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British Virgin Islands

Curious what backpackers do in British Virgin Islands? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • Made it to the Caribbean!

    Forgetting that St Thomas, USVI is US soil, we were initially surprised to not be greeted by customs. Rather, we were hit with a giant heat bat followed swiftly by breath of air so humid it was bordering on drinkable. Then came the sweat. Heavy, relentless, beading sweat. Mmmmm.

    By the time we reached the ferry, I was in need of an outfit change. A brief look at the passports and we were on the boat to the BVIs. Not even an 18kt head wind could stop us. Or cool us down.

    After a few customs hiccups in road town, a long walk in the wrong direction with all our bags, and a twice as long walk in the other direction we arrived at the hotel. (I should note that most of that walking was on the road...footpaths here are few and far between.) It had ac and that's all that mattered. Cue boat panic moment. For those of you who haven't been on boats, they get hot. The suns attacks them from the sky and the engine, stove, oven and lights heats them from the inside out. The only source of cool is the breeze which, at a low of 27 degrees, doesn't quite balance the system. I am genuinely fearing a non metaphorical meltdown.

    We definitely hit island life square on. It seems very familiar to pacific culture, the only difference is the locals aren't shouting 'Bula' from a distant paddock. Our greetings at the airport, ferry and hotel were somewhat inhospitable, which was a little disappointing, but experiences since have been better. Knowing that locals respond well to a smile and a joke has turned this impression. Now we just have to get over the feeling of being ripped off on every purchase (its bloody expensive here!!) and we'll be away laughing.

    Day two on Tortola was equally as hot, but I had come to terms with my early demise and got on with the day. Scoping out the supermarket situation was our number one priority. Where and how to feed three hungry boys, on an island of 2,500 people....for 2 months. The most highly rated supermarket was Bobby's who also offer delivery to you boat, if you order 7 to 10 days in advance. Our mistake. Upon inspection, Bobbys was under construction and was currently clearing stock. Something they failed to mention on their website. Not a refridgerated good in sight, nor a fruit or vegetable, nor a pricetag. Not a good start. Supermarkets two and three offered little more and we began to panic. Rushing back to pick up a windsurfer, and receive our boat briefing, left us anxious about this situation.

    Reinforcing the earlier mention of island time, our man David was late to the boat. But we'd helped ourselves to an introduction of home for the next two months. 50 feet of well used fibreglass. Four cabins and a crews quarters. More than enough for three!

    After he arrived, his briefing was short and sweet (the way it should be) but the number of items that were casually skipped over for 'not working' was cause for concern. After insisting on several of them being fixed, we set out for a wee sail. All went swimmingly except for the fact the marina is too shallow to get out of without grounding the boat, and Dave had a personal emergency which cut the trip short.

    Fortunately for Dave we had already planned on spending the night in the marina, and took advantage of the afternoon to do our grocery shop. We hit the mark on our 4th supermarket and unleashed a Pauline Ellis special - two full shopping trolleys. Interestingly, we caught a cab each way. One was $12 the return, $25. Riddle me that. A drop in the ocean for what was spent on the shop.

    The next day, after a bit of faffing we finally set off. Pushed out over the sandbar and hoisted the sails, let the dream begin!
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  • Our first sail was to Norman Island. We picked up a mooring in the lee of the island and were swimming in the deepest blue before even cutting the engine. Glorious, warm, deep blue sea. The boys were ecstatic and spent the rest of the day exploring the area underwater. Turtles, sharks, stingrays, lobsters, fish, coral and underwater caves were amoungst the delights to be observed below the surface.

    Our first night on the boat was pleasant, disrupted only by banging of halyards and swinging of the boom - somewhat highlighting the amatuer cruisers we are.

    The next morning, our soon-to-be-routine pre-breakfast engine start proved difficult. So difficult, in fact, the engine never started. Our minds raced back to the charter briefing; battery switches, ignition switches, choke, throttle. No dice. For the life of us, we could not get the thing to start. We had been given a spare battery but no chords to connect it. Such is island life. We tore the boat apart and pooled our brains and came up with nothing. Our emergency phone to the charter company was used on the first day.

    To make matters worse, it was a Sunday and our mate Dave was at church with his family. Woops, sorry Dave. Dave took our apology and continued his morning at church and then lunch with his family, as any decent man would. He also took the family out on the boat for his afternoon rescue mission. Good on you Dave!

    Much to our surprise, Dave managed to start the engine with a new battery and a few hits of the terminals with the back end of a crescent. How embarrassing. Somewhat dumbfounded at the simplicity of the solution, we thanked him and putted off the mooring and onwards to Peter Island. Little did we know this would be the first of many situations with which we bonded with our power source.

    Peter offered shelter from the wind, but the swell was uncomfortable. Boys being boys we put up with it and enjoyed the teetering daylight with a swim and feed. Beautiful!

    Now I know you'll guess it. Morning two engine start was no better success. Furthermore, yesterday's blue skies had faded to dark clouds and persistent showers, and a swinging breeze had made our anchorage indesirable and rather risky. We spent the morning unconvinced that the batteries were flat and conjured several solutions to gain maximum power for an engine start. With no success and an impending rocky outcrop to leeward, we opted for emergency phone call number two. Now Dave had already told us he didn't have a tender, and his only way of rescue was to use whichever charter boat was available at the time. Given our distance from the marina, one would expect Dave to be rather ticked off having to spend a good part of the day just getting out to us. Oh no, au contraire. He was delighted to see us! Or so it seemed! Hindsight tells me it was a nervous front but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

    A fifth battery got the engine started. After a myriad of 'before and after' battery readings, engine starts and wiring scenarios we managed to convince Dave that it'd be best to have an electrician look at it. So we weighed anchor and motored into the sunset and impending darkness. The wind died off to nothing at dusk which made for a stunning return to a well lit Tortola.

    The next day started with the electrician banging on the cabin window at 7am, unannounced. Dazed and disoriented I welcomed him aboard and roused the crew. He, like all Tortolans, seemed cheery and confident. He explained to us the situation, offered the solution and promised to return at midday with the missing parts.

    Midday came and went and no sign of the electrician. Dave, who was already a little out of his depth, kindly offered us a car for the afternoon (to get us out of his hair). We obliged, and set off to explore Tortola and top up groceries. Upon return, our mate Dave was thrilled to see us. 'Look', he said, 'I'll show you. Everything is rrrrready to go.' He explained that the electrician had never returned and he'd dragged another yachtie from a nearby boat, who looked like he had some know-how, onto our boat to resolve the problem. The yachtie had disagreed with the electricians wiring and rewired the system for a third time and explained the issues to Dave. Unfortunately, after hearing Dave out, we were not convinced that we had resolved the fundamental problem being that the house batteries drained the starter batteries.

    So we agreed on a solution and wired it accordingly, and Dave got us a third, brand new, 1000USD battery. We also requested a voltmeter and a spare starter battery so Dave will (hopefully) never have to rescue us again. We're now three days in and haven't spoken to Dave. Watch this space.

    Jools has taken to the engineer's role like a duck to water, monitoring and recording our battery juice four hourly.

    You might question why we don't just man up and use the sails. A valid question. The only problem is a fifty foot ship, loaded to the gunnels, takes a while to respond to a sail. Not easy when your moorings leave you four feet clear of the bottom and 15 yards clear of your neighbour, and the marina requires you to dance with the bottom to get to your slip. No thanks.

    In case I made it sound like getting stranded in the BVIs was a bad thing, let me set the record straight with a few images...
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  • Anxious to cross the Sir Francis Drake Channel by dusk, we cast the lines and motored off at ferocious pace, pumping precious volts into our brand new power supply. Our planned anchorage was Great Harbour on Peter Island. Calm and enclosed, and packed full of boats, we nestled up close to the beach and dropped anchor. There were plenty of available moorings but at $30 per night we were happy to place our bets on the sandy bottom. The only disturbance that night was a school of 70cm fish who appeared to be so fascinated with the stern of the boat they forgot which way up to swim. No rods. Too bad.

    The next morning we took the dinghy to a nearby dive site. We'd managed to secure an excellent deal on dive gear for the full charter - a good swindle on Scotts behalf. Diving in warm water is effortless. No wetsuits, gloves or boots. No catch bags nooses or torches. Just shorts and mask. Ok, and maybe some fins and a dash of air, but you get my gist. It was diving without admin, just they way it should be.

    The ocean floor beheld one of many shipwrecks in the area. Fearless, the name of the old minesweeping ship, was largely intact, and brimming with wildlife. Notably out of place was a toilet mounted adjacent the cannon on the foredeck. It gave a whole new meaning to the phrase 'bombs away'. Who thought men couldn't multitask?

    With the wind swinging south during the day we meandered eastward in search of an afternoon and hopefully overnight anchorage. Lunch took place during a spot of sailing but a calm and sandy anchorage was becoming more and more elusive. Eventually we gave in and moored up almost on the beach in Machioneers Bay, Salt Island. The rest of the afternoon played out just like any other day: plenty of swimming and snorkeling, a windsurf, a spot of exercise on the beach all washed down with a cold beer and a hot fajita. Bellisimo!

    The boys are starting to settle into a cruisers routine. Here's what a typical day is beginning to look like:
    7-8am wake up, followed eagerly by a bowl of cereal and a book read. A quick dip (read: shower) and some house admin before firing the engine and setting off to a new destination.
    The rest of the day plays out with all kinds of marine based activities, with a quick break for lunch and maybe a lazy afternoon read. The days' activities usually culminate with Scott free diving the anchor to check it's set for the night.
    Evenings are lazy deck time as the sun sets quickly and early. Cold beverages a must.
    A wee planning session is usually thrown in the mix and the occasion is seized to voice our desired activities or destinations.
    Dinner comes when the hungriest person succumbs to cooking. This is usually chased with a game or two, a read and a boat pack down. Tough life. Absolutely loving it!
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  • Once close to becoming the capital of the BVIs, Virgin Gorda is both idyllic and functional. Creeping up to the western end in some form of motor/sail (light winds for a change!), we were welcomed by golden sandy beaches, seperated intermittently by giant broken boulders. Boats dotted the waterline and littered snorkelers all the way to shore. 'The Caves' is one of the BVIs must-dos, and it's apparent popularity proved so. Further exploration came in the form of snorkeling, wading, and climbing as we worked our way along the shoreline, over, under and around the granite monstrosities. Boys being boys, we had to climb the biggest boulder. Not an easy feat given the size and smoothness of the boulders. Perseverance paid off and we topped out on our fourth attempt to witness a spectacular view! Motivated only by the impending fall of the hot day's sun, we splashed back into the sea and swam back to the boat. Our next night's anchorage was just off Spanishtown, where we learnt our lesson on anchoring next to a busy channel.

    After a rocky night's sleep (lesson learned), Spanishtown fulfilled our food, compressed air and wifi needs. But only just in the nick of time as we raced back to the mothership to beat the approaching onslaught of tropical rain.

    Our next destination was just around the point. Savanna Bay is a beautiful series of golden bays tucked inside a subtle and dangerously shallow outer reef. Navigating with caution under a gloomy sky, we found the unmarked channel  (read: missed the reef) and dropped anchor on a sandy sea floor in the rain.

    The kindles came out in force as the boys prepared to hunker down for the afternoon. Little did we know what was brewing. The boys have stopped growing and haven't stopped eating. So the energy surplus on offer after a day couped up could be measured in Megawatts. Jools offered a proposal to balance the situation which sounded candid. Sprint endurance training on the beach. Once an avid decathlete, now a dwindling twenty-something has-been, Jools has a lot to offer on the subject of keeping fit. Naively, we headed ashore.

    An extensive warm up should have raised warning flags for what was to come. Before we knew it, we were hurtling down the beach at a competitive pace, set after set. The short breaks felt shorter and shorter as our bodies screamed for oxygen and rammed lactic acid down our fast twich fibres. What a scene. Rolling about in the shallows, moving only for relief from mosquitos and biting ants, the recovery wouldn't come fast enough. When the dust settled, there wasn't a man standing. Lolling about in the shallows, gasping for air I was struggling to remember the last time the body hurt so much. Jools' work outs are not for the feint hearted. Lesson learned. The man himself could hardly get back to the boat so I don't feel that bad.

    Savanna bay proved to be out calmest anchorage yet. Given the privacy of the whole beach to ourselves and a splendid nights sleep, we have our sights set on returning - when the wind blows us that way.

    Waking to blue skies and 15 knot easterlies, the day was there to be seized. Conveniently our boat is equipped with numerous guides for the surrounding areas, including a dive guide which contains more dives than you could poke a stick at! Scott has been maticulously selecting dives based on proximity, and has yet to miss a mark. Although, we came close. Leaving Savanna bay for the Dog Islands, I made a slight navigational error. As we sailed to, and around the Seal Dog Islands, under a cloud of confusion, we failed to get our bearings. A correction from the crew and mile or two later we found our spot between the Dogs. Another spectacular dive teeming with life and the ever elusive lobster!

    This dive however, we discovered the down side of diving sans wetsuit. Getting down and dirty with the ocean floor, and tucking into cracks and swim-throughs, we enevitably had some contact with our surroundings. New to coral reefs and unseasoned in the naked dive, we surfaced in a little pain. Stained fingers, cuts, grazes and burns were discovered post dive and treated appropriately (thanks Pauline!). Amazing that after all the diving I have done I never considered the protective qualities of the wetsuit and booties.

    The afternoon held time for a few more activities. Another fantasic sandwich (baking our own bread now!), a read, another long snorkel and a mosy past Richard Branson's Island into the tranquil beauty of the Gorda Sound. Spoilt for choice on anchorages, we hooked in just east of Saba rock for the night. Jools dropped anchor and Scott descended to a hefty 60 feet for his regular anchor check. I sat relaxed at the helm. All important jobs.

    Saba rock is about as big as the the property at 51 Windmill. At low tide. It occupies a narrow gap between Prickly Pear Island and The Bitter End creating two shallow channels, through which the brave mariner can exit Gorda Sound into a shallow and coral-head studded Eustatia Sound. As any good rock should, Saba hosts a waterside bar, primed for dinghy entry, a boutique hotel and a few slips for the well-off shallow draft boat owner. Now I've never had much faith in my body clock, but the day's thirst had us pull up at that bar at the strike of happy hour. The cocktails flowed, the sun set, the fish were fed and then like flicking a switch we scrambled off the island to evade a relentless mosquito assault. Hopefully no Zika!!
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  • End of the chain.

    11 days ago we anchored in the south western most anchorage in the BVI. Today we are safely anchored in 10 feet of water at the north eastern most edge of the island chain. The coral island of Anagada. To say we've seen it all would be a lie. We've dabbled in and out of anchorages along the south of Sir Francis Drake Channel and plan to set sail tomorrow to dabble in what the northern coast of Tortola (and associated islands) has to offer.

    Anagada is isolated. The feeling comes not from the distance from the mainland (It's a mere 10nm or so), but rather the exposure to the elements. Maxing out at a mere 20 feet above sea level, Anagada provides protection from only the swell, as the trades rip over the desolate island and straight through a leeward anchorage. Furthermore, the shallow grade of the island extends into the seaward front at a similar angle, creating treacherous shallows, and nerve racking coral breaks. Our first confrontation with such shallows occurred in the 'channel' where the sounder pinged 6.2 feet. 0.2 feet more than our draft. The nights anchorage peaked at 10 feet as we watched the boat swing over coral heads inches below the keel. Lucky for a low tidal range.

    Perfecting our anchorage to ensure a sound nights sleep became somewhat of an activity. Snorkelling the perifery of the anchorage allowed us to find the deepest water. After agreeing the boat was 15 or so yards off centre, the boys set to moving the anchor to the ideal spot. The weight belts went on and with anchor and chain in hand, and a deep breath in body, we were running the anchor along the sea floor. Fair to say this won't be the first time, I reckon.

    Update: we hit that coral head on the second night. Twice. Shhhh don't tell. It was a gentle bang just as we were drifting off to sleep. Then another an hour later. Still confused as to how it happened, but at one point our sounder read 3 feet so we must have been swinging over something gnarly! Maybe next time we'll find a bit more depth...

    Our exploration of Anagada was waylayed by the oncoming of holiday syndrome. Nearly two weeks in, our bodies have begun to adapt (or react?) to boat life. I'm casually sleeping back to back 10 hour nights, with plenty of daily activity but very little intensity. My walking legs, trained (solely) in two years of carless Sydney streets already feel weak at the sight of a decent length footpath. Not even a strong cup of Joe can get the fibres buzzing. So when the first touch of land was proposed as a jog, motivation dwindled. After some persuasion, a short dinghy trip and a touchdown onto the softest sand the world has to offer, I was not ready to endure 7-8km of endless white sand running. If only I'd adventured with less active people.

    The next day we hit the roads as wreckless hoons on scooters. Probably not dissimilar to a scooter you would hire in any developing country, these deathtraps were astoundingly unsafe. Flat bald tyres, a permanent left steer bias, no electronics and questionable brakes; I've never felt so grateful for a helmet prior having a crash. Pot holes, cattle and goat were also amoungst the safety hazards on our radar. The island felt largely abandoned aside from a small tourist industry which was fed by a respectively large lobster industry. Just one of the half dozen restaurants on the island would feed 65 people lobster that night. At $40-60 per main we'll wait to catch our own thanks. However, it would've been rude to say no to a few beers at the bars on the water. So we squeezed that in to our hectic days schedule and watched the sun go down. Then we remembered that we needed light to see the reefs on the way back to the boat, so that made for an interesting trip.
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  • Jost, yost, joast, yoast, host...whatever. Can we just call it JVD?

    With this destination barely visible on the horizon, newly self-appointed Captain Scott took control of the ship as we departed Anagada. To prove to us and himself, that he deserved his title, he would be making all of today's decisions on the boat.

    With a four to five hour sail up our sleeve, Jools and I were happy to sit back and let Scott do the work. But Scott had other ideas. Happily sitting at the helm, with the helm on auto pilot, and reading a novel, Scott had capitalised on his position. Jools and I were put to work, fulfilling all of Scotts 'commands' including baking him some bread. Now he knows the power of the Captain title, I suspect we'll be seeing him there more regulary. Unless of course, there's a mutiny.

    JVD was short lived by another battery failure. Very unhappy boys, considering we made a real effort to get them charged the previous day. Our spare battery was put to use, twice, and the second was warning enough to send her home and call an(other) electrician.

    Writing now from base camp, the fourth electrician has come and gone. Another comical character. After tearing the wiring apart, with an aura of confidence and a touch of blasphemy, he took to the altenator. A factor previously overlooked by his counterparts. Finding and fixing faults at every turn, he insisted he explained himself in every step, which left us confident in his works. Until he hailed good bye with a 'should be ok'...continue watching this space.
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  • Christmas is coming and so are the crowds.

    Felicity has been safely dropped at the ferry and begins her five day voyage home. Glad that's not me! It's been great having her aboard despite the numerous cups of tea required throughout the day.

    We had a fantastic days diving the RMS Rhone, wreck on the western shore of Salt Island. It was a spectacle to behold. The ship has broken into four or five parts and contains numerous swim throughs. It is home to all kinds of coral and fish including the green sea turtle and many large lobster - luckily protected from their greatest predator (Scott) by national park regulations. To give you and idea of the size - the propellor is 18 feet in diameter! I'll get some go pro footage up when I can.

    Planning is now in full swing, as we nut out how to play Christmas, new year, guests and the remainder of our charter.

    In the undernews, the boys are diving 45 feet on a single breath. Scotty probably a little more. Soon we will be fish and never need land again...except for the wifi. Everybody loves a wifi party.
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  • We're headed back to our favourite spots, and making efforts to cover those we missed.

    Battling to keep up on the blogging front. Watch these spaces for updates and additions. Hopefully you're all on holiday and have a good novel to fill that reading void! I've got a hold of some photos and updated the Puerto Rico blogs, and if you're on insta, add joolspeters for video updates or head to see his work. It's a lot of footage so we're about four weeks behind!


    It's been great having the extra company aboard. The extra hands are also pulling their weight; dividing time in the galley, partaking in missions ashore and giving us the option to split into two teams when necessary.

    Since new years', time has flown by. We've hit JVD, Virgin Gorda, Anagada then readied about and hailed Cooper, Salt and Norman Islands eventually docking back at Tortola to drop Dave and restock the ship.

    A few highlights from the week that was:

    The windsurf gear has held together, now ragged but still in very much usable condition. Windguru is in the red from tomorrow on - no doubt one of us will be putting a shoulder through the main panel in due course. We had a cracker of a windsurf in both Gorda and Eustatia Sounds, with cool 18-20kt breezes and flat seas calmed by an outer reef. In the mix was a failed attempt to windsurf from Anagada to Virgin Gorda (14nm), Jools not happy with the dying breeze. I took advantage of more breeze and a slightly shorter distance to tackle Euststatia Sound to Dog Islands. A howler of a downwind rendering me physically useless for much of the day. Cat and Dave added to the returns, with hours of uphauling and not much sailing - credit to both of them for the perseverance under challenging conditions!

    Jools and Scott tangoed in a battle of epic proportions with the elusive and, frankly quite frustrating, Anagada lobster. Snorkelling the same reef four times proved fruitless, while the boys made good use of the first aid kit, tending to an ever increasing number of coral cuts. Loblob: 4, boys: 0... for now. I'll note that coral reefs definitely add to the homefield advantage of a lobster, when compared to a rocky surround. This purely because the monolithic mass of rocks offers little more hiding than a superficial crack or overhang. Whereas coral is typically a large network of vacant spaces, tangled in itself and plentiful other reef based organisms. We're increasingly careful with the fields in which we choose to do battle.

    The RMS Rhone is such a fantastic dive. I've now done it twice and it is well and truely my favourite dive. Perfect warm, blue, calm water, three swim throughs, one of which into darkness with nothing but silhouettes of fish around you, lobster, turtles, stingrays and sharks, coral everywhere, five seperate sections of ship, I struggle to do it justice with words alone. If you're ever in the area put this at the top of the list.

    If you've been missing stories of boat problems you can miss away. Aside from a dodgy fridge and a busted (spare) bilge the new year has been kind to us. Nine days left, here's hoping!

    Norman Island again delivered. I personally love this island, it would come in second favourite to Virgin Gorda of all our stops to date. Plus, it's less than an hour from our home port so it's a no brainer either side of call to port. We spent our last night with Dave there and it was another cracker. Crystal blue waters have not yet failed us, visibilty there hasn't been less than 15 meters. We've also taken a liking to the floating bar, Willy T's - which was well and alive this night. We danced, there was drunken tomfoolery incuding more bombs of the top deck, and we gossiped about the eclectic mix of patrons; the very rich, the very high, the very drunk and of course the very local - circling the bar in 17 feet of boat with at least 500 horsepower of unmuffled inboard engine. That night ended in the first three of what, no doubt, will be many cat-splits; the process of rowing dinghy under occupied catamaran, a hilarious combination of stupidity, cheek and silent oarsmanship. The giggling gaggle of five happy to have finally ticked the cat split off the list.
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  • The time to say goodbye to our trusty stead is upon us. Looking back, here's how the numbers stacked up...

    Today marks 56 days on a boat. 55 consecutive nights in a rocky bed. Six of those were on moorings and three in a marina, making for 45 restless nights on our own tackle. No mean feat considering how easily one could succumb to the ease of a nearby mooring ball. All of which, I might add, were dropped inside Scott's free diving range (60 feet).

    We've been to 20 islands comprising three countries on three different boats, and dragged ourselves through customs countless times.

    We've swum on every day except one (Puerto Rico) and we've snorkelled far far further than we've walked in that time. I haven't done the math but I'm quite confident we've breathed more air underwater than on land, 42 collective dives equating to US $350 dollars worth of air. I guess that qualifies us as fish? We've windsurfed in every country, and repaired the sail at least half a dozen times. Between activities we've read 28 books collectively.

    Keeping the team full of energy was tough given the appetites on board but we've eaten like kings and queens. All meals cooked aboard save for four dinners ashore. We've caught and cooked crayfish and fish (and coconuts...never again) and baked dozens of loaves of bread, baguettes and even bagels. To the patisserie, we've indulged in brownie, biscuits, cake and scones, and made do with limited resources and a faulty three burner gas stove/oven. That there is $2700 worth of groceries.

    We've barely seen a car, let alone a traffic jam. Public transport has not featured, period. We've set two alarm clocks and only risen to one. I've done two loads of washing and the same number of shaves and a total of three hot showers in two months. Pressing a shirt is but a far far distant dream.

    We've swum the bluest waters, sailed the strongest winds, climbed the rockiest mast, lay on the whitest beaches and watched the most glorious sunsets. The elusive green flash, still just that. To no end we will miss this lifestyle. I guess you could say, we've been living the dream.

    We're back on Tortola for two nights (courtesy of Cat's cousin Patrick and his family), then St Thomas for one before flying out to Cuba on the 22nd. Ten days in Cuba then we hit Mexico where we hope to rendezvous with our unemployed compatriots, Mike and Char. Tally Hoe!

    Hope everyone had cracking Christmas breaks, sounds like NZ took a bit of a battering but there'll be plenty of summer left yet!
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  • It’s that time again. Full tanks, full propane, full water tanks, and laundry is all set. We chipped away at our seemingly endless list of boat chores and found victory in our accomplishments. St. Maarten struck us as a home away from home and we’d love to return to the island paradise but for now, we’ve made arrangements to pick up friends and sail around the VIs.

    The Virgin Islands are a cluster of islands with all forms of interesting dives, coves, caves, and anchorages for cruisers. The islands provide wind shadows and great barriers to the wild ocean seas making the Sir Francis Drake Channel a very enjoyable place to sail. It’s no wonder hundreds or sailors flock here each winter.
    Our overnight sail was beautiful, we flew the spinnaker for half of the trip and enjoyed a star-studded night. We passed several vessels and I watched a lightning storm pass at a safe distance. En route, I read that the US bought the Dutch portion of the Virgin Islands for $25 million in 1917… nicely done Uncle Sam…. At the time the Virgin Islands were in economic decline from the abolition of slavery. The main export was sugar which had been heavily dependent on slave labor. But far before that ugly period in time; Christopher Columbus discovered the Virgin Islands in 1493 and named the island chain the Virgin Islands after Saint Ursula and the 11,000 virgins. (Virgin Gorda -fat- received it’s name because the island resembled a reclining woman with a protruding belly from the seaside vantage point).

    Having never heard of this Saint Ursula or the 11,000 virgins, I did a little research, I mean, 11,000 virgins… that’s a lot of dames. Why 11,000? What happened to them? From what I’ve gathered from a few sources, Saint Ursula lived between 300-600 AD… (she lived 1500 years ago, & they narrowed it down to 300 years, way to go historians). Ursula was betrothed to marry a complete stranger higher in rank. To meet her soon-to-be husband, she boarded a ship with her hand maidens ranging anywhere between 11 to 11,000 in number. Oh, how stories are skewed sometimes. The long and arduous voyage was miraculously completed in a single day. Taking this to be a sign, Ursula declared she would make a panEuropean pilgrimage with all 11 or 11,000 handmaidens before the wedding (sounds like someones stalling to me). Their journey landed them in Cologne Germany, which, unfortunately was invaded by the Hun troops. The handmaidens refused to be with or marry the invading troops so they were tragically beheaded. Ursula was brought to death by the bow and arrow of the Hun soldiers. One of histories tragic tales, and in part, made immortal by Columbus giving respect to St. Ursula by way of the beautiful island chain we now call the Virgin Islands.

    Around 9 AM we passed Sir Richard Bransons famous Necker Island, we made our way through the narrow passage by Saba Rock and found a cozy little place to anchor in the lee of Prickly Pear Island – only a skip away from Saba, Bitter End Yacht Club, and Customs.

    When I was a kid my family and our good family friends, the Lainos, chartered a Beneteau throughout the Sir Francis Drake. It was at the beautiful Bitter End, I learned how to swim by myself. So, revisiting this place was one of nostalgia. Mike and I stayed here for a few days to recoup and play around with my brand new scuba setup! Mike had purchased his own scuba gear last year so it was about time I join him in exploring watery deep. In St. Martin we stumbled upon great gear on sale; new BCD, new regulator/octopus, new shorty wetsuits for both of us, and lightly used tank for $ 1,000. I’m sure if we had reliable internet and searched high and low there’s a better deal out there…. but for the ease of walking in and walking out in an hour or so… we were excited. We pulled off two beginner dives, testing our buddy breathing, clearing goggles 30 feet under water, hand signals, and buoyancy. Even on the overcast day, we had a blast and celebrated with cocktails at Saba Rock. We refilled our tanks, grabbed a cocktail and still had time to spare before we bore witness to the famous 5 pm tarpon feeding. It was my first time experiencing tarpon fish, 4 feet in length, duking it out for dinner bites cast out into the water. Tarpon are notorious for not being “tasty”, so for the most part, they appear to be slow and docile monsters. But toss a piece of shredded fish out to the water and they tear after the treat with furious speed and agility.

    As always I *really* enjoyed our new anchorage, the Bitter End this time, but we had a beautiful down wind sail to make to meet our friends flying in to St. Thomas the next day.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

British Virgin Islands, Britische Jungferninseln, BVI, Britse Maagde-eilande, Britainfo Virgin Islands, የእንግሊዝ ድንግል ደሴቶች, Islas Virchens Britanicas, Bryttiscan Fæmne Īegland, جزر فرجين البريطانية, Britaniya Virgin Adaları, Islas Virgenes nin Britanya, Віргінскія астравы, Британски Вирджински острони, Angilɛ ka Sungurunnin Gun, ব্রিটিশ ভার্জিন দ্বীপপুঞ্জ, ব্রিটিশ ভার্জিন দ্বীপমালা, Inizi Gwercʼh Breizh-Veur, Britanska Devičanska Ostrva, Illes Verges Britàniques, Британин Виргинийн гӀайренаш, Britské Panenské ostrovy, Ynysoedd Prydeinig y Wyryf, De britiske jomfruøer, Britaniske kněžniske kupy, ބިރިޓިޝް ވާޖިން ޖަޒީރާ, Britaintɔwo ƒe Virgin ƒudomekpowo nutome, Βρετανικές Παρθένοι Νήσοι, Britaj Virgulininsuloj, Islas Vírgenes, Briti Neitsisaared, Birjina uharte britainiarrak, جزایر ویرجین بریتانیا, duuɗe kecce britanii, Brittiläiset Neitsytsaaret, Stóra Bretlands Jómfrúoyggjarnar, Îles Vierges, Iles Vièrges britaniques, Britisk Jongfoomen Eilunen, Oileáin Bhriotanacha na Maighdean, Büük Britaniya Virgin Adaları, Illas Virxes Británicas, બ્રિટિશ વર્જિન આઇલેન્ડ, Tsibirin Birjin Na Birtaniya, Britanski Djevičanski otoci, איי הבתולה הבריטיים, ब्रिटिश वर्जिन द्वीपसमूह, Britanski Djevičanski Otoci, Brit Virgin-szigetek, Բրիտանական Վիրջինյան կղզիներ, Kepulauan Virgin Inggris, Virgin Insuli Britaniana, Bresku jómfrúaeyjar, Isole Vergini Britanniche, 英領ヴァージン諸島, Kapuloan Virgin Britania Raya, ბრიტანეთის ვირჯინის კუნძულები, Visiwa vya Virgin vya Uingereza, Британдық Вирджин аралдары, ಬ್ರಿಟಿಷ್ ವರ್ಜಿನ್ ದ್ವೀಪಗಳು, 영국령 버진 아일랜드, Ynysow an Wyrghes Predennek, Virginis Insulae Britannicae, Britesch Joffereninselen, Bizinga ebya Virigini ebitwalibwa Bungereza, Britse Maagde-Eilen, Isoe Vergini Britanneghe, Bisanga bya Vierzi ya Angɛlɛtɛ́lɛ, ບຣິທິດເວີຈິນໄອແລນ, Didžiosios Britanijos Mergelių salos, Lutanda lua Vierzi wa Angeletele, Britu Virdžīnas, Nosy britanika virijiny, Британски Девствени Острови, ബ്രിട്ടീഷ് വിര്‍ജിന്‍ ദ്വീപുകള്‍, ब्रिटिश व्हर्जिन बेटे, ဗြိတိသျှ ဗာဂျင်း ကျွန်းစု, Britain Virgin Kûn-tó, De britiske jomfruøyene, Britsche Jumferninseln, बेलायती भर्जिन टापु, Britse Maagdeneilanden, Dei britiske jomfruøyane, Britani Virja Isles, Illas Verges Britanicas, ବ୍ରିଟିଶ୍ ଭର୍ଜିନ୍ ଦ୍ବୀପପୁଞ୍ଜ, ਬਰਤਾਨਵੀ ਵਰਜਿਨ ਟਾਪੂ, Brytyjskie Wyspy Dziewicze, برطانوی ورجن جزیرے, Ilhas Virgens Britânicas, Inslas Verginas Britannicas, Ibirwa by'isugi by'Abongereza, Insulele Virgine Britanice, Британские Виргинские о-ва, Ibirwa bya Virigini Nyongereza, Âzôâ Viîrîggo tî Anglëe, බ්‍රිතාන්‍ය වර්ජින් දූපත්, Britské panenské ostrovy, Britanski Deviški otoki, Zvitsuwa zveHingirandi, Ishujt e Virgjër Britanikë, Британска Девичанска Острва, Kapuloan Virgin Britania, Brittiska Jungfruöarna, பிரிட்டீஷ் கன்னித் தீவுகள், బ్రిటిష్ వర్జిన్ దీవులు, หมู่เกาะบริติชเวอร์จิน, Kapuluan ng Birheng Britaniko, ʻOtumotu Vilikini fakapilitānia, İngiliz Virgin Adaları, ئەنگلىيىگە قاراشلىق ۋىرگىن تاقىم ئاراللىرى, Віргінські острови Британії, برٹش ورجن آئلینڈز, Đảo Virgin, thuộc Anh, Duni Virgin, Orílẹ́ède Etíkun Fágínì ti ìlú Bírítísì, 英屬處女羣島, 英属维京群岛, i-British Virgin Islands