This is a continuation of our British Virgin Island sailing adventure… Day three of our British Virgin Island sailing adventure started off poorly. Having burned my back to a crisp, I slept poorly. In addition, Rich and I were having sheet wars. I’d brought our own sheets since you never know what type of linens they’ll have on the boat.
While I tend to be very thorough in assessing what I need to pack, I missed an important detail. The pretty patterned percale sheets that I brought were for a twin bed (no wonder why I didn’t recall ever using them). The fitted sheet was long enough to fit over the cushions in the v-berth, but half as wide as necessary. I therefore put the top sheet on the bottom and rationalized that I could use the fitted sheet as a top sheet.
Obviously, this wasn’t the swiftest plan. The fitted sheet barely covered one of us and the elastic at the bottom made it even smaller. By our third night, Rich wised up and used one of the sheets that came with the boat to cover himself while I abused the fitted sheet, depending on my discomfort level. Check out the scramble of sheets and pillows in the v-berth above. Below shows the v-berth at the very front or forward of the boat.
Keep in mind we both ended up getting nasty sunburns, which made it hellish to sleep. And above the v-berth was a hatch that we opened and closed throughout the night, depending on whether we were hot or cold. Rich tended to close it; I’d inevitably open. Add that it rained on-and-off many nights, making it imperative to quickly get up from a sound sleep and race around the boat closing windows and hatches. Multiple these activities by territorial wars over the four pillows and four sheets and the reality that Rich’s 6-foot, 3-inch body only fit diagonally in the v-berth!
Yes, it would make anyone crabby in the morning.
The morning of our third day, I was especially crabby because of the heavy winds and pelting rain during the night. Because we were both miserable, we got up with the sun, started the engine and were to George Dog by 6 a.m. The good news was that we hadn’t pay for the mooring ball because no one came around the night before to collect the money!
George Dog is one of four canine-named islands, which includes West Dog, Great Dog, George Dog, and two bitty islands called Seal Dogs. The islands were named by sailors who mistook the barking noises made by Caribbean Monk Seals for that of dogs. They then discovered the seals were quite tasty and in a few decades ate them to extinction.
After arriving at George Dog, we dried out the boat (many of the hatches and windows were open during the stormy night), had some cereal and milk, then pulled on our snorkel gear (which we stored in the back cabin along with all of our clothes, bottled water, shells, books, and electronic gear). I quickly forget that I was tired and cranky. The variety of fish, coral, filtered sunlight, and calmness of the water was unsurpassed.
After snorkeling around both sides of the reef, we tossed our gear into the boat, climbed into the dinghy and motored to a deserted beach on the opposite end of the island (below). I was enthralled with the sand near the water; it was composed entirely of seed-sized pieces of shells and rocks. I sat on the beach, completely absorbed in sifting through the sand, picking out tiny unbroken shells and interesting bits of coral. I then filled a baggy full of the sand, which I now have in a pretty glass vase.
Twenty feet or so from the shore, the finely crushed shells and rocks became a strip of small BB-sized pebbles. Past the pebbles was fine sand with larger rounded stones, chunks of coral, and jagged rocks from the cliffs and underwater reefs.
While I was focused on the composition the beach, Rich climbed on the rocky cliffs and returned with a couple of pieces of interesting coral.
As we headed for the dinghy, a small motor boat pulled up and deposited several people on the beach. By the reef, where we’d snorkeled less than an hour earlier, all of the mooring balls were taken. It was definitely to our advantage to get up early and race to the prime snorkeling spots.
As we trimmed the sails, the sky darkened and the fluffy white clouds turned gray and heavy. By the time we reached Marina Cay we saw cracks of lightening and a few drops of rain started to fall. Nevertheless, because we planned on getting gas and water at the marina and also pick up a mooring ball, we had no choice, but to wait in the drizzle until the fuel dock was clear. As we approached the docks, the sky opened up and the rain pelted down.
Happily, the attendant ran out from the office, and helped us tie up to the dock (below). He was from Jamaica and wasn’t thrilled with B.V.I, which he found very hot and dry. From a distance, the islands look green, but as you closer, you can see much of the landscape is rocky with drought-tolerant trees and scraggily bushes, sedum, and cactus. Depending on the location, however some parts of B.V.I. are more green than others, owing to them receiving more rain and less afternoon sun.
Jamaica, as the attendant at the fuel dock explained, has many springs and the flora is thick and lush. He told of a village where everyone drowned because during the night a spring rose up and submerged the village under many feet of water. The area is now a large lake!
At the far end of the fuel dock was an old fashioned red telephone booth from England. A camera, mounted across from the telephone booth, snaps a picture every fifteen seconds. If you stand in front of the booth, your picture will be captured. Later, you can go onto the Pusser’s Rum site and download your picture. You can also call friends and family on cell phone and have them log onto the site and watch you live.
I stood in front of the booth numerous times while we were on the fuel dock and later that day when we took our dinghy to Marina Cay. The first few images turned out horrible because of the rain and water drops on the camera lens. Here’s the best image of Rich and I.
Even though it was early in the day, after getting drenched at the fuel dock, we happily grabbed a mooring ball. Because of the bad weather, the marina was very crowded. After a quick lunch and dry clothes, we took the dinghy to the fuel dock to catch a commuter boat over to the Trellis Bay, on the east side of Tortola.
I’d been delighted with this tourist destination when we visited BVI seven years ago. The day we went, however, the pocked dirt roads and walkways were muddy. And the accumulation of trash, a mangy black kitten, and abandoned and tossed-together buildings overshadowed its charm and artist colony allure.
My attitude of Trellis Bay had been tainted even before we arrived. The commuter boat was actually a small ferry for the workers at the Pusser’s Marina Cay resort – islanders — who like the many natives we’d encountered in the past few days, have a love-hate relationship with tourists. We bring money into their communities and generated jobs, but our standards-of-living and our apparent unlimited dollars (or Euros) for food, drink, and entertainment, probably stings when they’re barely getting by on low-wage medial jobs.
We tried to strike up a conversation with two of the women who had knife bags. They acknowledged that they were chefs and commented that they’d never leave their knives at work. It was obviously, however, that they weren’t interested in talking with us.
When we got to Trellis Bay, they disembarked and hopped into waiting cars. One man, who appeared to be associated with a diving school, had his own car and we could hear him offering to take another worker to a location on the island. Hitching a ride is a common means of transportation on an island with few cars and expensive gasoline.
In spite of the disarray of Trellis Bay, the main attraction, Aragorn’s Studio, had thrived and was now triple in size. It offers everything from fabulous ceramics to woven baskets, wooden carvings, traditional reversible dolls, jewelry, clothing, and purses made from gourds. Many of the pieces would have been welcome in our collections, but Rich reminded me that we already have “so much stuff.”
The artist, Aragorn Dick-Read, makes huge metal structures, which during the full moon he fills with firewood and sets afire. The pieces are quite ornate and scattered around the studio. A large sculpture of a person stands watch over the studio, several feet out in the water (above).
After a short time at Trellis Bay, we head to the dock to wait for the boat back to Marina Cay. It gave me plenty of time to shoot pictures of the accumulation of trash in the area. It’s astonishing that everywhere you turn in BVI there is junk. People dump their stuff everywhere… into fresh water creeks that run along the side of the roads to the beaches, streets, areas under construction (like openings in docks for utilities), under picturesque trees… in the water.
Towards the end of our trip, Rich and I took our dingy to a rugged beach across the water from Tortolla, the main island. Washed on shore was shoes, packaging, clothing, household good… and a medium-sized, white plastic bowl, which happened to complement the set of bowls on our boat.
The water taxi back to Marina Cay was crowded with workers going over to the resort, including a startlingly handsome man of India descent with pierced ears and several metal bangles on his wrist. The mixture of people in BVI now includes people from other nationalities, whose influence is furthering adding to the diversity of the island. Our last night in BVI, we ate at the Drake Point restaurant at the Fort Burt Hotel. I had a tasty curry with mango chutney, and other Indian condiments.
The picture below are some of the seagulls that we would feed every night from the back of our boat. They’re smaller than the seagulls you see in the Pacific Northwest and bright, bright white with jet black heads, and soft blue gray feathers on their wings. They are very beautiful and entertaining. They had no hesitations about riding on our dingy when we were under sail or hovering around us as we ate dinner topside.