check the boat in at Conch Charters--a busy day ahead!

Here's one last look at the Willy T.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Day 7--April 28, 2014 Monday

The day the Bubbly Pool ate our boat key!

Today the key for our padlocked dinghy and padlocked big boat got ripped from John's velcroed pocket in the Bubbly Pool.  Things looked pretty bleak for a while.  We called the charter company and they decided to send a replacement key over on the ferry.  But the ferry doesn't come to East End Harbour---oh no, it comes to the other side of the island--Great Harbour.  So we were to hire a cab to take us across the island to Great Harbour to meet the ferry--and we had to be there when the ferry lands or the boat captain would just simply turn around and leave with our key as he runs the return trip to Road Town.  Yikes!!  But some very wise sailor guys offered to help.  As it turns out these guys were very adept at breaking into padlocks drilling right through the key core as the lock was too tough for a hacksaw! 

So, it all ended well.  We called the charter folks back and told them to hold that rescue key and we celebrated by spending the rest of the day treating our new friends to many rounds of beer!  They were sailboat racers from MA--very interesting guys and lots of fun.

Sailing from Great Harbour (home of Foxy's) to East End Harbour (home of Foxy's Taboo and the Bubbly Pool!)--

Inside Foxy Taboo looking out at the dock.  Sometimes it's just hard to believe these scenes are real.  We did nothing to this picture--it just looks like this!

And this is the Bubbly Pool.  The Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean along this shore and the swells crash in to make this Bubbly Pool.  Little did John suspect that the crash would rip off his hat, his regular glasses and his sun glasses!  We found the hat floating around but the glasses proved more of a challenge.  The other folks there helped feel around on the sandy bottom for the glasses.  John came up with the sunglasses and this nice guy stood guard by what felt like glasses under his feet until John dove down and brought up his prescription glasses!  Wow!  It was some time later that we realized that John's pocket full of change and our boat key was missing the change and the key.  The pocket was still velcroed shut and the bills were still in the pocket--the loose change and the key, however, were gone.