Friday, February 26, 2010

CIBC gets a whole new meaning

The morning dawned hot and humid and somehow plans to hike up the hill from Pirate’s Beach evaporated as the sun climbed. Westerlies at 8-10 knots beckoned however and we set sail around the south side of Norman Island heading for Cooper Island.

Truly out in the Caribbean on a broad reach, Mowzer easily made 6-7 knots in 10-12 knots of wind… amazing! Heading back in to the western rocky shore of Salt Island we visited the wreck of the British Mail Ship, The Rhone where we snorkled above the wreck and a number of divers below.

Just around the corner on Salt Island we dropped the anchor in the bay and dinghied ashore to make up for missing the hill-climbing expedition in the morning. The island’s salt ponds used to provide the whole of the BVI with the salt they used for preserving their food. All the inhabitants have since moved away and the island is now only home to a number of goats. Up the hill at the end of the beach gave us great views up to Virgin Gorda at the eastern end and Thatch Island at the western end of the Sir Francis Drake Passage.

Other than the usual mess of an abandoned settlement and remnants of party night bonfires, at the eastern end of the beach was a carefully tended garden, fenced against marauding goats and a small stone-walled cemetery with nine graves. It’s interesting how in times past coral seems to have been considered a major building component. We noticed at the sugar mill how large pieces of it had been built into the walls; in fact all the windows were artistically framed with large chunks of brain coral and then carved square. Much of the ‘stone’ piled on the graves on Salt Island was also made up of coral. Now, we wouldn’t dare drop an anchor on the coral or even pick it up off the beach.

All this hard exertion pointed us in the direction of Cooper Island’s Manchioneel Bay and the Cooper Island Beach Club (CIBC). Jim headed off for more snorkling on the reef at the end of the beach where he reported there had been an ‘urchin invasion’; I believe he meant the sea creature and not annoying little kids. At the other end of the beach we wandered out to Quart-A-Nancy Point where other snorkelers reported seeing rays and eels. We finally came to rest at the CIBC bar for happy hour where we sipped on half-price painkillers, watched the US semi-final hockey game compete with the sunset, and Jim engineered marvels on the beach – give a boy a bucket…!

This evening the clouds have come in and the increasing winds have moved back around to the NE so the anchorage is a little exposed and bumpy, so we are glad to be on a mooring ball for a little added security through the night.