Monthly Archives: February 2014

Caribbean Sailing Chapter Five

 Day Six MapToday we will be sailing along the Southern coast of Tortola then over to Beef Island and Trellis Bay. Along the way we will stop at Road Town, the capital of the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

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After a night of listening to Quito Rymer, dancing in the sand, and sipping Cuba Libres, we wake up to another day in paradise. Once again it is a great day to sail, but before we leave Soper’s Hole, we motor ashore and spend an hour or so strolling the dock and visiting the shops. It’s time to pick up souvenirs for our “special someone” we left at home. Don’t spend too much, as we will end our trip in St. Thomas and…well..you’ll see when we get there.

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Back on “Island Dreams” we prepare to “get underway”. We motor out of the harbor and check the wind. We have a good Southern wind around 5 knots and following seas (the waves are in the same direction we want to sail), the perfect combination for a great day! If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most. A small sailing craft is not only beautiful, it is seductive and full of strange promise and the hint of trouble. The very thought that the waters we are sailing were the same that pirates of old sailed, the battles and boardings, the brigantines and bullion, the capture of men and treasure.

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Road Town Habour

Road Town Habour, Tortola

As we approach Road Town harbour (British, ya know), we lower the main and and engage the motor to take us in. The harbor is full of yachtees (other boaters doing the same thing we are) and a massive cruise ship! It seems that cruise ships are getting larger every year. I prefer a ship around 1800 passengers, but most of the ships today carry 3,000 to 4,000 passengers. The little shops and restaurants in most ports are still the same size they were in the early eighty’s and can you imagine the crowds when a 4,000 passenger cruise ship docks? Good for the merchant, bad for the visitor.

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We opt for a “cold one” at the Village Cay Marina. From their veranda we can see the marina and watch the yachts come and go in the harbor. While we sit back and enjoy doing nothing, our captain is busy fueling, cleaning, and restocking the boat. It is at that moment I realize I love sailing as long as I have a crew and someone else’s boat!

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Map_Beef_Island

Beef Island

After a wonderful lunch at Village Cay Marina, its back on board and our afternoon sail to Trellis Bay on Beef Island. We snag a mooring buoy and secure a line for our excursion to Beef Island. Trellis Bay is a bustling little community on the beach, just beside the airport on Beef Island. The beach itself isn’t much to write home about – and the waters are normally crowded with the many yachts, dinghies and motorboats that anchor here – but Trellis Bay is a great spot for people-watching, windsurfing, shopping for unique gifts or just chilling out with a cold beer. Trellis Bay is also the home of Aragorn, a local artist. His gift shop is a “must see”.

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Our chief reason for being in Trellis Bay is two-fold. First and foremost is for happy hour today. We will be taking the dingy to Marina Cay around 4:30 to hear the Caribbean’s answer to a “Jolly Mon”. Michael Beans has been singing and doing his “Happy Arrrrrrr” show for the past 20 years (or so).

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The Jolly Mon is about a guy who is gifted with great singing ability and one day finds a magical guitar and is befriended by a dolphin, and later became king of Bananaland. The island people say that the “jolly Mon” lived a long and happy life. He sang and played his beautiful guitar, and he ruled Bananaland with wisdom. Sometimes he sailed the Orion to see his friends in other places across the Caribbean Sea. From Coconut Island to Parrot Cay, from Mango Bay to Lemonland, they loved to see him come, and they were sad to see him go. Legend has it that when he was very, very old, the Jolly Mon sang his last song for Albion, who came back and took him up into the sky. And now when the island people wish upon a star, they see the dolphin and the Jolly Mon and his magic guitar.

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From the children’s book, Jolly Mon by Jimmy Buffett

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There is a tale that the Island people tell
Don’t care if it is true ’cause I love it so well
Jolly Mon sing for his supper every night
The people fed him well ’cause he treated them so right

Oh oh oh, Jolly Mon sing
Oh oh oh, make Orion ring

And they wanted him to sing on the island near and far
He always found his way by Orion lucky star
He’d tell them of their joys, he’d tell them of their woes
They loved to see him come, they’d hate to see him go

Lyrics by Jimmy Buffett

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I hope you enjoy this short video of Michael:

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Michael always asks for limericks, chants, and toasts from the audience, so I rise to the occasion with my favorite toast, from Jack Mosley’s song:

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Here’s to small boats on big oceans

and life lived at sea.

To those few brave men that dare to believe

That there’s more to this life than an office downtown

Here’s to small boats on big oceans

and dreams you can’t drown.”

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Lyrics by Jack Mosley

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The second and saddest reason is; this will end our sailing trip and tomorrow we fly from here, Beef Island, to St. Thomas for a day, then we part and fly to our homes and fondly remember this trip forever.

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The Travel Guy pennant

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Caribbean Sailing Chapter Four

Day Four Map

Day Four

Is it possible that this is day four already? They say that time goes slowly in the Caribbean, but for me time is going by too quickly and there is so much we haven’t experienced yet. Oh well, no time to spend worrying about when this will all come to an end, let’s just “carpe diem”!

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Peter Island Beach

Peter Island Beach

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The beach we have chosen has pure white “sugary” sand and not another soul in sight. There are no footprints, except ours, for as far as the eye can see. It is a beautiful scene of peace and tranquility. Every moment is a different scene. As I sit in my chair I see images in my mind of all the sights of summer; children building sand castles along the ocean’s edge, to my right I observe an elderly couple enjoying a good book under the shade of a swaying palm tree. The waves crash into one another, the breeze blowing from the tide, the smell of salty ocean, truly the beach must be as close as one can get to Heaven and still be on earth!

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Our time on the beach is topped off with a picnic lunch, created by our First Mate and ferried ashore by the captain. Today we have soft shell crab sandwiches with homemade potato salad. Note to self: get back in the gym as soon as this trip is over.

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Anchors aweigh mateys, set the mainsail and make way for Tortola! Another great day for sailin’. As we make our way back to Soper’s Hole the captain informs us that, because of the full moon tonight, we are returning to Soper’s Hole and from there we will taxi to Capoon’s Bay for the Bomba’s Surfside Shack “Full Moon” Party.

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Bomba’s Surfside Shack

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As the legend goes, Bomba’s wife loved to party and left him all alone nearly every night to go find a “jamin good party”. Bomba, he decide to put and end to dis foolishness. He would build a party place so de wife will stay at home. He went down to the beach and picked up pieces of driftwood, glass, anything he could use to build his “party house”. He used to say if you needed anything you could find it at the “sand” mall. If it wasn’t there today, come back tomorrow, it’ll be there. When he finish, he would invite all de neighbors to come and party with him. He even had a secret recipe for a “mushroom tea” he would serve to his guest to make the party a hit. To this day, when the moon is full Bomba drags out his special recipe, build a fire, and prepares his “tea” for his guests. Tonight will be our turn to party with Bomba!

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I didn’t take this video of “the shack” but it is a great visual of Bomba’s during the day. Unfortunately, any night video would be “censored” anyway.

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What a great time at Bomba’s last night. I stayed away from the “tea”, so today I am fully functional and ready for another great day of sailing, sand, and sun! On the agenda today is a leisurely sail around Steele point from Soper’s Hole and over to Sandy Cay (pronounced “key”) for some kayaking and snorkeling.

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Sandy Cay

Sandy Cay

In the late afternoon we will sail back to Cane Garden Bay, on Tortola. We will have happy hour and dinner on board, then spend the evening ashore listening to a local named Quito Rymer, one of the Caribbean’s most famous reggae artist.

Quito

Quito

As we listen to some of his popular songs, we glance over the railing and watch many people dancing barefoot in the sand. Look, there is a woman dancing with her young son, he looks to be six or seven years old. Good music, warm, soft breeze, surf gently breaking on the shore…it doesn’t get much better than this!

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Caribbean Sailing Chapter Three

 

Day Three Map

Day Three

It is a beautiful morning, the sun is just beginning to rise and the sea gulls are circling overhead calling to each other “I think this is the boat that will feed us!” The water is calm and the coffee is ready. As I join the rest of you on deck, we discuss what a great time we had at Pusser’s last night. We relax and enjoy the gentle breeze blowing in off the sea. While I am sipping my coffee I glance at the water and I see a porpoise just below me. It is just watching me watching it. I could have touched it. Calmly I said something and everyone jumps up and peers over my side of the boat. Needless to say, this causes the porpoise to bid me farewell. It dove and came back up about a hundred yards away in less than 20 seconds!

 

I ask the Captain what’s on the agenda for today. His answer: “I don’t know, what would you like it to be? Do we need to plan that much?” I had forgotten, we are now on “Island Time” and that meant “chill”, we will sail and, maybe, something will come to mind.

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arial normanWe decide snorkeling would be fun and just laid back sailing. We set a course for Norman Island, just across the Sir Francis Drake channel from Soper’s Hole. The channel was named forFrancis Drake, born around 1540-1544 in Devonshire, England, he was involved in piracy and illicit slave trading before being chosen in 1577 as the leader of an expedition intended to pass around South America, through the Strait of Magellan, and explore the coast that lay beyond. Drake successfully completed the journey and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth upon his triumphant return. He later saw action in the English defeat of the Spanish Armada.

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Once again the sail across the channel is great! Sailing in the channel is like sailing in the world’s largest bathtub. What I mean is, there are islands all around you, it’s just beautiful. We spend the rest of the morning sailing and arrive at “the bight” on Norman Island around 1 pm. The bight is a bay that can be sailed in and out of on a single tack in a sailing vessel, regardless of the direction of the wind.

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Pirates Bight

Pirates Bight

We have lunch on board, lobster rolls and strawberries, then go ashore in the dingy to a bar, Pirate’s Bight. It is a fun little restaurant and bar. They have a small gift shop where we purchase the obligatory pirate flag, a couple t-shirts, and a cap. (note: in 2013 the Pirate’s Bight restaurant burned to the ground, but is being rebuilt)

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The Caves Norman

The Caves

Everywhere we go in the Caribbean we want to just stay, but other ports call. We take the dingy, not to the boat but around the point to a place called “the Caves”. Out comes the snorkeling gear and overboard we go. This is one of the best spots to snorkel. Norman Island, and these very caves were, supposedly, the inspiration for the novel “Treasure Island” I can just see a treasure chest behind the next clump of coral!

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The Caribbean’s multi-hues of blue and turquoise are a feast for the eyes. Under the surface we see a crystalline array of rainbow colors. A manta ray glides by in slow motion as the warm water suddenly becomes ice-cold as I swim into an “underwater river”, a current. Was that a gold doubloon I just saw? Nope, just an overstimulated imagination.

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Willie T

Willie T

After returning to the dingy, we motor to another interesting Caribbean jewel called Willie T’s . The William Thornton II- known as the ”Willie T” because after you’re here for a bit you won’t be able to say its full name without slurring-is a 98-foot schooner that was converted into a bar/restaurant and anchored in the Bight of Norman Island in 1996. Ahh, so much to see, so little time!

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Peter Island

It is getting late and we are sailing to Peter Island for the night. Fortunately for us, the captain and his first mate did not join in the festivities on the Willie T so we are “good to go”! We do not have far to go and soon we arrive at Great Harbour, Peter Island. As the first mate prepares dinner, we spend time reminiscing about the snorkeling excursion. Wow, what an experience! After dinner we sit around on deck and watch the sun set behind Tortola and the sparkle of lights begin to appear from Road Town, Tortola. It is then I see my “pirate’s treasure chest” as I look up and behold the millions of diamonds sparkling in the sky.

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Another day to remember.

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Check back next week for Chapter Four of our adventure.

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Caribbean Sailing Chapter Two

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First day A

British West Indies

The warm Caribbean sun greets us as we leave Saba Rock and sail to Jost Van Dyke, to the Southwest. We chose this time of the year because the temperature in the British West Indies is moderate and the humidity is low.

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Minutes after we leave Saba Rock we see an island off the starboard (right) side of the boat. This is Necker Island and is owned by Sir Richard Branson. He has one of his homes here, as well as, an exclusive resort for the wealthy. At one time the rate was $25,000 per week, but you could bring 9 of your closest friends! If we had the time, we could, by BWI law, catch some rays on his beach. All BWI beaches are public up to the “high water line”; however, if you approach the island you’ll be met by private patrol boats and “discouraged” from landing on the beach. Oh well, there are many more beaches that welcome our visit and they await us later in the day.

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Jost Van Dyke will be our longest sail on our voyage, but the greatest day for sailing! We are sailing in the Atlantic Ocean for this leg of our trip and the water is spectacular!

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Because we are in deep water, it is a deep royal blue and today the winds are favorable and the sailing is smooth as glass. Sailing touches all of our senses, the beauty of the pure white canvas sails against the azure blue of the Caribbean sky, the smell of the salt air, the feeling of the warm sun as it bathes us with its golden rays, and hear the gentle “flapping” of the sails as they catch the wind and carry us to our destination. Time to kick back and grab a cold beverage.

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The captain ask us if one of us would like to “take the helm”. I speak up and suddenly I am “driving” the boat! (ha) Actually, it is a partnership between me and the wind and it feels sooo good.St. Thomas15  Feb. 02 Anyone else? There will be plenty of time to take turns and learn to sail. Taking the helm is the easy part, it takes many hours to learn to “read” the wind by watching the water and to know when to bring the sails about to “catch” the wind and keep us on our course. If the winds are blowing North and you are sailing South, it takes knowledge and skill to “change the tack” (zig-zag) and cause the wind to take you South.

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As we sail Southwest towards Jost Van Dyke, we see many small islands, some are uninhabited and others have small villages. The largest island, Tortola, is on the port side of our vessel (left). Tortola, legend has it, was named by Christopher Columbus and means “land of the turtle-dove”.  We will spend the bulk of our trip sailing around Tortola and visiting the many ports of call offered by the island.

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As we sail around the island of Jost Van Dyke, on our way to White Bay, we notice a school of dolphins following us. Dolphins love to play with the yachts in the area and are quite a sight to behold.

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White Bay 1

White Bay

Jost Van Dyke A

Jost Van Dyke Island

White Bay 2

White Bay

Our destination for the today is White Bay, on the leeward side of Jost Van Dyke. We drop anchor about 75 yards from shore as there isn’t a dock. Now we have two options for getting ashore:

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Soggy Dollar Bar

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Ivan’s Stress-Free Bar

We take option (a) and take the dingy ashore.  The first stop is the Soggy Dollar Bar and a drink called the “Pain Killer”.  The Soggy Dollar is famous for this concoction. Have enough of them and “de pain she go away”. (unfortunately, it WILL return the next morning). The bar got it’s name because if you swim in, your money is soggy!  The rest of the day we rotate from the bar to the sand and back again. Another popular spot is “Ivan’s stress free Beach bar” located just down the way from the Soggy Dollar, offering a great view, a tire swing from a palm tree, and a laid-back feelin’.

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Soper’s Hole Harbor

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Ivan’s Stress-Free Bar

As the sun begins it‘s descent into the Caribbean we “weigh” the anchor (pull it out of the water) and motor our way to the West end of Tortola and a little harbor called Soper’s Hole. Buccaneers (a.k.a. pirates) were attracted to the islands as their hidden coves and complex reef system made them the ideal spot for ravaging passing ships transporting riches from the new world back to Europe. Blackbeard, one of the most infamous buccaneers in Virgin Islands history, made his base of operations at Soper’s Hole on Tortola’s west end in the early 1700s. He and his crew would lay in wait for an unsuspecting trade ship, then quickly pounce on it, killing the crew and claiming the ship and its cargo.

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This is our “overnight” spot. It is now, as the pirates call it, Happy ARRRRR! Our captain prepares his own recipe of the “pain killer” and it is surprisingly better than the Soggy Dollar version! We sip on the stern of the boat (back) with our feet in the warm Caribbean Sea and watch the sun slowly disappear into the sea. This is a memory to hold onto when you get back home to the cold and snow!

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After a delicious gourmet dinner aboard, we go ashore for a few hours of shopping and “beverages” at Pusser’s Landing, perhaps a good Cohiba (yes, Cuban cigars abound here), and back to the boat, happy, tired, and ready for our first night at sea.

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Sunset_Tortola

Hmm….

is that a Jimmy Buffett song I hear someone humming?

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Check back next week for Chapter Three of our adventure.

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