Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gina's Visit to USVI & BVI'S

Saturday 30 April – Tuesday 10 May

Gina arrives by taxi to the Yacht Haven Grande Marina at 11:15 on Saturday, we get her settled in on board and are underway leaving St. Thomas Harbor by noon, heading to St. John under partly cloudy skies and 3-4 foot seas making for a little bit of a bouncy ride. Gina did great controlling her sea sickness that hit her when she went down below for a minute, quickly realizing she needed to stay on deck. More a result from her hangover from her lay over stop in San Juan the night before. We are moored at Maho Bay off St. John by 2 PM and enjoy a nice relaxing afternoon and restful night on board, except for the 2 AM shower when we had to yell for Gina to close her hatches and port holes in her berth. Sunday morning we head over to Trunk Bay, picking up a day mooring to snorkel the park's underwater snorkel trail. Gina had been here many years ago and it brought back memories and wonder at the changes. Have lunch on board before heading over to Leinster Bay for the evening. We pick up a mooring on the west side of the bay and stop by the pay station on our way to shore when two boats right up front are getting ready to leave. So we go back to our boat and change moorings tucking in close to the beach just as it starts to rain. Hiking on shore will wait until the following day. Monday we take the dinghy to shore and hike the Leinster trail to the road where we get the Annaberg ruins trail, going up to old sugar mill ruins. Get caught in another shower as we are going through the grounds. Back down to the bay and over to the ruins of the school that educated the children of slaves, before the time when that was the norm. At this point we decide to take the Johnny Horn Trail over to Coral Bay. BUT I forgot my trekking poles and Gina needed socks and Steve needed his wallet, so a quick trip back down the trail, and back to the boat before taking on the 1 ½ mile hike over the mountain to Coral Bay. The views along the way are great and coming over the mountain to see Coral Bay was well worth the hike. Have a great lunch at Skinny Legs, before hiking back to Leinster Bay this time via the Brown Bay trail that was a little longer BUT not as steep, making it back to the boat by 4 in time for a cool off swim before Steve makes another great meal on board. Tuesday we are underway early under partly cloudy skies heading over to West End (AKA Soper's Hole) on Tortola to check in to the BVI'S. We are moored shortly after 9 AM and Steve goes to customs to check us in. Once checked in we go into the town / village of West End, walk around checking out the few stores they have, stopping for a Pusser's Pain Killer (Gina's first of many this week) before heading back to the boat. A quick lunch on board and we are underway again by 1 heading for Norman Island, with a planned stop at the Indians to snorkel. The Indians as they are called are 4 huge rocks just before you get to Norman Island that are well known for being a great place to snorkel. We luck out and a mooring is available (NO anchoring allowed) and enjoy another great snorkel site. Gina lucks out and sees an eagle ray swim past her and then leap out of the water near the boat. Rest up on board for a little, while Steve tackles a little boat problem AKA head problem. We are moored again in The Bight of Norman island by 5. Quick showers before heading over to Willy T's (floating “pirate ship” bar & restaurant) for drinks and then to Pirates on shore for dinner. Wednesday we head over to a day mooring around the corner on Normans to snorkel at the Caves. Afterward we make our way tacking down the Sir Francis Drake Channel to Peter Island. First picking up a mooring in Deadman Bay, walking along the beach and stopping by the beautiful Peter Island Resort for a drink as we sit on the beach. This bay tends to get a swell so we left to go anchor a couple of bay's over in Great Harbor for the night. Trying to anchor was challenging as they had the cove we intended to anchor in signed for no anchoring, so we tried another spot but VERY deep so once the anchor line was out we were too close to shore for comfort. We went to one of the few mooring balls on the west side of the bay by Oceans Seven Beach Club and had a peaceful night for $25 plus $5 to take away our trash. Thursday morning I make a few quick phone calls (Gina's phone works here) to see if we can get in on a dive of the wreck of the RMS RHONE, no luck but we do stop and pick up a mooring to snorkel there, Steve & I will try to do a dive later after Gina's visit as it would be really neat to get down closer to the wreck even though we had a pretty good look by just snorkeling. Lunch on board afterward, and lunch time is the best time to go to this dive site as we have the place to ourselves after the other boats have left. By 1:45 we are underway a few miles to the east to Cooper Island and are moored again in Manchioneel Bay by the recently renovated Cooper Island Beach Club by 2:15. Onto shore to see what is here, a little early for HH so we hang out at the bar until then, taking advantage of the 2 for 1 Pain Killers. Gina gets to escape our quiet night life by meeting up with another boat to party with for the evening while Steve and I enjoy dinner back on the boat. Friday we are underway by 7:30 to go to the short distance to the Baths on the Island of Virgin Gorda, needing to arrive early to get a mooring at this VERY popular day stop. The Baths are a unique rock / boulder formation formed a VERY long time ago by earthquakes shoving granite layers up. Over time the rocks broke into “smaller” pieces landing on top of each other. Erosion as smoothed the rocks, as well as a chemical reaction to carbonic acid caused from rain water mixing with carbon dioxide. This creates some really amazing shapes in the rocks. We arrive by 8:30 with just a few mooring balls left. It is still partly cloudy and a little bit of a swell, so we hang out on the boat waiting for the sun to burn off the clouds and trying to decide the best way to get to shore. Landing the dinghy on the beach with the surf crashing looks like it could be difficult, all the boats look to be doing the same, watching to see and hoping maybe the surf will lay down. By 9:30 we have seen a few dinghies bring people in and realize there is NO way to get to shore without getting in the water. The dinghies can only get so close to shore then all but the driver jump out and swim ashore while the driver ties the dinghy up to a dinghy mooring and swims a little further into shore. Thank God for dry bags :). Well the Baths are very impressive from off shore on the boat, but once on shore looking at them up close we can understand why they are among the worlds most famous rock formations. The trail thru the Baths includes wading through water, climbing up and over some rocks and crouching down to fit under or through small openings. The National Park has helped by putting in a few “staircases” to help you maneuver from one end to the other. There are also some trails leading from the west side to the east that we take circling back around then hike up to the Top of the Baths restaurant for a great lunch with an incredible view. We are back underway by 1:30 sailing to the north end of the Island to Gorda Sound and are moored in front of Saba Rock and the Bitter End Yacht Club by 4. Dinghy back down in the water and over to the Bitter End first, checking it out before going to Saba Rock to enjoy a drink as we watch the sun set over the harbor. Saba rock has an interesting history as it started as just a rock in the sound that was added to and built up on over the years to become a great cruisers destination offering good food & drinks with a few hotel rooms to rent out. After cocktails and an appetizer on Saba we return to the boat for dinner. Saturday we are underway shortly after 9 making our way east via the Atlantic side to reach Cain Garden Bay on the north side of Tortola . A short stop here, going ashore to visit the Callwood Distillery, an18th century rum distillery still in operation and looking like it's from that time period. Except for the staff, which consists of a teenage girl listening to music on a boom box. She turns it down as we walk into the wooden shack that is the distillery, gives us rehearsed talk about the history of the place. Steve asks a few questions about where the cane is pressed, the stills are, etc. and she says they're outside the shack, and walk around and look, but don't' touch anything. So we do, finding the cane press, ancient and disassembled from it's equally ancient diesel engine, and the pot still, looking like it hasn't been in operation for a long time. Steve suspects that the whole thing is more of a tourist museum piece than a functioning distillery, but we go back into the shack for some rum sampling, which was really the whole point of the trip there. We went through white rum, the initial product out of the still (good for getting you drunk quick, according to the teenager), white rum aged four years in charred oak casks, which turns it into the normal light tan rum sold by Bacardi, Cruzan, etc., a rum aged 8 years which is smoother and darker, a rum spiced with cloves, vanilla, and other spices similar to Captain Morgan, and a sweet rum called the “Panty Dropper” which is popular with our salesgirl's age group. We buy a couple of bottles and move on to the next adventure. Walking up the road we find a glass blowing shop, where he is doing the work right out in his front yard, so we stop to watch and Gina finds a couple of pieces to buy. Another great little bay to explore. Back to the boat and underway again by 3:30 for a short sail over to the Island of Jost Van Dyke (Jost pronounced Youst), moored again by 5 in Great Harbor, quick trip into shore to see where the dinghy dock is and see what is here before dark. Make reservations at Foxy's Tamarind Bar for their Saturday night buffet. Back to the boat for showers before 7:30 when the buffet starts. Have a great meal but as with most buffets you just can't eat that much food. They have a good band that we enjoy dancing to after dinner and are one of the last to leave. Sunday we are staying in the same place for a change, so have a relaxing morning before getting into dinghy to head over to check out White Bay, the next bay to the west on this Island. This is a spot we want to visit BUT we have heard it can get very crowded with limited moorings and anchoring spots for deep draft boats. So we are going with the dinghy and depth finder to check it out before going over with the big boat. On an uncrowded day we would be good on the east side of the bay, even the west side would be doable just would have to watch the depth closer. Have a nice afternoon walking along the beach that has about a ½ dozen bars, one that lets you mix your own drinks. Need I say we had a pretty stiff drink from there, even stopped there for lunch. Winds and waves are calmed down so we have a dry ride back in the dinghy to the boat. The harbor is filling up quick, Steve & Gina go into shore later to see if anything is going on but looks like most of the boats are staying on board as very few people were on shore. Quiet night on board as I write the blog and Steve teaches Gina how to play backgammon. Monday Steve goes into customs on Jost to check us out of the BVI'S and as we are leaving the mooring field at 10, Gina says hey that boat Anchor Management is from Kemah Texas. We drive by and introduce ourselves as he is a friend of other friends who are also out here cruising. He plans to be around the BVI”S for a little while so maybe we will run into him again and be able to meet and visit. We have a nice downwind sail with just the Genoa sail out and are anchored in St. Thomas Harbor by 1. On the way in we here another boat we know, Toucan Dream, on the VHF radio talking about another boat we know RSVP'S captain Bill has broken his shoulder and is on his way to the hospital here in St. Thomas. We see both of their boats at the marina but no one on board so do not know what happened. Steve goes to the boat supply store to get a new pair of binoculars to replace the ones that just broke in two from many years of use while Gina and I do a little last minute shopping for her, meeting back up at Fat Turtles for a drink and some of their yummy 3 cheese dip. Back to the boat for showers then back in for a farewell dinner at Wikked. Tuesday Steve brings Gina and her luggage (as little as she brought she still had too much bathing suits shorts & tank tops is the norm) into the dinghy dock to get a cab to the airport. We had a lot of fun with Gina visiting. Checking out a lot of different places, many we look forward to going back to and exploring more. After Gina leaves Steve came back to pick me & the laundry up, as I go do laundry he heads over to Red Hook to get a physical and drug test to renew his captains license, just one of those things he did not want to let lapse. Tuesday afternoon back to the grocery store to re stock and plan where to go next.

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