Bunny & DrRalph in
the British Virgin Islands
December 31-January 7, 2007
Well, you can only keep the hangover monster at bay for so long. After our lobster dinner, we wound up at the bar drinking "frozen bananakeets," and next thing we know it's 2 AM and we're looped. We awoke to rain, wind, and bad headaches, which was a triple shame, because this was the first of three days that we had rented a boat. Showers, breakfast, and three Excedrin each got us to Island Time Boat Rentals at Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola's SW aspect at about 11. After checking out our Contender 22, we bought ice and loaded up, just as the rain abated and the sun came back out.
We rain with the brisk wind west along Tortola's southern coast, passed through Thatch Cut, and on into the passage between Jost and Tortola.
We had wanted to anchor up at Sandy Cay and Sandy Spit, two small islands to the west of Jost, but the surge was too great to wade onto the beach.
We found some shelter in the lee of Little Jost, and tied up at Foxy's Taboo, an open restaurant/bar.
This was our first experience running a Contender. We were very impressed with her sea-keeping ability, especially working into head seas, but at 22 feet she may have been a little small for the nasty conditions we encountered. In the past we had rented a Bradley 30 from King Charters which was clearly superior, but at $500/day for two people, we didn't feel the value was there. The Contender rented for half the price of the Bradley.
By the time we returned to the Inn we were whipped, hung, and sunburned; we ate grilled cheese sandwiches and hit the sack at 8:30. It's hell getting old.
The next day was perhaps the best of our trip. We decided to cruise the islands to the south of Tortola (see map). After leaving Nanny Cay we had a rough 7 nm ride into 3-4' head seas in the Drake Passage which subsided only after we were well into the lee of Cooper Island. At 10:30 nothing was open, so we lounged on the beach and did a little exploring for an hour or so. The Cooper Island Beach Club and Resort is essentially the only civilization on the island, and is serviced by a ferry that runs over from Road Town.
From Cooper we cruised easily down-sea past Salt Cay, then worked through Peter Island's Dead Man's Bay and Sprat Bay. We anchored in sheltered water in Great Harbour, enjoying lunch and a little down time.
As we departed Great Harbour, we passed the windjammer S/V Legacy, ran west and then south into the Bight of Norman Island, passing the floating bar Willy T (no stop, it was crazed). We tied up at the Bonefish Bar and enjoyed some time on their nice beach.
Notice the chop, and this is in a sheltered harbour!
We had a bumpy ride cross-sea on the way back to Nanny Cay. The next day was the roughest of the trip, as well as out last full day. We spent a little time cruising Long's Bay and Carrott Bay taking photographs, then slid into Smuggler's Cove for a little more beach time. The ride upsea back to Nanny Cay was very difficult, and by the time we tied up we had had our fill of cruising rough seas in a little boat.
We got up early the next day and made it to the airport by 9 AM, as we had been advised to do. Our check-in with American Eagle bears some commentary and a warning. We travel "heavy," we pack a lot of gear and extra clothes, and we're used to paying extra charges for "overweight baggage." On this trip we carried three suitcases; one was substantially larger than the others. While standing in line at the counter we noticed groups of people who were opening their suitcases and "re-packing" right on the floor. We checked our first two bags without difficulty, but the clerk told us our third bag was "overweight," and that she would not check it. We replied that we were happy to pay the extra charge, but she gave us a cold stare and pointed to a torn little 8 x 11 sheet of paper that was taped to the corner of the counter. The "sign" advised us that as of Dec 1, Eagle had "embargoed" all bags weighing over 25 kg, and that they would not even check them.
At this point, we were contemplating throwing or giving away 12 pounds of clothes and gear when I remembered that I had packed our heavy canvas boat bag in the suitcase in question. So we wound up doing what the others had done: we opened our bag on the floor in front of the counter, dirty laundry and all, and re-packed into the canvas bag until we figured the large suitcase had made weight. The clerk checked them both, huffing at us because she had to make out another luggage tag, then glared at us and cried out, "Next." So a word to the wise: before you fly on American Eagle, contact them directly and ask about any surprise baggage restrictions they have come up with. And complaining to the company will get you nowhere: the response to my blistering letter was essentially, "We're sorry you hadn't heard about our new regulations." As if they had tried to make us (or anyone else) aware of them. Thanks, I feel better now.
A narrative about BVI would be inadequate without mention of the island of Anegada, which lies 20 miles NE of Tortola. We did not go to Anegada on this trip, but did on our previous visits a few years ago. Anegada is much more like Abaco than the rest of BVI. The island is flat, no mountains, has miles of gorgeous beaches, and is essentially surrounded by a barrier reef. There are about 200 full-time residents, one hotel, and a few cottages and restaurants/bars. You can get to Anegada by ferry from East End, and Fly BVI also provides service to the little airport. You can rent a car, which is essential and not nearly as stressful as on Tortola.
Five years ago we rented a cottage at Anegada Seaside Villas; here are a few shots.
The above shots were taken at Loblolly Bay, which is a favorite snorkeling spot. Actually, you can snorkel off just about any beach, although rough seas and a brisk current can make swimming challenging. The conch I dove up is the biggest I have ever seen; it weighed over 10 lbs! Anegada lobsters are huge as well.
Just after I shot this picture of Bunny, a bonefish that had to weigh 10 pounds swam right behind her, intermittantly tailing and feeding. I almost dove in after him!
And we finish with a picture of the "famous tire swing" at Cane Garden Bay. For the veteran Abaco visitor, BVI offers an interesting although somewhat different experience: warmer in the winter, mountainous, more populated, a boater's delight, and much farther from the US. A great initial reference for information and trip planning is Welcome BVI.
And many thinks to Christina, Blinky, and Rosa at the Heritage Inn, and Katrin at Island Time Rentals, for helping make our trip a success.