Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monday: Island Time

Forecast:  ENE winds 14-19 knts. Seas 5-7’ in NNW swells. Numerous showers and isolated thunderstorms
Yep, it’s really settled in now that our second week has started.  We’re on Island Time.
We had a pretty restless night with very high winds and a bouncy ride until about 4am when things settled down a bit.  Glad to be able to get some good sleep after that.  No matter how confident you feel about the set of the anchor (I snorkelled it and it was well dug-in) and the fact that you haven’t budged an inch before dark, when darkness falls in the anchorage it all feels completely different with the wind whistling in the rigging and the waves bouncing you around.
Once daylight arrived we motored around to Great Harbour to have a look at the new fuel dock and pick up some wi-fi courtesy of Foxy’s. 
IMG_4455 IMG_4459
That’s where the postings for the last few days went up as we sat at the bar, watched the rain and were regaled with stories and rhymes by Foxy himself.  He asked where we were from and when we said Canada his spoken word covered places from Tofino and ‘Hongcouver’ to Hamilton and Toronto and then up to the Tulip (two-lip) Festival in Ottawa; all delivered with tongue-in-cheek innuendo and a political slant.  He also took us on a personal tour to see photos of his MBE presentation by Princess Anne and then the 32’ sloop that is being built by JVD high-school students which is quite a sight to see. Here’s their link.  Foxy’s new personal mission is to try to slow the pace of development on JVD by having part of the island declared a National Park.  Having seen the road-work going on across the island we thought he was right on the mark.
The new fuel dock (part of that development I guess) is very easy to access so we made a quick stop to top up our tanks (water, diesel and fuel for the dinghy) and dispose of our bag of garbage.  We figure we can do two weeks out on full tanks but this takes all the worry away for the last couple of days.
Just an hour away on the north shore of Tortola lies Cane Garden Bay.  When we stopped here with Jim a year and a half ago we thought it very pretty but much too touristy with the beautiful beach covered with beach-chairs.  I think that’s still the case but we went ashore anyway and were delighted with the little narrow front street fringed with restaurants, bars and guest houses.  Every colour of the Caribbean has been used in the paint selection and yet it all works together.
We walked on up to Bobby’s market to stock up on some food needs as well.  For those wondering, the shopping is just like at home only the establishments are smaller and the prices higher (except for alcohol of course).  There is a Costco-type place on St. Thomas but once in the other islands food is available through much smaller venues.  None-the-less we find that we can get just about all that we need.  This morning on Jost the grocery shelves were a little bare because the boat had not arrived yet with supplies, but timed right, you can pick up the necessities as you go along.
IMG_4463  IMG_4466

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday: Jost Van Dyke

Forecast:  Winds ENE 12-17 knts, seas 4-6’, scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms, temp 84F

Cloudy skies and light showers were the markers for today but given that we planned an ashore day, this was actually quite pleasant.  We weren’t quite as good as we had been about getting up really early but given that it rained all night, and was still very cloudy the temperature was nice and mild this morning.  The kicker was the humidity which was probably at about 98%.


We started our JVD hike setting out towards Little Harbour.  We looked down at it but rather than march down the hill just to have to come on back up, we opted to carry on up the side of the mountain towards the Mountain Trail which was very clearly marked on our little tourist map. 


Our plan was to take a little bit of the Mountain Trail and then find our way back down to Diamond Cay and the bubbly pool.  We clambered on, passing numerous herds of goats on the way (this should have been a warning) but no sign of the road back down to the bay.  By the time we had climbed up over 800’ we were cluing into the fact that there was no easy loop road that was going to take us back.  In places the ‘trail’ was a two-lane concrete affair that had probably never seen the tires of a car because at other times it was a mud and grass track.  One can only assume that the lovely patches of concrete will eventually join up and be accessible from the bottom of the mountain.  After about 3 hours of road/trail that really only goats should climb, we arrived at the base of the radio towers on Majohnny Hill at an elevation of 1050’.  Needless to say the views from the top were spectacular!


Given that none of the other roads marked on the map ever materialized we decided the most prudent course was to retrace our steps – so much faster going down than up, but oh so hard on the knees.  Lunchtime found us back at Taboo enjoying a cold Presidente and a heaping fresh Greek salad.

For Caitlin and Jim – do you remember when we visited Great Harbour and walked over the road to White Bay?  Take a careful look at this picture and you can see the road heading up over the peninsula – remember how steep it was??


Our final trek on this island today was to head out to the north-east corner to the bubbly pool.  This is where there is a narrow cut in the rock and when the northern swell is up, the waves crash in and create a bit of a washing-machine effect on anyone who is up to playing in the pool.  Most of the waves today produced a gentle-cycle action but there were one or two that poured in that got everyone pretty excited.


Here’s our trek across the island – I’ve marked on it in orange the two roads we searched for that just didn’t exist.  When we showed the map to the bartender at Taboo he and his pal studied it with great concentration and then proclaimed that it might be a track but as far as they were concerned it was just a gut.  A gut is a creek bed.

2011-11-27 JVD Hike

There’s a low pressure sitting just NE of the islands now that is causing all these showers.  It may send us some pretty blustery weather overnight and tomorrow but will hopefully clear out after another 24 hours.

Saturday: Anegada to Jost Van Dyke

Forecast:  Winds ENE 12-17 knts, seas 2-4’, scattered showers

This was a downwind travel day but the hoped for winds of 15+ knots never did arrive so it was a slow, rolly drift with the winds and light swell, past the north shore of Tortola and down to JVD.  The only excitement in the 6 1/2 hour sail were a couple of rain showers that passed us by, but being very localized we only needed to change course a few degrees to avoid a soaking.  The winds remained in the 8-10 knot range pretty much all day so we sailed some of the time with just headsail alone which allowed us to sail almost dead downwind toward our destination.  We had the main up for a while and although it afforded a few more knots in speed, we had to bear off the downwind run to avoid a jibe so our speed towards our destination was no better than headsail alone.

We pulled around Sandy Spit and up to the Diamond Cay anchorage in front of Foxy’s Taboo in the mid-afternoon.  Taboo is an adjunct business but with a very different vibe from Foxy’s in Great Harbour.  The open-air restaurant was very quiet but inviting and after waiting for another shower to pass, we headed in for one of the best dinners we’ve had in the islands.


Not much else to report from the day.  Overnight we had very heavy rain, the advantage being that it washed our decks clean of the accumulated salt that becomes very sticky over time.

Friday: Anegada Day

Forecast:  Winds ENE 10-15 knts, seas 2-4’, scattered showers, temperature 84F

The last time we were on Anegada with Jim we rented bicycles and rode out to Loblolly Beach for lunch at Flash of Beauty.  We wanted to explore Anegada again and perhaps see a little more of the north shore, but knowing the condition of the deep-sand roads decided against bicycles this time.  Sorry Jim, given there were just two of us we opted for scooters.  Yeah, give a couple of newbie scooter-riders machines that are capable of 60+ km/hr and let them loose on roads that mire in sand up to 6” deep.  It wasn’t all bad though because we got to practice first on the concrete road leading out to The Settlement.  We actually got on just fine and had a fantastic day exploring and enjoying this idyllic island.


Anegada lies tilted slightly from south-east up to north-west, with continuous powder white sand beaches running along the whole of the north shore and western end of the island.  All told, Anegada is only about 11 miles long and there is one main road on the south side and one sand road on the north side so it doesn’t take long to explore at 30-40 km/hr.  We headed up to Loblolly Beach where we placed our order with Monica for lunch at Flash of Beauty before heading off for a walk along the endless north-shore beach.  This beach is renowned for snorkelling within the fringing reef but we found we didn’t even have to get our feet wet to see the fish feeding on the reef! 


Flash of Beauty is an open-air restaurant where your fish, lobster, conch, roti etc. is made to order and we happened to be the only customers there that day. 


To the accompaniment of the local cat we enjoyed a beautifully prepared lunch and encourage anyone who is exploring the island to come here.  We visited the next place down the beach, Big Bamboo, and while it is was definitely busier and provided many services to its guests/visitors it hadn’t the charm of FoB.

Once our bellies were comfortably full, we headed off to the west end of the island to Cow Wreck Beach.  This beach is named for the boat-load of cow bones that were wrecked here way back (and that’s all I know). 


It is now home to one of the most laid-back bars we have ever visited.  We wandered up and were served our first drinks (the specialty Cow-Killer and an excellent Painkiller) but after that we were on our own.  A clip-board was provided to record your purchases and when ready to leave you settled up with whomever was behind the bar at the given time.  How fantastic is this!


I love this island and its laid-back charm; as the t-shirt slogan so rightly proclaims:  Anegada – hard to get to, harder to leave.


Thursday: Spanish Town to Anegada

Forecast: Winds ENE 0-15 knts, seas 3-5’, isolated showers

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. and it’s a strange sort of dichotomy here in the British Virgin Islands – there is no tradition for Thanksgiving here and yet because so many of the folks who come here are American, the holiday is somewhat observed.  Not so much in the commercial establishments unless Black Friday can be put to use, but upon talking to one shop-keeper on Anegada today she said her family and others celebrate because they like to eat; and yes, they eat turkey.

Sitting in what we northerners think of as paradise it is not hard to come up with things to be thankful for – warm caressing sunshine, just the right amount of tropical breeze, powder-white sand beaches with swaying palm-trees; all rather like a post-card. 


However, now that we are here in Anegada after a wonderful sail from Virgin Gorda, I am reminded of other things I am thankful for.  Jim – this place brings back great memories of our first trip on Mowzer when you were with us and we came to the ‘drowned island’ for the first time; we hope to head up to Loblolly Beach tomorrow where you had so much fun a year and a half ago.  Caitlin – I thought of you yesterday at The Baths as I watched a young woman about your age scaling one of the massive boulders (but with no broken arm like when you were here .)  Family, friends and colleagues of course but I promise not to get too maudlin so here are some other things that came to mind today:

  • Perfect wind and seas for a single-tack sail from Virgin Gorda to Anegada


  • The best pedicure you can get for free (walking on the beach)
  • Walking so far down that beach that your ‘up-hill’ leg starts to hurt so you have to turn around, but regretting that you’ve only walked a short portion of this seemingly never-ending completely uninhabited strand of white
  • Meeting a guy in the local bar who also has a dream – in this case to start a micro-brewery in the islands, but not before he has just one more to take on the road with him (literally)
  • Anchoring on the fringe of a crowded anchorage, that still only contains about 40 boats which is nothing compared to some of the anchorages down-island.  This place feels almost like you’ve reached the end of the world.


  • Joining your fellow boaters at a restaurant on the beach for a meal of fresh-caught lobster and shrimp and a chilled glass of wine as the breeze blows through and you actually need to be covered up because it is getting a little chilly
  • Knowing that it is just fine to be sitting in that open-air restaurant in the best clothes you posses but that your bum is soggy from the dinghy ride in and your flip-flops are full of sand


  • Juicy anticipation of the next day’s explorations around and across this little island – 11 miles long, 2 miles wide and only 25 feet high (yay, no hikes up a mountain-top)
  • Watching dark skies and looming clouds develop through the evening only to have them blow by with nary a drop of rain or gust of wind and the reward being the best of sunsets


  • The skittering sound of a sand-piper running across the deck as you awake to calm waters in the anchorage.
  • Sharing the fun and adventure with your best friend.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wednesday – Virgin Gorda

Forecast: ENE Winds 11-16 knts, seas 5-7’ in NE swells, scattered showers.
I realized that I have been posting the marine forecast each day but it does not include the temperature.  So, for those of you that want to know, the forecast temperature is provided for sea level and then for higher elevations and comfort is completely dependent on whether you are in the blazing sun or the ocean breeze.  So, the forecast for today was 30C (85F) and we had both, sun and breezes, but no rain whatsoever; another glorious day in paradise.
We got up to this view this morning.  There is no cruise-ship dock at Spanish Town so they get to anchor out with the rest of us.
Today was a ‘stay-at-home’ day in that Mowzer didn’t leave the anchorage.  We started off early this morning, this time to explore the southern end of Virgin Gorda.  We definitely got to see both sides of this part of the island, from the back road tip/excavation pit in the east overlooking the airport to the beautiful palm-tree lined beaches and estates of the getaway homes on the west side of the island.  No matter where you look though, giant boulders – some the size of apartment buildings – are scattered all over The Valley (the southern end of VG), and in this case I guess the boulder just couldn’t be removed.
We walked all the way out to Copper Mine Point which was originally excavated for (surprise, surprise) copper by the local natives in the 1400s and then by English (Welsh & Cornish) miners in the 1830s.  It is now a preserved ruin but offers stunning views of the much unseen east side of Virgin Gorda.
Walking up to the mine we passed the ‘Home of the world famous sunset’ bar & grill and mini-put.  Given the view we certainly understood the bar & grill part, but with the state of the fairways we decided the mini-putt wasn’t going far.
The Baths offered up the usual stunning scenery but was full of two cruise-ships’ worth of French and German passengers which is just too much for this small space. 
We made our way on down to the next bay still surrounded by the giant boulders but amazingly there was no-one on the beach there.  Just glorious!
Back in Spanish Town we found The Mermaid where we were super-ready for lunch and had the added bonus of watching the water-taxis from the cruise-ships loading up folks to return to the mother-ship.  From the guy with the sparkly gold aviators and lace-up Speedo, to various forms of artificial enhancement on the women, to lots of folks just enjoying themselves we quite enjoyed the people-watching while we quietly relaxed on our own schedule at the bar. 
Back at Mowzer this evening, we enjoyed our sundowners and waved goodbye to our neighbours.  I have a new favourite concoction for just this occasion:  Cruzan coconut rum (not Malibu) mixed with half diet coke and half mango-peach juice – yum!
All told today we covered over 10 miles and I can officially say that I am looking forward to a day on the boat tomorrow, with no walking!
2011-11-23 Virgin Gorda2
With that in mind, the plan is to head up to Anegada tomorrow so we most likely won’t be able to post to the blog until we’re back down this way again.  There was no wi-fi when we were there previously but who knows what is there now since both Earl and Irene have been through and I’m sure there has been some rebuilding.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday: Coral Bay to Spanish Town

Forecast: ENE winds 11-16 knts, seas 6-8 feet in NE swells, scattered showers. (Drake Passage seas were a comfortable 2-4 feet with no showers to be seen.)

Where did your morning workout take you today?  I know, we’re only really into day 3 of our new habit, but we were up at 6am again and headed down the road (on foot of course) out of Coral Bay towards East End.  At Hurricane Hole we turned off the road and headed up over the ridge on the Brown Bay trail that took us up to the Johnny Horn trail.  This was the view at the top.


Carrying the GPS on our hike keeps us on the right track of course but also lets us see how far we went and just what we climbed (how techie!)
 2011-11-22 Coral Bay Hike  2011-11-22 Coral Bay Hike - elevation 
Coral Bay is a funky little place at the east end of St. John that prides itself on being the haven for true cruisers and not tourists.  However, the first thing you encounter when you step off the dinghy dock (after the requisite number of derelict boats and cars) is a souvenir shop.  Why is it that in the land of the ‘free pour’ there are more shot-glasses for sale than just about anything else?

In all reality though and to be fair to Coral Bay, it has a completely different atmosphere and is probably more redolent of what we all think the Caribbean is like.  Here was the greeting committee this morning.

At Skinny Legs (the local bar) there is a bumper sticker on the wall that proclaims, “St. John, the open-air asylum”.  The one I really resonated with was the one on the back of this jeep just above his window – check out what he’s carrying in his golf-bag.
Coral Bay, for all it’s eccentric delights is not a harbour to swim in.  It is all silted up and from the sunken boats that have been there a few years, who knows what is leaking.  We were back onboard from our walk just as the sun was truly starting to heat up (about 10am) so we make our way over to Round Bay for a cooling off dunk in the crystal-clear turquoise waters before we headed off up the Sir Francis Drake Channel and into the British Islands.

Once upon a time, Spanish Town was the capital of the BVI’s.  Today it is a port of entry, ferry terminal from Tortola and home to the yacht club that hosts Sunsail and Barefoot charter boats.  We hadn’t been here before so we anchored off to the side (a free night, yay) and then headed into customs and immigration to do our paperwork to enter Her Majesty’s territory.

This time out we’re really trying to explore parts of the islands that we haven’t seen before.  Some of the anchorages we’ve been to and some we haven’t, but we’re trying to get out on foot to explore a little further.  Our goal now is to get up to Anegada and with the winds shifting to the east by Thursday we should be good to make the little jump.  It will be a much more pleasant sail since the northerly swells created by the depression that was moving out to the Atlantic earlier this week will be abating and with the wind shifting around off the nose we should be able to make it in one tack.  Before that however, we have a day to explore the south end of Virgin Gorda.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday: East End St. John

Forecast: Winds NNE 15-17 kn, seas NE swells 6-8', scattered showers.

Well that was the forecast but to be honest all we saw of it today was the scattered showers.  Working on maintaining the good habit, we were up at 6am.  This sounds terribly early for vacation, but when you go to bed at 9:30 it still makes for a good night's sleep.  Taking the Lameshur Bay trail to the west we climbed over the ridge and down to the Reef Estate Great House (in ruins), the Par Force Estate (very gloomy and in ruins) and the Reef Sugar Factory (well maintained but still in ruins).

We ended our hike at the Petroglyphs carved into the rocks of a magical fresh-water glade complete with a 40' waterfall.

The morning's hike took us about 5 miles (we're in the U.S.) and over a ridge at 460'.  The trails are very well maintained by the State Park and we never begrudge the $15 mooring fee. It seems like a steal really to have a safe mooring for the night and good hiking trails that network all over the island. Given that it was Monday morning, this shot is for all the folks back at GB -oh where your back-pack can travel.

We were quite happy to beat the heat with the early morning hike and be back to Mowzer by 11am.  The snorkeling around the edge of the bay was fun but nothing really special other than a great way to spend the heat of the day. By mid afternoon we dropped the mooring ball and motored into the wind and waves to head into Coral Bay.  We took a little excursion around Round Bay and this is definitely somewhere we will come back to anchor.  We'd decided on another hike for the tomorrow morning though and Coral Bay is a better starting point so we dropped anchor at the back of the pack and enjoyed a very calm evening.

As of this evening we are sitting in Coral Bay picking up the best wi-fi signal we've had to date - thanks to Seven Seams!!

Sunday, St. Thomas to St. John

Forecast: Winds NNE 16-19 kn, gusting to 25 kn, seas NE swells 5-7', small craft advisory

As we arrived at CYOA on Saturday afternoon it was great to see all the familiar faces: Nancy, Jay, Jan and we got to meet Debbie for the first time.  Debbie & Jay post on the Livin da Life blog that we follow to keep up with what is happening on the island so it was fun to put a face to the woman behind much of the writing.

Having a car rental is totally the way to go.  We ate a quick dinner, got our provisioning done and headed back to the boat with absolutely no hassle.  We realized that this is  our fifth trip to the island now so it definitely feels like coming back to our second home.

Jan made the offer that if I cared to get up nice and early, I could join her on her early morning walk.  Sure enough, I was up and ready to go when she appeared at 6 am.  This may be vacation, but if you want to get in a good walk this is definitely the time of day to do it.  The humidity takes a lot of getting adjusted to, especially away from the ocean breeze.  Jan has a great workout walk into town from the marina that includes the famous 99 steps and another run of steps that I'm sure had more.  We walked up to Bluebeard's castle, back down and then Jan walked back up again (I was definitely huffing at that point) before making our way back around the harbour to CYOA.  Now if only I can keep up on this great intention to get out on a regular basis - I'll be a very happy camper.

After a few more errands and returning the car we were on our way.  A weather advisory with high winds and a strong swell were forecast so to stay out of the swells we sailed the south shore of St. Thomas and St. John, picking Little Lameshur Bay as our destination.  We came the whole way on one tack, passing through 4-5 squalls with winds and spray that made us very happy that we had prepared with a double reef in the sails. The double rainbows against the shore of St. John were spectacular and made the dodgy weather all worth it.

Given the wave action that was probably hitting the north shore beaches, there was lots of activity on the beach here until about 4pm, but then poof, everyone disappeared, including the only other boat in the bay.  Once again, coming to the south side has treated us to a lovely secluded anchorage for the night.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Just Two More Sleeps

I should probably be packing but instead I've been browsing the web and tweaking the blog - all part of getting my head away from work and into vacation mode.

This summer didn't see nearly enough time on the boat up here in Ottawa so the next two weeks on Mowzer are going to be fabulous.  We're still not completely decided on where we'll head and in reality it will probably be Sunday or Monday morning before we finally decide, but the likelihood is that we'll try to get back up to Anegada.  Lobster dinner on the beach as a belated birthday celebration for both of us is in the works.

Meanwhile back in Ottawa this past summer, I decided to tackle a 'canvas' project on the home-front.  Our gazebo cover gave out the year before last and we missed the shade by the pool last summer.  I picked up a roll of beautiful yellow/gold striped Sunbrella and fashioned a new cover.  It certainly felt incredibly decadent to set up space on the pool table for the sewing project - there definitely won't be this sort of space aboard!

Under construction ...
Like a crazy ballerina ...
It turned out pretty well although I never did get a picture of the final product up on the gazebo.  I love working with Sunbrella but it pushed the limits of my Janome machine - oh for a Sailrite!  Got lots of ideas though for how to handle boat projects down the road.