Gotta Smile!

Gotta Smile!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

One Last Trip Through the BVI

March 30 - April 12, 2015

After a week of ordering parts, waiting for parts and installing parts we were ready to leave Red Hook, St Thomas.  The marina is in need of some updating, but the staff is extremely nice and helpful.  We checked in thinking we would only be with them for a couple of days.  We discovered the repair was going to be more involved than anticipated and we would need a full week.  Even though it was one their busiest weeks, they moved boats around so we could remain in our current slip for the entire week.  There is an excellent new grocery, Moes, across the street from the marina.  The marine store is also well stocked.  Not as well as when we arrived, because Brian made so many trips purchasing multiple items on each visit.  

We were definitely looking forward to getting out of the marina and on with our exploration.  Since hurricane season ended in October we have been on board for 134 days.  Of the 134 days we have had guests with us for 82 days.  We love sharing our travels with family and friends, but now it is time to relax and travel on our own schedule.  

Our first stop was The Bitter End, Virgin Gorda, BVI.  Friends Paulette and John have a 58 foot Krogen and are just beginning their travels south.  We spent time with them in and around St John, but wanted another couple of days while neither of us had company.  So glad we were able to connect.  Two days of hiking with them gave us a chance to see some of the highlights of Virgin Gorda.

Dingy ride from mooring to Bitter End.

If you ever need a taxi or tour guide in Virgin Gorda, 
ask for Stamboo.  Everyone on the island knows him!
He is very knowledgeable about the history, native
 plants, island cooking, restaurants, trails for hiking.
And, he is a very nice person. 


The Baths is a collection of massive granite boulders, (some are as large as 40 feet in diameter) that came out of the earth in lava flows. Pristine white sand beaches and secret rock pools make it a great hike.  The boulders were once embedded in volcanic lava.  Weathering has worn away the softer lava rock and has carved large holes in the granite boulders.  The Devil's Bay Trail winds over under and between the boulders.  

After climbing ladders and boulders, holding on to rope railings and squeezing  through crevices, we made it to Devil's Bay.
Remains of a copper mine built in the 1800's.
The water just below the mine has the greenish glow
of oxidized copper. 

This might be the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen.

Le Grand Bleu is quite the story.  It's 371 feet long and carries a 68 foot 'runabout' and a 73 foot sailboat.  The mast of the sailboat can be seen sticking up beyond the ship and the runabout is being hoisted out of the water by the two davits just above it.  There are two more davits on the other side to lift the sailboat.  The boat belonged to Roman Abramovich, a Russian businessman.  He GAVE it to his friend, Eugene Shvidler, who must be doing OK himself.  Since we last saw it in Puerto Rico, it has been repainted matt navy blue.  Of course, the two boats he carries were painted to match.  
A second day of exploration begins at the remains
of a sugar mill.

Overlooking Maho Bay, an upscale residential area.

Our hike to the top of Gorda Peak begins.
The highest point on the island, 1348 feet. 

The sap of pitch apple was used to seal the hull
of boats.  A predecessor to 3M's 5200!

At the summit, we climbed a tower for a 360
degree view and rested. 
The view was a little hazy but worth the hike! 

Hermit crabs were seen frequently scurrying
across the path.  The large ones will fight
ferociously for the ideal shell.   

The hike took 2 1/4 hours.  When we got to the
bottom, Stamboo had begun hiking up to look for
us.  He thought we might have been injured since
he estimated we'd be done in 1 1/2 hours.  Nice guy!

Lunch at Hog Heaven.  The perfect name for a
barbecue restaurant that is so high on the mountain
it must be close to heaven!

The view from heaven -- Hog Heaven!

Traveling through the islands, every bay looks like it would be the perfect anchorage.  Oh no,  it's not that easy!  First of all, it must be deep enough, but not too deep.  We prefer 12 - 30 feet.  Then the bottom must be something that the anchor can dig into -- usually sand.  We always look for a calm area with little or no wave action and not too much wind.  And, there must be enough room for the surrounding boats to swing without a collision.  
When we left the Bitter End our intention was to stay at Marina Cay.  We arrived to find very rough water, high winds and no protection.  Bail's Bay was just around the island so we gave it a try.  Two attempts at anchoring proved the water was too deep and the bottom was too rocky.  Location number three was the adjacent Lee Bay.  Finally, all of the required conditions were met and we were settled for the night.

Our quiet anchorage in Lee Bay.

Another less than perfect day at Marina Cay gave us
an opportunity to visit an old favorite, Cooper Island.

No, the helicopter isn't landing on Gotta Smile!
He belongs to our big neighbor.  Of course, the
helicopter is painted to match the yacht. 

Would you expect anything less? 

Finally good conditions at Marina Cay gave us a
chance to snorkel the coast of Great Camanoe.  Some
of the best coral we have seen in a long time.

Beef Island is connected to Tortola by a bridge.
According to the guide book Trellis Bay on Beef
Island is a must see.  We took a dingy ride there
after snorkeling in Great Camanoe.  The best
sight was Gli Gli, the largest Carib Indian dugout
sailing canoe in the Caribbean.  You can't always
believe the guide book....

We took one day to do some tasks that had been put off.  Brian isolated our six house batteries and tested each  of them.  Two were still in great shape.  Two were functioning.  And, the last two were all but dead.  The dead ones had been pulling the others down so we had to charge more often and for longer times.  We are going to try running on four and see what happens.  The hope is that we can make it back to the States before we purchase new ones.  They are about half the price back home.

If this doesn't look steep, check out
the traffic sign warning truckers.

Probably the most thrilling roads on our trip were encountered the day we rented a car on Tortola.  I'm telling you... these are steep roads with extreme hairpin turns in rapid succession.  The good thing was--there were very few cars on the roads.  We made one wrong turn and within 10 minutes we were surprised to be on the other side of the island!  Yes, it is a small island.  We had a very good day with stops at two of the top ranked beaches, a tour of Road Town, a great grocery and lots of breathtaking scenery.   

Look at this warning sign for trucks.  A
lot of the trucks can only carry partial 

loads due to the steep grade.  

Cane Garden Bay is postcard perfect, especially
in the early morning.  We had the beach to ourselves
 as we walked from one end to the other.  Later
in the week we came back by boat and stayed
 for one night in the bay.  Vans of cruise ship
visitors swarmed the beach and gave it a totally
different look.    

Another view of Cane Garden Bay.  

This is when we discovered we had
made a wrong turn...overlooking
Road Town, the capital of the BVI.

Brewers Bay is ranked one of the most beautiful
bays in the Virgin Islands.  We walked it in the
afternoon and thought it didn't begin to compare
to Cane Garden.  

A final trip to Norman Island so we could snorkel
The Indians and Privateer Bay.  The Indians was
disappointing.  Rough water made it dangerous
on the Pelican Island side where most of the fish
were.  Privateer Bay was fabulous.  Large numbers
and a great variety of fish.  We snorkeled from our
swim platform in the mooring field.  Perfect!   

Our last two days in the BVI took us to Jost Van Dyke.  We hadn't been there on this trip and it is one of the few islands with a customs office.  Our two week visitor's pass was about to expire.  We would need to check out as we head to the USVI.  

The infamous bubble pool on Jost.
Unfortunately, the day we hiked to it
there were no bubbles.  The surf is
supposed to come roaring in and
make this little pool a natural spa.
At least it was a good hike. 
Jost is named after a Dutch pirate, but the real hero of this island is Foxy Callwood.  He started Foxy's in 1967 with a bar the size of a lemonade stand.  It has evolved into the quintessential beach bar that is known around the world. 

Foxy's classic beach bar.

Grabbing a mooring ball had become a simple procedure for us --- until we got to Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke.  The pennant on the mooring ball snagged on our stabilizer fin.  No matter how we maneuvered we could not get it free.  Brits to our rescue!  Martin and Reese came over in their dingy and tugged from different angles while we kept pulling against them.  Finally, we were free.  We asked if we could buy them drinks after lunch and they suggested the Soggy Dollar.  We were near Foxy's and thought the Soggy Dollar was at the other end of the beach.  When we walked to the other end of the beach, we were told it is in the next bay....about a 30 minute walk.  Well, I'm still wearing my fitbit so I say sure we can do that and off we go!  They didn't say that we had to walk over a mountain to get to the next bay.  OMG, what a walk it was and in the heat of the day!  After lunch and a few drinks, the Brits arrived by dingy.  They were so darn smart.  When it was time to say good-bye, there was no discussion -- we had a lovely taxi ride back to Foxys.  

Nearing the summit of our hike we get a fabulous view of Great Harbour.
Foxy's where we left the dingy is at the far, far, far end of the beach. 
The darkest mountain in the foreground is the
one we walked over.
Beginning the trek downhill.  Do you see how far
it is to sea level?  

The Soggy Dollar...

Gotta smile -- we're lovin the ride!

The Brits:  Julie, Reese and Martin.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Too Much Of A Good Thing!

March 17 - 30, 2015
F - St Thomas,  E - St John,  D - Tortola,  C - Norman Island,  A - Virgin Gorda
Can you ever get too much of a good thing?  Maybe some times, but not when it comes to visits from family or the Virgin Islands.  And, if the family is visiting while in the Virgin Islands it's like hitting the jackpot at the dollar slots in Vegas!!!  Yippee......  Steve and his family left after a week in St John.  The winds were extremely high so we stayed in two well protected bays (Francis and Round).  Three days after their departure Jennifer arrived with her two children for a week.  The winds had died down and we were able to travel.  After leaving Red Hook on St Thomas, we went to our reliable Round Bay, St John.  Jennifer had never been to the BVI so the next three nights found us on Tortola, Norman Island, and Virgin Gorda.  One last night back in Round Bay so we could dingy to Coral Bay and take a taxi to Cruz Bay.  It was another week packed full.  As Jennifer said on Facebook "We aren't a group that tends to sit still. We like to take it all in!"
Jennifer and I were walking this short beach in
Round Bay, when we passed a couple that she
thought she recognized. It was Ron and Kathy.
She flew him when he was an executive at EDS.
They own the house at the end of the beach that
Brian and I had admired for several weeks. Super
nice people. They invited us up to the house for
a quick tour. It was f
un to see their island home.
First attempt at snorkeling was a huge success!
Who needs to snorkel when the water is this clear?
I don't know how JAC's mask kept water
out.  It was huge on her!
Christopher thought the snorkel and mask were a
great way to search for shells.

A visit to picturesque Soper's Hole in Tortola for shopping and dinner.
This beautiful ship passed us on our way to Norman
Island with all 18 sails up.
The 350 foot Stad Amsterdam.  Spectacular!
Snorkeling at the caves on Norman Island.
Once I told the kids that a pirate hid his treasure
in one of the caves, we had to explore all of them.
Relaxing at Pirate's Bight, Norman Island while the
kids roll in the sand and search for treasures.  
Off to explore Virgin Gorda. That's Gotta Smile in the

First stop of the day -- lunch at the
Fat Virgin Cafe.  Delicious lite meals
and fun stop.
A quick visit to Leverick Bay.  JAC
decided to try a local favorite, Ting.

Another Pusser's visit at Leverick.

Still time to hike all of the Bitter End. 

Back in Round Bay, St John. Christopher
analyzes the leap of about 6 feet to the
water from mid-deck.

Jennifer and Christopher take the
leap and then it gets crazy!

JAC out does them all by going off
backwards!  Love her form...

Lots of goats and sheep running wild as we
walk through Coral Bay.

I know it looks like we're riding in the back of a 
pickup truck, but in St John this is a taxi.  Heading 
into Cruze Bay on our last night.  Early tomorrow 
it's back to Red Hook, St Thomas and the airport.

When we returned to the boat after visiting Cruze Bay, we found that the generator wouldn't start.....again!  Brian just put a new fuel pump in a couple of weeks ago.  We made it to Red Hook the next morning.  After a full day of trouble shooting, he found the problem:  relays, salt water pump, temperature and pressure sensors.  Once again we are lucky that we were where we could get parts.  Another week in Red Hook.  It could have been much worse.      
Forget Waldo.........Where's Kenny?
Kenny Chesney's 60 foot Sundancer, Flagship, is
 across the dock from us.

Gotta Smile -- we're lovin the ride!