Saturday, December 24, 2011

British Virgin Islands Sailing Vacation

At the end of our first day of sailing I chose not to go onto the Willy T. What I was thinking at the time, when the others on our trip motored by dinghy(a fleet of four)over to the Party Boat anchored in a cove just off Norman Island, was that I wanted to commune with the sea, the stars, the air. I wanted to feel the gentle rocking of the boat as the waves pulsed beneath me. Instead, my ears were blasted by techno-rock ricocheting off the swells. spars and hulls of the various sailboats moored among us. Everybody had a good time on the Willy T - drinking and dancing on the second level. I missed watching 20-something aged women lay virtually naked on the bar and have guys suck shots out of their navels - What goes on in the BVI stays on the boat. Fortunately, everyone made it back to the four sail boats we'd chartered for 10 days, starting the day after Thanksgiving 2011, to sail, literally, around the BVI.

We had chartered three 43' and one 51 foot mono hulls from Footloose, at Road Town. There were six people each, 3 couples, on the 43 footers and 9 singles on the larger boat. It was a good mix of people, we all got along and had a good time. On our boat, we all took turns with each of the shipboard tasks, so that by trip's end we had taken a turn at hoisting sails, pulling on the jib, steering, grabbing mooring balls, anchoring, and docking.

We employed a buddy boat system so at least two boats stayed together each day. We had an itinerary that we followed, not real rigidly but one that got us from place to place, snorkeling to hiking to swimming in a variety of settings and places.

From Norman Island we sailed over to Soper's Hole, snorkeled at the Indians and went ashore at Pusser's Landing. The Indians are large slabs of rocks that rise vertically about 50' or so from the sea. Snorkeling there was like being in a saltwater aquarium. There were fish of all colors, sizes and shapes. The water was crystal clear, the seas calm and the sun bright. In fact, throughout our entire trip the weather was in the low 80's and the sun shone brightly in a great big blue sky with white puffy clouds. It rained the day we arrived at Road Town and the day we left. In between it was postcard-perfect.

On day three we sailed from Soper's Hole to Jost Van Dyke, stopping by the Soggy Dollar Bar, where the Painkiller rum drink was invented. The Painkiller is an incredible drink that does take all pain away. It goes down easy, sneaks up on you in a wonderful way and mellows you out so gently you don't feel a thing. We moored off shore and took the dinghy in. We pulled up onto a beautiful beach, walked across incredibly soft sand into a stand of palm trees in which the Soggy Dollar Bar was nestled. Afterwards, we sailed to the eastern end of JVD and had supper at Foxy's, a place, like the Soggy Dollar, not to be missed.

In the afternoon we sailed into Little Harbor, moored, dinghy-ed to the dock and hiked about a mile or so over to the Bubbly Pool. The Bubbly pool is a miniature circular beach into which the ocean deposits waves suited for body surfing. You stand in chest deep water, catch the wave breaking through the hole in the rocks, and surf it into the pool, which at its end is as gentle a pool of water as you could ever find. Babies were playing in the water at the beach while adults were body surfing. It was a beautiful piece of nature's architecture.

The next day we sailed over to Monkey Point on Guana Island and had a great time snorkeling.

In the morning we sailed to Saba Rock and spent the night anchored, not able to go ashore on this privately owned island. Earlier in the day we stopped to snorkel at the Dogs and had a good time. Just prior to weighing anchor in the morning I noticed a big cloud of smoke coming from the bush behind the shore. I learned that in the BVI there is no recycling, no landfills - all trash, including rubber, plastic, metal, glass, whatever, is burned. The smoke smelled like a combination of plastic and rubber.

At Saba Rock, where we went to drop off our trash and take on fresh water, I asked the dock attendant what he did with our trash. He pointed to an island across the harbor, where he said he lived, and told me all the trash is taken there, in bags and however,and burned in a big pile.

I also learned during our trip that throughout the BVI there is no real sewage system, either. When we were at the Soggy Dollar, I realized that when the toilet was flushed, it went down a pipe and right out into the ocean. On board, when we flushed (pumped, really) we were discharging directly into the water. Learning this soiled the trip to some extent, an unfortunate but continuing abuse of what we're doing to the environment.

We stopped at Marina Cay for a night. It is a beautiful little island with a rich history. Subsequent to our trip, I read the book, "Our Virgin Island'" by Robb White. It is a memoir of him and his wife living for 3 years on Marina Cay back in the late 1930's, the island's first residents. The island is very bucolic. We partied at the Rum Island Bar, dancing the night away to our zydeco music. At one point we had the entire place up and dancing. A group of Swedes joined in. They sang happy birthday in Swedish to Tom, our trip leader, who was celebrating his birthday that night. As on many other nights, I had a painkiller and afterward felt no pain.

We spent an afternoon at the Baths. The Baths are a group of huge boulders, some of which fell against each other, that created a subterranean trail that led to a beautiful cove. We walked under, in between and around these huge boulders, the sunlight and shadows playing against their walls, creating exquisite hues of muted colors. I could have spent a couple days exploring the Baths.

On another day we snorkeled over the wreck of The Rhone. The Rhone was a metal mail transport ship that sank in a hurricane back in the 1930's. On the day we snorkeled, the water was clear and we went along the entire wreck. I was even able to see the four anchors that had been cut loose in an attempt to lighten the weight of the ship in an ill-fated attempt to prevent it from crashing on the rocks.

It was a great vacation, full of adventures, learning experiences, lots of drinking, sailing, swimming, snorkeling, hiking, and hanging out with good people.