Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cane Garden Bay - Great Harbor Peter Island - Sailing the BVI's (9 of 10)

We woke up late this morning, assisted by the drinks at the BombaShack the night before.  I was looking forward to getting to see the beautiful CT/Formosa that we dropped off some folks to last night.  Sadly they boat had left the anchorage before we got up.  We relaxed and had our morning coffee and fresh fruit and yogurt for breakfast.

This anchorage is really nice and I could see spending a few days for sure in Cane Garden Bay but for us, we knew we were going to head over to Peter Island for tonights stop.  It was not a far sail and we planned it this way so the day we had to return the boat (the next day) we would just be a short 45 minutes from Roadtown on Tortola.

Knowing that we had a short trip the next day, it allows us to hang out for a while where we were and take a little dip.  We decided that it would be good to see if we could hang Oday's hammock from under the boat between the hulls.  There were towing points there and it sure seemed like the hammock might hang just below the surface of the water.

Sure enough it did and it was a great place to relax.  We put some warm beers from storage into a mesh dive bag, tied it to the rail and dropped it in the water to cool them down to the water temperature before we transferred them into the cooler.  I love this picture of Deb chilling in the hammock with a sack of beers floating right next to her.

We had a great swim, and then took our short sail over to Great Harbor on Peter Island.

When we arrived, we really just relaxed, swam and hung out.  We grilled another gourmet meal on the boat and dinghied around the Marina and gave some of our left over beer to people we could tell were cruisers.
Sailing SouthEast just passing the western end of Tortola (toward Peter Island)

Anchored in Great Harbor on the North Side of Peter Island
We enjoyed the evening with friends and were wishing it was not all coming to an end tomorrow when we had to return the boat.
Another great meal prepared on the grill as the sun was setting

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sopers Hole to Cane Garden Bay & BombaShack Full Moon Party - Sailing the BVI's (8 of 10)

Today after awakening in a great anchorage with a nice breeze, we fixed breakfast and coffee.  We all decided we would head to shore today and check out the stores and shops on Soper's hole.  There were still a few souvenirs that folks wanted to get and there were several shops along the water front that had t-shirts cheaper than a lot of other places we had seen them before.

We loaded up to the dinghy and returned to the Pussers Landing dinghy dock where we had drinks with the O'Day's the night before.  We walked along the water front and stopped in a few stores.  Mary bought a really cool shirt that was of a woman in a bikini so when she wore it, it looked like she was wearing a little red bikini.  There were shirt and gift shops, there was a dive shop and some clothing stores.

They also had an island spice company which was pretty cool.  It was a place to get whole nutmeg and a grater but we knew space was limited in our bags returning.  (The whole nutmeg ground on top of the PainKillers made them so much better.)

We had a short sail today from Sopers hole, west and then North up the western side of Tortola.  We decided to get over to Cane Garden Bay a bit early to see if Sandman was over at Myett's.  Obarr really wanted to try to catch up with him.  Deb had ordered that glass turtle that we didn't have time to wait for last time we were here so we told them we would pick it up today.

Today was Friday, it was a full moon and it was the night of the Bomba Shack Full Moon party which  we planned part of our vacation around.  We planned our itinerary such that we would be here in Cane Garden Bay on Friday and planned the week of our trip to coincide with a full moon.

We dropped our mooring in Soper's hole and sailed Southwest and then West around the tip of Tortola.  There is a great property right on the southern tip there that has some rooms for rent, a great dock at the water level and it seems to be built hanging over the rocks on multiple levels.  As we passed  Mary took a great picture of this place.

From the point in this picture we headed North and kept the island of Tortola to starboard as we went the short distance to Cane Garden Bay.

True to form and based on Obarr's tradition we tuned the music to the Jimmy Buffett Album, Son of a Son of a Sailor and cued up Track 9 "Mañana" as we sailed into Cane Garden bay.  (See one of the earlier blog entries on Cane Garden bay for the lyrics and why we play it when entering this harbor.)

As we sailed in we found place fairly close to where we stopped earlier in the week when we stayed in this bay.  We picked up a mooring ball and just relaxed.  At this point in the trip, we were completely into the island lifestyle and did nothing in a hurry.  We milled around and cleaned up the boat a little bit.  Played some cards, had a few drinks, sat around and shot the bull with each other and as Oday and T decided to take a swim, Me, Deb and Mary decided to head to shore.

Earlier in the week when we were here, Deb found a glass art studio where they used recycled bottles from the beach and all of the funds went to support the local waterfront community.  Deb liked one of the turtles but wanted a different color, so they started to make a custom one for her, but we had to get going and let them know we would pick it up today.  That was one of the errands we would run on shore.  Mary also wanted to head back to Myetts to pick up a couple of souvenirs and we were going to get ice on the way back to the boat.

Dinghy ride  to shore (this is a CT/Formosa-Deb and I love this style boat)
As we were loading in the Dinghy, T and Oday dove into the water off the side of the boat, and we motored through the crystal clear water to the Dinghy dock.  This time Deb took the helm and she drove the dinghy.  We walked over to Myett's first and Mary picked up a few things she wanted and then we stopped at the Glass studio on the way back to the boat.  The turtle looked great, right along with the blue swirl deb wanted inside the clear glass shell.  We picked up a 20 pound bag of ice, and loaded back up in the Dink.    After getting back on board the boat, Obarr wanted to see if SandMan was at Myett's so we decided that we all wanted a few pain killers and cracked conch anyway.  (The cracked conch at Myett's was unbelievably good).  Sandman was there and Obarr got to speak to him for a little bit which was really cool.  Sandman said he didn't remember Mike's name, but he did remember quite a few good dinners and parries on their boat.   (this goes back 10-15 years).
View from the Myett's Patio.
The Good news is that the View from Tony's is the same
We found out Sandman would be driving tonight to BombaShack so if we needed a ride, he said to just give him a call.   Sadly, Myett's was out of Cracked conch, so we decided to walk down the beach to a place called "Tony's".  They had 2 Painkillers for $6 so we figured if we were just going to have a drink, we would go to the cheaper place.  The view of the water was the same.

I swore to myself I would only have one painkiller because these things, combined with the heat, and not doing a whole lot, put me to sleep and I wanted to save some energy for the full moon party.

We went back to the boat, had a great dinner of marinated MahiMahi on the grill along with fresh veggies and some rice.  Another great meal aboard Kastor Pollox.  We all took showers as the sun started to set and then got ready to go to BombaShack.
Sun Setting  from Cane Garden Bay

When I say, "get ready" it doesn't mean get all dolled up, nope, this is a dive.  A dive may actually be considerably nicer than this place.  So by get ready, I mean we ensured we had cash, cigars, and some bug spray.  Robert and Mary decided to stay at the boat, mainly because of how winding the road over the mountain would be and Mary had a touch of motion sickness on the first day when we did this on the other side of Tortola.  We loaded into the dinghy again and headed back to shore.  Right at the top of the dinghy dock there was a cab waiting there so we just hopped in.  The cabs here are really just a mini van with a lot of seats in them and all of the windows open. To have some extra room, you tend to hang some part of your body out the window (it may be your arm or even your head).  There were five of us and only 3 other people hopped in, so it was not too overloaded.  I climbed all the way into the back and off we went through some very winding roads.  In the BVI's the cars drive on the left side of the road.  When we were coming down the back side of one of the hills, the switchbacks were so steep, when I looked out my window to my left as we went left around a hairpin turn, it looked like it dropped straight down.  (If you want the video at the end of this blog, I traced the road on a map to show how sharp these hairpin turns were.)

We arrived at the Bomba Shack and it needs some explanation.  On one side of the road is the shack, 2 bars and the beach (and bathrooms), on the other side of the road is the place where you can buy drink tickets, there is a kitchen, large outdoor bar and huge stage and dance area.  When you walk up to this it kind of looks like someone built it out of old pallets or wood that washed up on the beach.  There are t-shirts, bras, panties, hats, flags, roadsigns and you name it that are covering the walls.  (Walls that don't really keep much out, most walls have gaps and holes in them.  
As you walk into the entrance on the beach side of the shack, there is a bar to the left and a few make shift benches out of stumps to sit on.  There is no floor, so you kick your shoes off and enjoy the soft sand on your bare feet as you walk through the bar.  It is not really small.  Maybe 200 feet long or so when you get inside.  There are areas to sit, there is a ledge you can put a drink on and look out over the beautiful bay.  Oh, this is also where there are a few local entrepreneurs offering up mushrooms for sale that will surely "take you on a ride"   There is hand written notes all over the wall.  Some are funny, some are more like "ABC was here".
On Full Moon Party night, they don't take cash, you have to go across the street and buy tickets.  (Essentially drinks were $5 each if you bought the tickets).  I bought $20 worth of tickets and walked back across the street to get a painkiller.

We decided to walk up the street a little bit as we could see there were some things going on there too.  They had a stand making snow cones.  Someone was selling jewelry, and several folks selling shrooms again.  Then we found the most entrepreneurial of all of them.  A guy had a card table with a whole bunch of bottles on it.  He was selling drinks for $3 about 100 feet from the entrance to the BombaShack and there were about 20 people hanging around there.   He was working hard trying to get Deb and T to do Mushrooms with him but they passed.
Game where you had to swing the ring on a string and get it on the hook

As we walked back, deb decided she wanted to do the "All you can drink pass" that they were selling.  It was $50 and included all you could drink all night, a BBQ dinner and gave you access to the Mushroom tea that BombaShack makes and a t-shirt.    We decided to check out the other side of the street since we were at the ticket shack.  We walked around into the dirt path that led behind all the bushes/shrubs and trees and there was a huge bar and raised stage and picnic tables.  We met Bomba who was hanging out near the back door of the Shack.

We also ran into Sandman and hung out with him on and off most of the night.  The band was good and as it got later more and more people started to show up. I guess by about 11pm or midnight, there were a couple hundred people there all together.    It was a great place for people watching.  We saw one person so drunk that he couldn't really walk on his own.  We saw one poor girl stumbling and throwing up near the bushes and went to check on her because we thought her friends had left her, but her boyfriend had just gone to get her some water.    I also saw a guy selling shrooms way in the back of this outdoor field/dancefloor/bar/stage/dining room or whatever you want to call this giant outdoor area cut out of all of the trees and kind of hidden from the road.

I heard the band yell "So how many people do we have here from Texas" and there were a bunch of cheers.  I walked over to talk to some in front of us that had cheered and when I asked where she was from, her response was "I am from Oklahoma, he is from Kansas, close enough, right?"    I just shook my head as I walked back to our group.

Before the party was really getting going, Deb and T decided that they wanted to dance, so went right up in front of the band and just started dancing with each other.  We were all back near the road talking to Sandman and got a kick out of the whole scene.  There is something funny that happens when girls dance together, all of the guys stop what they are doing and watch, so at one point, there are maybe 75 people milling around this large area, Deb and T are the only ones in the middle of this field dancing with each other, and of the 75 people milling, 50 were just kind of watching them.   It was pretty funny, but to their credit, they got others to start doing some dancing too.

I wish we had more pictures of this place, but it is not like being in a well lit area, so most of our pictures didn't come out very good at all while we were there.

Sandman with OBarr, T and Deb (at the BombaShack)
We finally decided it was about time to head out and asked Sandman for a ride.  He said yes, but that he was also taking 3 other guys back so we all decided to go back together.    The other guys are nice enough, one was from the Coast Guard stationed in St. Croix.  They were on a holiday for a few weeks and sailing with one of the guys aunt and uncle.    On the way back, I remember hearing one of the guys talking to his buddy about the plan when they got back to shore.  They were going to try to shine a flashlight at the boat they were on in hopes that their Aunt or Uncle would see it, get in the dinghy and come get them.  If that didn't work, they were going to swim out to the boat.

Of course we said we would take them to their boat.  So now we had 8 of us in the 10 foot dinghy.  We certainly had this thing loaded down so we just kept it slow.  The water was flat as could be anyway in the bay so it was a nice quiet smooth ride out to the boat.  So as we left the dock, we asked which boat they were on and sure enough if it wasn't that gorgeous CT (Formosa) that we had seen in Cane Garden Bay, Jost Van Dyke and The Bight.  Deb and I love this boat, it is the style and size we really like/want eventually.  When we pulled up next to the boat, there was no boarding ladder, but these guys were young and nimble, they just climbed up the port holes and rigging up onto deck.  His Aunt came up into the cockpit with the commotion and we complimented her on the boat.  She invited us to come over tomorrow in the daylight and she would show us down below. (Sadly we slept in a bit and when we woke up they were gone the next morning).

All in all, the BombaShack was a good time.  OBarr did say that it was not nearly as big as it had been many years ago and when we talked to some locals about it, they said that it used to be the only one on the island so everyone came to that full moon party.  Now they do one in Trellis Bay, Cane Garden bay and Cappoons Bay where BombaShack is.

Below is a short Video for the morning in Soper's Hole on Tortola and sailing up to Cane Garden Bay for the Full Moon Party at the BombaShack.    If you are don't see a video below, please click this link to go the the video on YouTube.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Leverick Bay, Key Bay Peter Island, Sopers Hole - Sailing the BVI's (7 of 10)

We really enjoyed the air conditioning from being on the dock so much so that we all slept in, we prepared coffee and breakfast in the air conditioning and then each went and showered on shore where we could take as long a shower as we wanted.
Sailing to Peter Island (you can see boats anchored ahead at the Indians)

Sailing to Peter Island

 We had talked about wanting to spend one night in a very deserted area where we would be the only boat.  There is something just picturesque about that thought, so O’Barr again came through with a recommendation on the southwest side of Peter Island.  There was a small point that pointed to the south and would protect us from the swells that would come from the east.  This spot would also allow us to be behind the windward shore that was only about 2 ft above sea level so it allowed all the wind to still come across the bay.  We pulled in and attempted to anchor.  We could see the bottom in 15-20 feet of water and dropped the hook a perfect anchoring sand, but it just wouldn’t grab.  The first time, we assumed it was because there was rock below it.  We pulled it up and made another attempt this time a bit closer to shore and in water that was more shallow.  Again the anchor wouldn’t grab.  We dove the anchor and it just didn’t look like the point of the anchor was aiming correctly.  We pulled up and attempted it again and the same thing.  When diving to inspect our hold we saw the same problem.  We pulled up the anchor and realized that the darn thing was broken. The spade and the shaft were not aligned like they should be.  We started to think about re-rigging the spare anchor but none of us really wanted to chance having an issue in the night.  We started to consider how lucky we were earlier in the trip.  We only anchored 2 other times.  Once was just for lunch and the other was an overnight in Cane Garden Bay.  We really lucked out that we didn’t drag since it seems now that the anchor likely was not set real good earlier when we used it also.  
Deb Relaxing for the short time we were at Key Bay (Peter Island)

What do you do when you have a problem but it is not an emergency?  You open up a beer, and think about it for a few minutes.  We did just that and came to the conclusion that we would head over to the West side of Tortola to Soper’s Hole.  We could pick up a mooring there as there seemed to be a good number of them in that bay.  A plan was hatched and away we went.
We sailed northwest toward the western side of Tortola, passing St. John on the Port side again.  We went North between Little Thatch and Frenchmen’s Cay and then Eastward to Soper’s hole.  By now, we have circumnavigated all of the BV Islands with the exception of Anageda which the charter companies don’t like you to take their boats too because of the shallow water and reef surrounding the island to the north of Virgin Gorda.  

View into Sopers Hole from just between Thatch Island and Frenchman's Cay
We picked up a mooring and watched all the activity on a tall ship that was docked near us.  The ship was called Ocean Star and was an 88 foot Schooner that weighed 75 tons.   She has a staff of 4 professionals and 16 student crew that sail this boat while taking classes, and getting life lessons and certifications in diving, etc.  They offer 20-90 day voyages and this particular ship works mainly in the Caribbean.   While we were there, we saw the kids working on the boat and cleaning the decks, etc.  We saw them getting lessons in Dinghy handling within the anchorage and as evening drew near, they were all swimming and having a great time jumping off the sides and off the bow sprit for some relaxation time.  What an awesome experience for kids.  I looked it up when we returned, it was pricey but still an awesome experience or opportunity for a kid.  It was about $4,500 for a 20 day sail with lessons, about $10K for 40 days.  I asked our Granddaughter if she would be interested in something like that and she said “I would not go to school on a ship, you would waste your money on that”.  Funny how brutally honest kids can be.
Sea|Mester Boat - Ocean Star

Deb and I saw a couple of really nice looking boats moored in this well protected bay and wanted to take a dinghy ride to explore them.  First Obarr and Oday took a little cruise around the anchorage to see if there was any chance that he knew of, or had met, the folks that were on board the Morgan Out Island.  After they came back, Me, Deb, Oday and T loaded a couple of beers in the dinghy and slowly tooled around the anchorage.  We saw 2 beautiful Hinkley’s, and several boats that you could tell were cruisers that had hunkered down in this place as a hurricane hole.  We even saw one boat closest to shore that had about 5 anchors deployed, 3 forward and 2 stern anchors.  It was an odd setup but it looks like they certainly didn’t want this thing moving.  

We decided to run up to Pussers on the waterfront for a drink.  They had a great dinghy dock and it was amazing at how clear the water was here as well.  Just a few feet off the shore the depth dropped from 4 feet to about 20 feet because just 20 yards from the shore was a large fishing boat that likely drafted 6 plus feet of water.  

We had a couple of drinks on the water front and then returned to the boat for a relaxing evening.  It was an early evening so I was able to copy some photos and videos down to the computer and sift through what we didn’t want to keep.  

Another relaxing night hanging out with friends.  Robert took this picture off the back of the boat as the sun was setting.  After another great day, we were off to bed.
Sunset out of Soper's Hole (aka West End of Tortola)

See below for a very short video clip from this day of the trip. If you are reading this in an email or PDF, you may not see the embedded video below.  If not, please go to the following link to see it - Click here for Sailing the BVI’s Chapter 7 of 10 - Leverick Bay to Key Bay to Soper’s Hole

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Saba Rock to Leverick Bay - Sailing the BVI's (6 of 10)

We decided today that we really needed to get water.  We were down to about 30 gallons or so and it just made sense that if we were going to come to a dock, we may as well top off fuel too.  Since we were not able to get a mooring at Saba Rock the night before we would have to pay for water and fuel. Methods was not a huge problem but we were a bit concerned about maneuvering up to the fuel dock with the direction of the wind.  This was going to be the first time we take the catamaran to a dock and just didn't want to increase our odds of hitting the dock or not being able to get close enough to tie off.  We did a little checking and found out that we would get some free water (100 gallons) with a mooring at Leverick Bay and based on the guidebook and so e Ariel photos, it appeared that it was going to be a better spot to fill up.
This would be our shortest travel day of the entire trip, so we decided to take advantage of it and do some sight seeing.

We went back over to Saba Rock in the dinghy and walked the island.  It is a beautiful resort.  We walked the docks, around to the grassy lawns overlooking the Caribean.  As we walked along this area we saw a small headstone that read "Ganja the cat" and it looked like Ganja was good to him because based on the dates he lived 18 years.  

We continued our walk toward the sandy area and back again into the docks where the underwater lighting attracts the Tarpon at night.  

We all loaded up in the dinghy and crossed the channel to walk around the Bitter End Yacht Club.  This place is really interesting and very well appointed.  The dinghy docks were in great shape and were right in front of the hotel.  We were amazed at the wood carvings in the lobby.
View from the Hotel entrance toward the Dinghy dock

This is a typical island resort layout with all open walls but this one had really nice wooden floors and walls.  The all appeared to be hand sawn.  We walked through the lobby and certainly had to take some pictures of the wood carvings and a group photo of us all standing right behind the Bitter End Yacht Club and logo.  

We walked down the water front and looked at some of the boats that the Hokin Family had bought over the years.  The story behind the Bitter End Yacht Club is a bit interesting.

In the mid 60's they family brought their boat to this area for recreational fishing off this remote island.  In the late 60's and early 70's the land where the Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC) is now was just a fishing camp with no running water and no electricity.
there was a Bakery with fresh baguettes for sale 
They loved it there and thought it would be a great place to live.  The attempted to lease an acre of land to build themselves a house there, but the owner "Basil" at the time didn't want to lease them an acre, but instead offered to see the whole place to them.

In 1973, the Hokins bought the property.  The family didn't know anything about running a hotel or "camp" as it were then, but they were enthusiastic about their new property.  Each year the family would all come to this area and they discovered the great sailing, diving, fishing and snorkeling from Anageda to Tortola.  They had a desire to share their love of this area with others, and had the building designed and built.  Today the Resort creates it's own electricity, collects and distills it's own water and uses treated gray water for irrigation.
View from the upstairs lobby of hotel toward Prickly Pear Island

Today is a premium stop for anyone going to the area.  Beatifully appointed, and well maintained, it is the kind of perfect trees and flowers that you expect to see on a Hawaiian resort or Disney land, but the people are all laid back islanders.

We took a walk all along the water front and shops at the Bitter End.  I did end up buying a great portable cooler.  It is a neoprene cooler that you wear on your shoulder (Soft sided) that will hold a 12 pack of beer or a 6 pack and 4 bottles of wine.  It is a great bag and I look forward to using it at sundowners and events at other people's boats when we are back home.

We filmed some of the water front buildings, including a Bakery, Movie Theater (outdoor of course) marina office, fuel dock, hotel, gift shops, restaurants, pubs and what not.  See the video at the end of this blog for some more views of this including a great little bench that was built under a stone arch for shade.

View from slip back toward the shore
We loaded up into the Dinghy and headed back to the boat to pack up for the very short trip to Leverick bay.   We dropped the mooring and headed across the North Virgin Sound and circled the fuel dock finding our best place to pull up to it.  We waited for another boat to pull out and worked our way right onto the dock between 2 other boats side tied.  O'day did a great job and the guys on the fuel dock were really helpful with guiding us to the right spot and making fast the lines as we came in.

While we fueled up, Deb inquired about the Mooring versus a slip in the Marina.  We were shocked to find out that if we took a slip, we would get al the water we needed for free.  So a slip, with electricity, was only $25 more for the night than the mooring ball.  It had been 5 nights and we all thought that we would take advantage of the power and air conditioning while we were here.  After fueling up and filling with Water, we moved into our assigned slip.  Again Oday made it look like he had been Captain of a Catamaran for many years.  Once tied up, we connected power and flipped on the Air Conditioning units in the boat.  No water flow coming out, so we started to investigate what happened.  Turns out that with all of the sailing and beating, we just lost the prime to the pumps.  After reprising the pumps for each air conditioner, we were pumping cold air into all of the staterooms and salon.

Lunch time visitor
We emptied the trash, cleaned up the boat (Taking advantage of the water) and walked up to the restaurant for lunch and some Pain Killers and Caribe beer.  I love Island restaurant, it is not uncommon to see a dog wandering through looking for a handout.  In this particular one, we had a chicken come through looking for some food.

After a really good lunch including drinks, Conch fritters and cheeseburgers in paradise, we decided to go for a swim in the pool on shore that was included with a slip rental.  The water was warm, but it was very relaxing to just chill in the pool for an hour or so.   Right next to the pool was one of those great outdoor tiki style bars, so we had to swing on over and have a drink or 3.
Yep, Texas Flag is us

One of the other cool things about hanging out in these water front bars and restaurants is the characters you meet.  We met a guy that was there and he was full of rich stories.  Really nice guy, and he was sailing "down island" on his "french cat" that was anchored out in the bay.  In the hour or so we sat there he shared all kinds of interesting stories.  If I were to sum it up quickly, he was a cowboy from Wyoming or something like that.  He told stories of doing work for Nasa and rockets.  He also talked about doing some kind of work for the Russian space program.  He discussed national security type work he had done, He supposedly did delivery of private Boeing aircraft including delivering the 777 to Sir Richard Branson.  He suggested that he was going to stop by Richards Island, but the wind was just too good, he didn't want to stop sailing.  He is a test pilot and, oh yeah, he is a kite surfer that flies to all locations when there is a hurricane so he can kite surf in those.    I personally think 85% of it was BS, but it was all interesting.
View of the restaurant, stores, bar and pool from up on the hillside

While we sat at the bar, Obarr took a little walk up the hill and around this part of the island.  He used his amazing zoom on his camera to get pictures of the boat, the marina and even zoomed in on us sitting at the bar from a 1/4 mile away.

We slowly worked our way back to the boat and enjoyed the nice cool air that was in the boat.  We were able to connect to the Leverick Bay restaurant's wifi connection so we all posted a few pictures on Facebook and I must confess I did download my work email so that I could sift through it to find the important stuff.  We slept really good at the dock and planned to sleep as late as everyone wanted to.

We have a small video from our walk around Saba Rock and also Bitter End, It you are reading this anywhere other than the blog online, you will need to click on this link for the Saba Rock, BEYC Video.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Cane Garden Bay, Callwood Distillery and Saba Rock - Sailing the BVI's (5 of 10)

(Editorial Note - You will notice that the chapter count is now x of 10, I had to increase the # of chapters with the content we had from the trip) 

It is amazing how great we all slept every night on this trip.  This was another night where we slept at anchor, breeze blowing in nicely and while a bit warm, always comfortable with that breeze.  We were really worried about not having air conditioning on the boat thinking it would be a too hot at night.  O’barr was adamant that it wouldn’t be needed and he was right.  Each bunk on the boat had a small fan that had both a high and low speed.  They drew very little amperage and just having it on low speed was enough to just keep the air moving.
We did find that it was cooler if we slept with the stateroom doors open.  The wind would come from the bow (where our stateroom was) and blow through the hallway to the aft stateroom where Obarr was sleeping.  He had his windows and hatches open as well so they ended up being a wind tunnel.  It was the same setup on the other hull sleeping configuration with Wild Mary and Robert up front and Oday and T in the back stateroom.    You just had to be a little cautious when you got up early or in the middle of then night to use the restroom.  I would do a bit of a peek around the corner to see if Obarr was sleeping before moving around in the stateroom.  And I guess in the end, you had to just be ok that if someone saw something, oh well. The risk was worth the reward of a good breeze every night through the boat.
By this time it was becoming very routine that whomever was up first would put on the coffee and everyone would just enjoy it as they came up from their bunks.  Another morning of a well cooked breakfast.  Today we had fresh fruit and some yogurt with our breakfast.  We had oranges, apples, grapefruit and some mango that we had fresh from one of the markets so it was quite a treat.  We started to rinse out the coffee grinds on the aft deck rather than in the sink as it was much faster to get the grounds out of the percolator.  The process was pretty simple.

Look at the Teeth on this guy up close
We had a bucket tied to a short line and we would drop it off the back of the boat and then use that to rinse the parts and dump it overboard.  Today we happened to notice a fairly large fish swimming off the back of the boat.  We figured he was used to hanging out in an anchorage and looking for food scraps to be tossed overboard.  So we didn’t disappoint.  We took a bit of some left over steak we had on board and cut a few pieces and dropped them in while holding the camera down below.  He was a 3-4 foot barracuda and had a pretty amazing set of teeth.  It was really cool seeing him up so close.  

We planned a trip over to Myett’s gift shop and the Callwood Distillery so we needed to get going as we had a pretty good long sail today to get to Saba Rock in the North Sound.    We all piled into the dinghy and headed for shore.
We walked back to Myett’s and the girls all went a little crazy with souvenirs.  We saw these cool black and white shirts there that filled in with color when they were in the sun.  Deb picked one up for our GrandKiddo and T wanted one as well.  The good news is that she was able to fit into one of the kids shirts they had there so she got a pretty cool one for herself as well.  

We walked down the street toward the distillery, passing the grocery store, an art studio and the postoffice, churches and the school with all of the children in their uniforms there.  Pretty amazing view these kids have from their school which was a great view through a few trees of the beautiful Cane Garden Bay.  We made the left hand turn onto the Distillery road and as we walked the block toward it we could already see smoke rising from the still.

This place is really amazing, it is the Callwood Distillery and has been in operation here in Cane Garden Bay, Tortola for over 400 years.  They are one of the oldest operating pot distilleries in the world.  We met the one employee working that day who was outside stoking the fire to heat the mash.  From that outside still the pipe comes in through a wall and into a small bucket (about 4 gallons) on the floor inside.  As it fills up, it is poured from there the bucket into the storing vessels.  These vary depending on the type of rum they are making.  For white rum, it is poured into glass vessels of about 4-10 gallons (they just had a variety there).  If they are going to be making spiced or aged rum, they would put it in the wood barrels and store them.  They get their barrels from Kentucky (old Whisky barrels) but I forgot to ask what they did prior to that.
The gentleman working there was really generous and provided samples of any of the variety they had there.  Mary had some fun with him when we were selecting what we would buy and after him counting out the bottles, Mary asked "So what do you own me" and he was stumped for a minute.  It was pretty funny and I think he had a clever retort like, if we had this discussion at 4pm, that may have gone more in your favor.  We ended up buying quite a few bottles based on what we would drink on the rest of the trip as well as what we could take home.    Deb and I picked up a bottle that was really good, lightly wood barrel aged, but had a large stick of sugar cane in the bottle to sweeten the drink.
The entrance and sign for the Distillery                                 The stock to be purchased (note TX flag)
After the distillery, we were walking back to the dinghy dock and saw that glass blowing studio.  This is the Green VI Glass Blowing Studio and it was founded as a way to have a more sustainable way of living on the BVI's.  The studio uses all glass that the find on the beaches and in town.  When we were there, they were telling us that they are about to convert their furnaces to use old cooking oil as a way to further enable their sustainability.  See their beautiful work on their Facebook photo album.  It was really cool and they were making starfish and turtles out of molten glass they found on the beach.  We watched them doing this for a while and got some pretty cool video of them doing it.
Basically they take a molten hot glob of this class, and spinning it get it to the shape they want.  They then take other molten glob of glass and touch it to the body and shape it with pliers to make the fins and head.  They were willing to custom make one any colors that we wanted so Deb picked out what she wanted.  We were running out of time and had to start heading to the North Sound so we asked them if we could pick it up on Friday when we come back to this spot for the Full Moon Party.  Arrangements were made and off we went back to the boat stopping to refill the ice in the coolers since this was a cheap place to get 20lb bags of ice.

We sailed North of Tortola and had planned a few course changes to keep the wind moving us at a good pace.  We happened to notice the depth on the charts showed that just a little ways beyond where we intended to change course the depth would go from 150 feet deep to 1400 and we thought it would be cool to sail out into that really deep water.  We extended one of our lay lines and were excitedly watching the depth sounder.  It went to 200, 220 and then up to about 75 feet which we expected, and we were anxiously waiting for the drop with cameras ready to capture the view on the depth sounder.  It started to drop, 90, 110, 160, 190, 200, 240, 270, 320 and then the depth sounder just went to three dashes when the depth sounder could not longer read depths more than that.  It was really disappointing because I was really looking forward to that.

We sailed into the north sound by heading directly toward Sir Richard Branson’s island (small light colored island on the top right of the map enclosed) and then turning to the south around the shallow reefs.  We went into this great area of North Virgin Gorda Sound with Virgin Gorda in front of us to the south.  We nagivated in with Prickly Pear Island to our port, and as we rounded Prickly pear, we could see the Bitter End Yacht Club and Saba Rock.   Our intent was to grab a mooring at Saba rock because if you paid for a mooring there, you could get 200 gallons of water and a bag of ice for free.  We got there a little late and there were no moorings left at Saba Rock.
We actually thought there were a few but as we got close we noticed they were labeled as "private".  We decided that we would grab a mooring at the World famous Bitter End Yacht Club.  I had the helm and found that it really is pretty nice to have the dual engines for maneuverability.  We picked up the mooring and decided to just take a swim for a little while after our long sail.  We were moored just outside of a channel that was used for boats taking workers to resorts on some of the outer islands, so we had to swim fairly close to the boat at all times.  Each time we swam, we typically just jumped off the very low stern entrance and into the water, but today we decided to jump from the sides of the boat.  I was amazed at how wimpy I was about it.  I thought it would be no big deal, but I had to think about it for a 3-4 second period of time before doing it.  Geez.

With the current coming in from between the islands in front of us, we decided to tie the life ring to a line and let it flow behind the boat.  That way if we were swimming or relaxing on a float, we could just hold onto the line and relax.  We did this for a couple of hours before grilling a nice dinner of marinated Mahi.  It was such a nice and relaxing evening.  We sat in the cockpit after dinner and just had a few drinks.  After dinner we decided that we should head over to the bar at Saba Rock and maybe grab a drink.  Saba rock has a great dinghy dock with underwater lights as you get close to it.  From the lights, you could see a bunch of 3-5 foot tarpon.  They feed them at certain times during the day, and we heard someone at the bar talking about them doing that at 9am in the mornings.  We made a mental note to head back in the morning to check that out.

Another case of "it's a small world", we sat at the bar and ordered some drinks.  We started talking to some folks at the bar who were sailing for the first time without the kids. Sounds like their kids usually come with them but not this time.
Turns out they are from the same town that several from our party are from and Deb lived for many years.  Contact info was swapped and we received a nice invite to come to their house for a party near the end of July.  Really cool to meet people so nice and close to home.  We did count the number of boats in the mooring field flying the Texas Flag and we counted 5 boats including ours.  We met at least 2 other people from Texas that were not flying the flag, so Texas was again very well represented.

We headed back to the boat from Saba rock and just relaxed before calling it a night.

Below is a video that summarizes the days activities.  If you are reading this blog from email or a print out, you will not see the video embedded below and will need to click on the following link to our Youtube Chanel.   Please click here to see the video of Callwood Distillery, Cane Garden Bay and Sailing to Saba Rock.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Jost Van Dyke, Sandy Cay, Cane Garden Bay - Sailing the BVI's (4 of 8)

With our last land adventure last night being a good time at Corsairs for a few more drinks than good judgement would have allowed, we slept soundly and late into the next morning.   
"I don't know, can you tell if it is on"
We awoke once again to the smell of coffee, which was a welcome start to this morning. WildMary had woke up early and had it perking in two pots. 

(Editorial note.  I mentioned having some absinthe shots and hanging out at a waterfront beach bar last night, but when looking for photos for this blog post, I ran across a video of Deb and T working very hard to try to take a selfie sometime late last night.  I don't think they realized that the camera was recording video the whole time.  Bonus ! )
Sandy Cay (Photo taken by Oday from bow of boat at anchor)

This trip has been a series of good meals and today was another day of a well cooked breakfast.  The plan for today was to sail from Jost Van Dyke to a small island called Sandy Cay and then on to Cane Garden Bay.  It was going to be a couple of short sails for the day, so we took our time leaving Jost.  We packed up our trash and made one last run to the dock where you could drop trash for free.  

We decided to just motor over to Sandy Cay, a short distance to the East from where we were.  Sandy Cay is an uninhabited island between Jost Van Dyke and Tortola and was owned by the Rockefeller Family and donated in 2008 to the National Park Trust of the Virgin Islands.  The island is very small (just about 13 acres) but has several great attributes.   There is a great sand beach, wooded trails, rocky ledges as well as a large salt pond in the center of the island.  
Oday and T decided to stay on the boat
and relax in a Hammock on the bow.

We moored on the Western side of the island in about 15 feet of water over a gorgeous sandy bottom.  The white sand and crystal clear water form that amazing shade of blue you see in just certain places in the world.  Here the blue was so brilliant that when the seagulls would fly a few feet over the water it reflected up onto their bellies and made them look like they were a light shade of blue instead of white.  We looked through all of our pictures and just couldn't find a great way to show that, but it was truly amazing and not something we saw in any other places we went while on this trip.  

We took the dinghy to shore, beached it and walked up the beach to a small sign with a map of the island and trail entrance.  Most of us didn't bring shoes, so we stayed on the trail for the most part.  We walked about a third of the way around the island and saw many birds and lizards or chameleons.  There was something pretty interesting on many of the trees but we are not 100% sure what it was.  
Walking the trails on Sandy Cay

Our best guess was termites.  There would be these small mud like tubes that would go from the ground up the tree trunks and out most of the major branches.  We were interested to know what it was, but not so interested to knock the mud tubes down to see what may come out.   We continued to walk down the trails and stop and observe all of the amazing sites.  The chameleons where pretty neat, you would typically hear them before seeing them.  They would scurry along the ground and as the leaves would russell we would see them moving along.  

A few of them would perch on a tree branch, but if we got close enough to get a picture they would scurry around to the other side and block the photo.  We saw beautiful cactus in bloom as well which surprised me to see Coconut Palm trees and cactus all sharing the same bit of ground.   We also kept hearing what sounded like doves, but never did see any. I am assuming they were just up in the trees and would fly off as we would get close but they made that very distinctive dove sound.  Robert found a great tree that was growing an an angle and looked like a great place for a picture, or to just relax.     We continued along the path until it came to the edge of the shore again but this time it was all rocky and with our bare feet we decided not to tip toe around them.  As we turned around to head back, we kept looking through the woods to see where we could come out of the woods and onto the beach.  
Deb and I on the beach after coming from trail
We found a spot, walked carefully from the path to the beach watching out we didn't step on any cactus.  As we stepped out onto the beach, it was a really neat site.  Behind us was where the sandy beach started to turn to rock and at the edge of the water you could see the different colors of the water from the contrast between sandy bottom and rock bottom.  The shades of blue were all dependent on how large the rocks were and therefore how much water was on top of them.  Ahead of us was something from a magazine.  

Robert waked behind all of us to catch a quick photo of just how pristine the beach, sand, water and anchorage were.  You can see a few of the boats anchored just off the beach ahead of us.  To our left in this photo is Tortola about 15 miles away.   

We decided to walk along the water all the way back to where we beached the dinghy.  This was the first time we had taken the dinghy ashore and beached it.  Getting off the beach was not too hard, after getting a great hint from Obarr.  I was getting ready to drag it back down the beach (Stern first) and Obarr quickly said, turn it around, it will be a lot easier.  And it was !!!.  Thank you.    We pushed the dinghy into a foot of water and got Mary to load first since she typically sits on the bow seat.  

The rest of us loaded in as Obarr held the dinghy.  As more of us loaded up, we had to push further from shore.  Obarr jumped in last and we headed slowly back to the boat, where Oday was there to take a line as we pulled along side the boat.   We relaxed at this beautiful spot for a while longer.  Sandwiches were made and devoured in the cockpit for lunch while we contemplated our very short trip over to Cane Garden Bay.  With the short trip, we decided to just tow the dinghy rather than hoist it up onto the davits for this short trip.  Below in this picture you can see where we started on the left and worked our way to the right at Cane Garden Bay with our stop at Sandy Cay.   So as we sailed into Cane Garden Bay, we played Jimmy Buffett's Mañana on the radio.  The lyrics were very appropriate for the trip as he sang out:

I hear it gets better, that's what they say
As soon as we sail on to Cane Garden Bay.

Please don't say mañana if you don't mean it
I have heard your lines for so very long
Don't try to describe the scenery if you've never seen it
Don't ever forget that you just may wind up in my song...

Obarr had been here before, on Charters but also when he and Kerri cruised on their boat some 10 years ago, they spent some time here in Cane Garden Bay.  When they did, they got to know the owners of "Myetts" which is a wonderful beach front restaurant, bar, hotel, gift shop, etc.  We walked up to Myetts to see if they were there.  Unfortunately they were not there today.  

We still decided to sit at a beach side table, enjoy some wonderful pain killers and Conch Fritters and Cracked Conch.  The view from this place was just amazing, you could see right out over the beach to the boats anchored right out front.  It was always pretty cool to see our Texas Flag waiving out there on our boat as well.  
After our Conch and Pain Killers, we took a walk through town.  We walked down to the Callwood Distillery but it was closed for a local holiday so we found out what time they opened in the morning so we could come back for a tour.  We found a place where we could drop trash here in town for free as well.  We didn't need to do so on this trip, but we planned on coming back to Cane Garden Bay on Friday when there was a full moon for the "Full Moon Party" at the BombaShack so we planned a trash drop for that day.  

We stopped at a market and picked up a couple of items we wanted.  On the way back to the boat, we stopped at Rhymers Beach Hotel and Store to pick up some ice.  They were one of the cheapest places we found ice on this trip and picked up a 20 lb bag for about $6.50.  When we got back to the boat, we swam for a while in the anchorage and again continued to be completely intrigued with the clarity of the water.  Here is a photo of our anchor chain in 25 feet of water and you can clearly see it go all the way to the bottom and head off in the distance.   We also got a chance to take some photos through our Floor Hatch in the boat.  We figure it is a safety issue if something were to go horribly bad and you happened to have the boat upside down, it allowed a place where you could still get out of the boat.  With that said, it was still very odd to see a hatch in the floor.   Someone captured a cool picture of Oday under the boat, with T taking a picture of him from inside the boat.  

We put our plans together for the next day.  We were going to get up in the morning, have breakfast and then head over to the Callwood Distillery for a tour of an old school distillery still doing things much the same way they did 400 years ago when they started brewing rum there.  

More in the next chapter of the blog !!  Here is a link for Callwood's Facebook Page, I would encourage you to Check it out. 

Below is a bit of a video capture of the days activities.  If you are reading this in any other way than online, you may not see the video below.  If not, click on this link to play the video.