Monday, February 28, 2011

Heading Out to Explore with Friends - Leg 2

After leaving the beautiful beach of White Bay and the fun at Foxy's in Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, we sailed east in the waters of the Atlantic on the north side of Tortola. There are not many anchorages on this side due to the surf and the steep mountains dropping into the water. There is one beautiful bay we will visit later. Our purpose on this leg was to sail all day to get to Marina Cay in time to pick up a mooring ball. Since it is a 20 mile trip as the crow flies, we had a full day of sailing. In the end we covered 25 nautical miles as we had to tack into the easterly Trade Winds most of the way.

View from anchorage at Marina Cay
Marina Cay has changed a lot since we were there three years ago. There are fewer mooring balls and they are further off the island than before. This probably due to the new luxury development on Scrub Island and the access route to it. The balls were filled so we anchored between shore and the reef. It seemed like a good place since the reef would break the waves. What we didn't count on was the water hitting the mountain on the other side of us and going back out to sea! We had never experienced that at Marina Cay the several times we stayed overnight there in the past.

The result was a real rock and rolling night with little sleep! Both of us were up most of the night in shifts keeping watch on the anchor and to relieve our bodies from rolling back and forth across our queen berth. It was probably a better time to be sleeping forward in the V-berth. Who would ever think that leeclothes would come in handy while at anchor in so close to land!

Skipperette & the Captain at Pusser's Marina Cay
We had a good dinner at Pusser's Beach Terrace Restaurant and visited the Pusser's Company Store. There are facilites for showers, laundry and provisioning on the island. Marina Cay was island in Robb White's book, Our Virgin Island, which was made into a movie starring Sidney Poitier and John Cassevetes. The book was reissued in 1985 retitles to Two on the Isle.

It will be a long time before we go back to this anchorage, even though it used to be one of my favorites when you could snag a mooring ball.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Heading Out to Explore with Friends - Leg 1

Leaving Nanny Cay behind on the way to the Bight
We left Nanny Cay Marina after preparing the boat and provisioning. With friends, Joan and Larry, on board, our plan is to do the S/VTrillium BVI Circle Tour! That is, we will take our time to visit the "must see" places and find a few new ones as we circle Tortola, catching a number of islands surrounding it.

Our first overnight was at the Bight, Norman Island, where the famous Willie T's Bar floats at anchor - and has for years. The wind was 18-22 knots while sailing, but the gusts over the mountain and into the Bight reached well over 30 kt. at times. No one was eager to venture into the dingy to go ashore or have a drink at Willie T's. The Captain and I had gone ashore the week before to check out Pirates' Bight for a future dinner. Not needed this time. Too rough!

One night at the Bight was ENOUGH this time, anyway given the strong wind pushing us around. A sail out into and west through Sir Francis Drake Channel, passing Soper's Hole on the West End, led us to the north side of Tortola via Thatch Island Cut. Crossing the open water, we sailed to Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke. We spent two nights on a mooring ball to give us time to explore this island and experience another evening at Foxy's.

Joan & Larry at Foxy's
 After dinner on board, we dingied into Foxy's for some entertainment. Not only music and dancing, but also people watching. If I told you what all we saw, my mother would flip in her grave. Let's leave it to a personal conversation if you really must know! As always, a good time was had a Foxy's!

During the day we visited Foxy's for tee shirts and a walk around the island village. Larry loves his cigar so he had a smoke while Joan and I listened to the jokes and songs Foxy himself was sharing with the visitors. He comes out during the day and holds "court" for a few hours. If you are lucky to be there at the right time, you are in for a real treat! He is quite a character and certainly a pillar of the island community. The music in the evening is provided by other bands with limbo, dancing and lots of fun people watching.
Foxy telling one of his stories in song!
We decided to take a trip up over the mountain to White Bay. It looks gorgeous from the sea, but is too shallow due to reefs for us to anchor Trillium there. Dennis and Joan actually walked from Great Harbour to Ivan's on White Bay. This is a real uphill climb! Larry and I took an open air cab to the Sandcastle to reserve a table at the Soggy Dollar Bar. White Bay was by far the BEST beach in the BVI-even with the invasion of the day tour boats with people leaping off with drink in hand. Absolutely beautiful! Good swimming and sunning, not to mention the home of the famous (or infamous) Painkiller drink. It does take care of all things!

Ivan's Stress Free Bar decorated with seashells
                                                                           To get back to the boat, we walked the beach and rocks back to Ivan's to pick up a taxi. Actually, I am glad we did so I could see this unique place called Ivan's Stress Free Bar. While there is not as much activity happening at Ivan's end of the beach, it is worth the visit to see the decor. This little beach bar and shop is decorated with seashells. Really decorated - as in "wallpapered" with them! You can see in the photos.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Disconnected! Not Always By Choice

Even when you think you are in the 21st Century, you can feel like you are still in the Dark Ages. When we left home, we had an understanding from others that finding Internet and cell phone connections in the US and British Virgin Islands was "no problem, mon." In some ways that is true:
  • Yes, your cell phone works ... if you have a world phone that is capable of CMDA and GMS or T or something. Obviously my new Droid 2 does not. And of course, just a few months after purchasing it, they came out with the Droid Global phone! Dennis' Blackberry works most of the time. It just has trouble switching from the US to the British system and back again. For the most part, he is connected with his work world. At least he has a HELP line to call and they keep him in business.
Then there is the other connection: the Internet! Or not! In most marinas, there is access to the Internet once you get their visitor's code. However, the signal is never stellar. It may come on as 54 mbps, but usually functions at less than 3 mbps - often only 1 mbp.
  • That means, Dennis cannot access his firm's Citrix system where all of his files are stored. Being creative, he has found some convoluted and complicated ways to get what he needs - not without a few frustrated signs of disgust!
  • We even bought 200 hours of the local Internet service trying to get our "own" Internet access. It works -sort of! Still no access to Citrix.
  • My whole blog about our week with our friends, Larry and Joan, got lost somewhere in Internet Never Never Land. It was a week's worth of adventures just waiting for a strong enough signal to add the photos. But it all disappeared! So this week we will be retracing many of our tracks with my sister, Vicki and her husband, Larry, so I will try again to take you on a tour of the the BVI! Maybe I will even get photos to upload!
Our friends on SV Smidge, another Hallberg-Rassy, told us about the addition of an antennae and booster to improve the Internet signal. We have not caught up with them yet to get the details. However, we received an email from a cell phone telling us they had "drowned" their computer so they could not get online. I am not sure how they drowned it. I know there have been times when I thought one of the three we have on board was going to be thrown overboard!

In the end, the idea of a virtual office sounds great. The reality is that you are at the mercy of the local service providers. I have chosen not to use my Droid 2 with its 3 G Hot Spot as they tell me it will cost me $20 per day for the data plan here -and they also tell me won't work! Go figure.

I am puzzled because it worked just fine in November and we were whizzing through our work on the Internet. And since it took forever to Verizon to figure our how to make the phone part work in the US VI and it is not capable in the BVI, I figure "why fight it?" See - those after the money are continually making changes to get more of it and add frustration to our lives.

So the answer is: enjoy vacation and don't stress over the office! Actually, one of my tee shirts from Davis Murray says: "The answer is RUM! What is the question?" Have another Painkiller and relax!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Provisioning Outside of the USA

You really appreciate home when you are facing new challenges such as shopping. At home, you can easily find food items that you like at a price that is comfortably familiar. When in the islands, it is a different story. There is no Costco or Sam's Club here. There isn't really a fully stocked Kroger or ...

When shopping at a local "supermarket," the prices were shocking:
  • $7.35 for a small Boursin cheese
  • Horizon milk was $6.85 for a half gallon
  • $10.50 for a whole chicken - and there were only 3 from which to pick
  • No pre-cut, pre-packaged fresh chicken
  • $12.00 for an 6 oz. ribeye steak (and it wasn't very good)
The produce was just as costly relative to shopping at home. And there is a limited amount available. No Nino's here! Apples were $1 - 1.75 EACH depending on the size. Many of the bins were empty. Of course the reason for the high prices and limited quantities is that everything has to be imported. The only crop on Tortola is bananas.

I asked the cab driver if the prices were the same for the locals. It seems they are and the income levels are much lower. I really don't know how these people afford to feed their families. That is one reason why sailors give their extra provisions to the locals who have helped them when the boat goes on the hard and you can't take your extra food back home.

The meat counters are full of interesting things: goat, chicken feet, pig snouts, and other cuts I have never seen before. We are staying away from the local seafood except for deep sea fish. Several people we know have become seriously ill - one died - from something picked up in island seafood. I think Maryland crabcakes are looking better all of the time. And of course, Michigan white fish, perch and walleye can't be beat!

We have tried a few things at local bakeries. The coconut roll cake is very tasty. A new treat is the chicken roti. It is a thick chicken stew wrapped in a special flat bread called roti. The island spices make it delicious. I have even learned to drink Carib beer. Beer has always given me stuffy sinuses, but this one is light enough that it doesn't bother them and I actually like the taste - when it is cold. Warm - UGH! And if you don't drink it quickly, it will be warm is a very short time! So ... bottoms up!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Exploring the Virgin Islands

Nanny Cay Marina
We are using Nanny Cay as our home base in the BVI. It is the end stop for the Caribbean 1500 Rally and the starting point for the Atlantic Cup Rally in the Spring. It is a quiet harbor with a little village of 40 shops and restaurants, marine services, pool, beach and lots of "island time" relaxation. Road Town, the "big" city on Tortola is a short cab ride away. There are lovely hotel rooms and condo at Nanny Cay as well as marina slips with the best ever marina showers! (I never thought showers could matter so much until I started frequenting marinas!)

We have family and friends joining us for some fun and exploration. We have been in the area before, but mostly stayed on the water - as in on the boat or swimming, but not exploring on land. This time we will go ashore and experience the famous (or is it infamous) watering holes and restaurants that sailors proclaim to be among the best! I think they mean for fun, not necessarily for the food! Hopefully the meet the expectations set.

On a trip around the "outside" of the British Virgin Islands several years ago, we went around the north side of Tortola, past the Dogs, down to Marina Cay and over to the Baths on Virgin Gorda. Then we circled around the southern shore of St. John, USVI before sailing to Red Hook, St. Thomas, USVI.

Cooper Island Beach Club Restaurant
In November 2010 after completing the Caribbean 1500 Rally, we rested up in Nanny Cay for a few days before exploring a couple of anchorages. We sailed to Round Island, Ginger Island and Cooper Island. The winds were squirrelly with a lot of chop so we did not go ashore at any of these. After a few attempts at grabbing a mooring ball in the wild wind, we did anchor overnight at Manchioneel Bay in front of the Cooper Island Beach Club, which claims to have a great restaurant. This means a return to Cooper Island to check it out. Lucky for us a boat comes out to collect the mooring fee so we did not have to bounce around in the dingy to pay.

Then we continued exploring by circumnavigating Salt and Peter Islands looking for more anchorages. It is extremely important to know your charts in these waters as there are rocks and reefs everywhere. We passed between Peter and Norman Islands and went around the south side of Norman Island into the Bight on the west end. The Bight is one the best anchorages - with lots of company - as it is protected from the Trade Winds. It is a very popular spot with two places for fun: Willie T's (William Thorton - The Bight), which is a casual dining establishment which was originally on an anchored pirate boat (replaced some years back) and Pirate's Bight, a beach bar and grill. Many stories have been told about the happenings at Willie T's! We will have to see for ourselves.

While many places on the maps look like good places in which to anchor, the charts tell you otherwise. The goal, of course, is to get out of the direct wind so your anchor will hold while you sleep. Many of the bays are not accessible due to the reefs. And you sure do not want to put yourself in a situation where you could get blown ashore or onto one of the reefs.

Another beautiful sunrise in the islands
 There are so many places to visit and experience. Our goal this year is to get to know the Virgins -Islands, that is. Both British and US. There are places like Foxy's on Jost Van Dyke, Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda, Caneel and Trunk Bays on St. John, and Magen's Bay on St. Thomas. An overnight sail to St. Croix is also in the plan. We will take you along through photos as we explore the islands.

There are such beautiful sunrises and sunsets, clear blue skies, turquoise waters all begging to be photographed. Day after day, but they never get boring! I will try not to bore you with too many photos of them. Let us know if you do want to see something in particular and we will try to capture it for you.

Just click on the Follow icon in the right hand column and select an email host to receive notice of updates. We would love to hear from you through the Comments link at the end of each blog. Fair winds and calm seas to you!