Gotta Smile!

Gotta Smile!

Monday, April 21, 2014

British Virgin Islands

April 12 - 21, 2014
A - Soper's Hole, Tortola  B - Great Harbor, Jost Van Dyke,  C - Cooper Island,
D - Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda,  E - Gorda Sound, Virgin Gorda
Picture perfect Caribbean!
What were we thinking?  Here we are in the Caribbean's busiest charter boat market.  It is the height of Spring break and on a Saturday we decide to go to Soper's Hole and hang out on a mooring ball.  Soper's Hole is one of the top destinations for people visiting the British Virgin Islands by boat.  We pulled into the very large bay slowly working our way through the boats that were on mooring balls and carefully dancing around the other boats that were looking for an empty mooring.  Many of whom were oblivious to the fact that they were in a busy congested harbor.  When the marina was in sight, we looked at each and without another word called for a slip.  Luckily there was one available. We were very glad to be secure and no longer playing in traffic.  Soper's Hole Wharf and Marina is the picture perfect Caribbean village.  Pussers flagship store is here along with restaurants and shops.  It is a fun place to visit for a night.  After anchoring in bays for so many days, I felt a little claustrophobic with boats so close in adjacent slips.  
Methodist Church on Jost Van Dyke after Palm
Sunday service.

Palm Sunday we went to Jost Van Dyke's Great Harbor....the home of Foxy's.  Took the dingy into "town".  On the beach side of the packed sand road, hammocks are  strung between the palm trees.  The other side of the road is a series of small restaurants, shops and FOXY'S.  I'm not sure how any of the other businesses manage to survive.  Everyone that visits wants to see the famous Foxy's.  The bar/restaurant is named after it's founder Foxy Callwood, a singer, entrepreneur and 5th generation son on Jost.
The hammock side of the road.

Main street in Jost.

We visited between the lunch and dinner crowds.

Did I forget to mention -- Jost has a beautiful bay?

Arriving at Cooper Island.

Cooper Island has a pristine bay that is remarkable even among the best.  And, to make it even a more desirable their restaurant is phenomenal.  Recently, they rebuilt the facilities.  The cute Caribbean colored cottages are gone.  Instead everything is groomed and landscaped and the buildings are a sand beige.  We liked the former style, but the water and food are still among the best in the BVI.  
Lush new landscaping and new rental units.

This is one of those places I could easily spend a week just relaxing....with or without a boat. 

Small tables in the water for real beachfront  dining.
The nights are as beautiful as the days.

I was barely out of bed and Brian was still reclined
reading emails, when we got a knock on the boat.
It was customs patrol.  Now, even when you are
doing everything by the book, it is a bit unnerving to
see these guys at your door asking for the captain.
Kind of like driving on the highway and a patrol car
appears to be following you.  All was good.  They just
wanted to check our documentation.  

The border patrol left and Todd arrived.  He had been
 in the slip next to us in George Town, Exumas. This
trip he's with his wife, Kelly.  After breakfast they
both came over.  I was in serious need of girl talk.
We had a fun visit.  They are from Minnetonka, MN,
one of our past hometowns.  

Once again -- small world!

This is as close as we got to the rich and famous.
Necker Island is Sir Richard Branson's private
island.  The 10 bedroom villa can be rented for
$38,000/day.  Should I inquire about dates for

 any of you? 

The Bitter End is a beautiful resort.  The little villas
on the hillside rent for $1000/night.  Our waterfront
mooring ball is $35/night.  Considering our budget
we'll stay on board.
After our experience at Soper's Hole, we make sure
we are at our destination before noon.  The
scramble for the last remaining balls at the end of
the day is cut-throat!

Twenty-three mile/hour winds with gusts to 35 arrived Wednesday (16) night and started dying down on Sunday (20).  We were originally going to leave on Saturday, but the winds were still blowing like crazy.  Then another glitch, the customs office closed on Good Friday at noon and wouldn't open until Monday.  The BVI requires check out 12 - 24 hours before departure.  So, our departure day is Tuesday.  It's OK, we will have a smoother (11 hour) trip to Anguilla.  

In order to be secure during the big blow  we attached to a mooring ball in Gorda Sound on Wednesday morning after a night in Leverick Bay.  Gorda Sound is home to The Bitter End Yacht Club -- a huge resort.  To boater's the bitter end means the end of the free line.  In this case it means the last stop before heading out to sea.

Here's a new one for us -- The night before Easter there was a big fireworks display.  It was beautiful and seemed very appropriate....He has risen!         

This visit to the BVI has really been a walk down memory lane.  We have revisited some favorite places that were introduced to us about 15 years ago, when we chartered a sailboat with three other couples.  Those were wilder days!  We had some great times especially memorable were Cooper Island and the Bitter End.  While enjoying dinner at the Bitter End we were told that if we didn't quiet down we would have to leave!  We had always thought that the Bitter End was one of those places where anything goes.  Through the years we have come to consider it a badge of honor to be reprimanded in such a legendary location! 

Off the dingy and on land!
Strollin' the grounds like we belong.

Lunch at The Fat Virgin Cafe,
a Biras Creek Resort outpost.

Gotta smile -- we're lovin the ride!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Rest of St John

April 5th - 12th, 2014

A - Great Lameshur Bay,  B - Saltpond Bay,  C - Coral Bay,  D- Hansen Bay,  E - Francis Bay,
F - Waterlemon Cay
I'm not sure you can see the dramatic difference from bright blue sky to gray with rain.

We moved to Hansen Bay on Friday to get protection from the wind.  The next four days were the first gray ones since November.  We have come to expect every day to be perfect.  The temperatures remain in the mid 80's.  Gusty winds have delayed our exploration of the north shore. 

 After three days on board, it was time to get off and get a little exercise.  The dingy was in the water so we headed to Coral Bay looking for a grocery, mail box and dumpster.  On the way to the dingy dock the waves were behind us so we didn't notice their size.  After taking care of everything and having lunch we made our way back to Gotta Smile.  Now we were going against the waves.  The swells were mostly 2-3 feet, but periodically they would build to 6.  They look pretty big when you are in a dingy!  We would see them coming, hold our breath and float over the top.  Quite a sensation.

                                                                      Free range goats, sheep, donkeys and chickens.

 About dusk Brian decided that the dingy should be connected to the boat with the chain instead of the dock line.  I was busy in the galley.  I heard a big splash, but wasn't concerned.  Shortly after the splash I heard, "Could you get the ladder, Jackie?"  Yes, I finally got to prove that I would save him if he fell overboard.  For years he has claimed that if he went over, I wouldn't look for him for at least four days.  The rescue went fine.  Unlike Captain Ron, I didn't drop the ladder on him as I installed it.  Hopefully, it never gets trickier than this.  

The mountains of St John give each bay a different personality. Some have good TV reception, some have WiFi and others have good phone reception.  Of course, the weather is also influenced, but since it is mostly blue sky and sunny we are more concerned with our creature comforts! 

Tuesday dawned with the blue sky we love.  We have been anchoring more than we anticipated.  That means using the generator to keep our batteries charged so we can use the washer, dryer, water maker, coffee pot, microwave/convection oven, hair dryer, etc, etc.  And, that means we need more fuel to complete the trip.  Called the Red Hook marina.  Diesel was $5.25/gallon.  Second call was to Charlotte Amalie where we found diesel for $4.75.  Since we were getting 315 gallons, it was worth traveling an extra 12 miles.      

When we finally made it to the north side of St John, we stayed in Francis Bay and loved it!  A day long dingy ride took us to Moha Beach and Cinnamon Beach.  It was great to walk each of them from one end to the other.  We sampled the snorkeling, but it was disappointing.  Maybe we just didn’t find the best spot. 

Local artists gift to the tourists.....

Happy tourists enjoying the local art and another one of God's masterpieces. 

Our last night in the US Virgin Islands was in Waterlemon Bay.  It will definitely be a revisit.  We arrived with strong gusts that challenged our mooring skills.  Rain and strong wind continued most of the afternoon.  By the time we launched the dingy it was dusk.  Just enough time for a quick tour of the bay.  

Looking along Sir Francis Drake Channel.  Island on right is St John.  The other islands are BVI.

We have been in the US Virgin Islands for three weeks and it has been all that we had hoped.  Tomorrow we will cross Sir Francis Drake Channel and begin our exploration of the British Virgin Islands.  So excited! 

Gotta smile -- we're lovin the ride!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Culebra, PR to US Virgin Islands

March 19 - April 4, 2014

22 - San Juan, 23- Fajardo, 24 - Culebra, 25 - St Thomas, 26 - St John
It was 5:15 AM when I awoke.  The local roosters were crowing telling Culebra it's time to get up. Too early for me.  I rolled over and suddenly it’s 7:00.  The roosters were still crowing but at a much more civilized hour!  The doors to the cockpit were open and I could look from the bed all the way through the boat.  Since we are anchored, I got a panoramic view of the bay as the boat slowly twisted on it's anchor chain.  Another beautiful day!  We enjoyed three days in the Culebra harbor without leaving the boat.  It was good to relax after having company for a week.

Charlotte Amalie Harbor from a lookout on our way to Magens Bay Beach.
Exploring alleys and streets in Charlotte Amalie.
On Tuesday the 25th, we set off for St Thomas -- a short 4.5 hour cruise.  We had briefly visited St Thomas several times before, but only as a flight layover on our way to St John or the BVI.  This time we wanted to explore the island.  Our first day was a dingy ride around the bay and a walk around town.  The second day we rented a car and drove to Magens Bay (their best beach) and Red Hook.  Well, sadly, our opinion after two days of exploration was the same as we had on our stopovers.  Too busy, too crowded, too commercial, too many cruise ships.....  The best part of our stay was meeting Krogen owners
Lavinia and Richard on Partners.  We invited them over for a drink and had a wonderful evening discussing the finer points of Krogen ownership and these beautiful islands.  They have been down here for 18 months and were a wealth of information.  After a trip to visit family, they will return to sailing the islands with Trinidad as their summer destination.  We know that we will cross paths again and look forward to it.

Magan's Beach.  There was an outcropping of rocks
at one end.  I told Brian we should have our picture
taken as I sat down.  I immediately rolled off the
rock and into the water.  I came up yelling, "Brian grab
my phone".  It was floating in my waterproof purse!

These ships looked really big (259 & 279 feet) until
David Geffen's 453 foot ship pulled in.  Yowza, that's
only one of his two super yachts!

Lavinia and Richard's Krogen, Partners.

Night view of Charlotte Amalie from our cockpit. 
A - Great Lameshur Bay, B - Saltpond Bay, C - Coral Bay
First views of St John

Three nights and two days was long enough in St Thomas.  We were ready to move on to St John, one of our favorite destinations in the world.  Two-thirds of the island is a national park with NO airports or cruise ship docks.  There are only two towns and very few large resorts.  St John is where our daughter, Jennifer, married Ian 12 years ago.  55 guests spent a week celebrating with us.  I still hear from some of those guests saying it was one of their best vacations.    

Another day, another beach!
Great Lameshur Bay

Our weather guru had sent an email warning that a large storm with hurricane type winds had hit Nova Scotia earlier in the week.  That storm was sending large swells our way and we needed to get into a protected bay before it's expected arrival on Thursday.  Email friends that have been down here for years recommended Great Lameshure Bay on the south side of St John.  It was just two hours from our anchorage in Charlotte Amalie.  Thanks to Barb and Chuck on Tusen Takk II (another Krogen) we are tucked into a beautiful protected hideaway.  
Every night there is a beautiful sunset.  Luckily I
remembered to take a photo this time.
The weather prediction was correct. Thursday night, right on schedule, the winds picked up with intermittent showers throughout the night and the next day.  Our secluded location protected us from the swells and wind.  Even the best locations can have a drawback or two.  We are suffering with very limited WiFi and poor phone reception.  Luckily the water is 80 degrees, clear, a beautiful blue and calling me to take a leap.... a good daily diversion.  Brian is being much more productive by putting additional coats of varnish on the cap rail.  The last time he worked on it was in Stuart, Florida.  Bugs, rain and ash from the sugar cane
burns were a constant menace to his smooth finish.  Down here we have neither bugs or ash and the rain is infrequent.  It’s looking great.  
Most of the bays in St John have mooring buoys.  Anchoring is only
The weather has calmed.  Time to leave Lameshur.
ed in specified locations.  The park service is trying to preserve the coral and anchors can tear up decades of growth.  The buoys are only $15/night which is a great deal.  But, even better — if you have a senior pass for the national parks the fee is cut in half!  Luckily we have the pass and, even better, we could actually find it.  Fabulous!!!  This bay is where the Tektite aquanaut program was located in the late 60s and early 70s.  Four men lived in a chamber 60 feet under water for two months.  Saturday, March 29th was the 45th anniversary of the program.  Three of the aquanauts spoke at a program and showed slides of their life under water.    
Saltpond Bay
The beach was an easy swim from the boat.  Snorkel
off the swim platform and some BIG FISH.

Monday, March 31st, we moved to the next bay, Saltpond.  There are only six mooring buoys in this bay and we were warned to only stay if we could get on one of the two that are closest to the beach.  The other four get too much wave action from the reef.  We came over on Sunday and no buoys were available. Tried again on Monday morning and JACKPOT — we got one that was next to the beach!  This is a classic location. 
It is exactly what one imagines.  The white beach, the blue water, hills in the background, very quiet.  We snorkeled off the back of the boat, swam to shore and walked the beach for two days.  Having the boat where we are snorkeling is such a treat.  Climb back on board for lunch.  We didn’t have to pack a cooler….!

Coral Bay
Wednesday, April 2nd, we moved to Coral Bay.  No beach here, but a small town and dingy dock.  There are probably 75 boats anchored with us and all but three are sailboats.  Motor vessels are really the minority since we left Miami. 

On the ferry for a 15 minute ride from Cruze Bay,
St John to Red Hook, St Thomas.

Thursday was a busy fun day.  We used the dingy to go into Coral Bay.  Met Roger at the dingy dock.  He had the full scoop on this small town including where to catch the island bus.  The bus is a full size city bus that takes this two lane, steep road like it’s a Miami freeway.  It was exciting!  Especially when it turned to one lane and a van was coming at us in that one lane.  Our bus driver didn’t back down, she had size on her side — both the bus and the driver!  Next was a ferry ride to St Thomas to pick up
Walking into the Cruze Bay shopping area.
parts.  A quick lunch and we were back on the ferry and in just 15 minutes docked again in St John.  The rest of the afternoon we shopped in some of the cute stores of Cruz Bay.  Cruz Bay is a must visit stop while here.  It is the one real town on the island.  It has most of the shopping and restaurants.  We were tired after more than our quota of walking so we headed to the bus stop for another hair raising ride back to Coral Bay.  One place we had
'Fine dining' at Skinny Legs.
promised ourselves we would visit on this island hopping trip was Skinny Legs.  Skinny Legs is a landmark bar/restaurant in Coral Bay.  About 50 of us came to Skinny Legs for Halloween to launch the wedding fun.  By the time we finished dinner and got back to our dingy it was dark and raining. 

 I carried my computer this whole day hoping to find a restaurant with WiFi.  No luck.  If this blog gets longer it's going to crash computers that try to open it. 
Gotta smile — we’re lovin the ride!