Thursday, May 12, 2011

U.S. Virgin Islands - Coral Bay

May 12, 2011
A small world indeed, even among boaters.  Our friends we’d met at South Side Marina in the Turks & Caicos aboard RASMUS, Brittany & Scott, pulled into this marina last night.  We had a great time catching up on the news, on who saw what in the Dominican Republic and in generally swapping sea stories and travelogs.

Rasmus underway in the Caribbean Sea off the port side of Finally Fub
Brittany & Scott Myers

We have come to adore this young newlywed couple who have set off to sail the world with little money but big hopes and dreams.  They are much fun & we hope to see much more of them as we are now cruising the same path to Grenada to hunker down out of hurricane harm’s way.

We learned our other newly found friends from South Side Marina, George & Kelly, aboard EARTHLING, are not far behind and we all hope we can hook up before long.

Yesterday the cardiologist in San Juan released Andy with instructions only to continue on his medications and his lifestyle, so we are on our way! 

 Pulling out of Marina del Rey at 8: 30 am, headed for Coral Bay, U.S. Virgin Islands, 58 miles away, we cruised along in gloomy overcast skies and calm seas.  Passing the island of Culebra in the Spanish Virgin Islands, I again wished we had more time to spend a few days exploring there and in Vieques, the other Spanish Virgin Island (both ‘belong’ to Puerto Rico).  These two islands are said to have the same beautiful clear water and balmy temperatures of the USVI and BVI, but with ‘Spanish spice’.

I especially want to anchor off Vieques at either Puerto Ferro or Puerto Mosquito to see the bioluminescent bays at night.  A number of years ago, while I was responsible for customer marketing in Puerto Rico, Andy & I took a tour boat to see one of the bioluminescent bays there.   The sight of the sparkling phosphorescence shimmering in the water was so beautiful - I’ve never forgotten the wonder of it.   I want to experience swimming in that at night, watching my body sparkle and glow as I splash about.  Ah, the list is getting longer of all the places we Must See on the return trip!

Coral Bay, USVI

Dropping the hook seven hours later in Coral Harbor within Coral Bay in St. John’s, our British friends, Mark & Lee rowed over with a hot dinner of Shepard’s Pie (how British is THAT?!) to share.

Andy & Sharon with Finally Fun anchored in Coral Bay, behind us
We’ll spend the weekend here offloading all their household goods that we brought from the Bahamas for them.  We also try to get the ice maker fixed; watch a sailboat regatta (Mark is the Commodore); and just catch up with our friends before continuing on.

  We’ve been here before on a charter trawler - at least three times to the BVI’s with one of those trips coming into St. Thomas & St. John’s for a few days.  We would fly into St. Thomas each time we chartered to shop the duty free stores before taking the Ferry to the BVIs to pick up our charter boat.  See the beginning of our blog three years ago in which I talk about how we came to this lifestyle after chartering in these islands.  We so fell in love with both the islands and the boating experience that we are now here, living aboard OUR boat!  Amazing how one experience can so change a life!

The history of both the  USVI and the BVI, is fascinating.  Called “the place on the way to everywhere”, these islands, located at the ‘high point of the curving archipelago that swings from Trinidad to Florida’ were desirable for both commerce between Europe and South and Central America and for military advantage. The first to cruise these islands were Indians from South America in their wooden canoes over a thousand years ago.  There are many stories of how the Carib (cannibals) Indians ate their way through the peaceful Arawak tribes; but there are some suggestions that the Arawaks reciprocated in kind! 

Christopher Columbus in 1493 named these numerous islands ‘The Virgins’ in “honor of St. Ursula & the 1,000 virgins who, when threatened by marauding Huns, killed themselves rather than submit to a fate worse than death.”   Fighting went on for years between Spanish, French, English, Dutch, and Danish, the Indians and the pirates --- back and forth, winners and losers with the islands in the Caribbean changing hands like we change socks.   All those names we remember from our elementary school history lessons wandered about in these waters -- Sir Frances Drake, the pirate Henry Morgan as well as the infamous pirate, Blackbeard, were very much in control here.   I urge those following the blog to at least read James Mitchner’s “Caribbean” to get a flavor of it all.

The slave trade flourished among all these islands during the early centuries (1640’s) as the plantation owners grew more and more sugar cane & cotton to meet the European demand for sugar and fabric.   It wasn’t until the newly established European sugar beet industry lessened the need for sugar cane and the slaves, seeking freedom,  began to rebel.  In the 1800, the slaves finally became free after numerous rebellions and slaughters on every island.  The few remaining white settles fled as the plantations could no longer support them or anyone else.  The islands became nearly forgotten.  The United States, recognizing how close these islands are to our border, & fearful that the islands would be sold to our enemy, Germany, purchased what is now known as the US Virgin Islands from Denmark in the 1900’s for $25 million and established a military presence here.  Slowly, people began visiting these islands, taking back stories about the beauty to behold and tourism began, which is the lifeblood of all these islands today.

I now understand why the islands further south of the USVI and the British Virgin Islands are Dutch, British, and/or all depends upon who was occupying them when the music stopped and peace finally arrived.  

May 13 - 15, 2011 Friday to Sunday

View from St. John's looking into BVI's

In spite of the overcast skies and off/on drizzle tucked among downpours, we toured St. John’s with Mark as our guide.  Riding along, Andy held court in the back of the truck bed as Mark paused three times to pick up hitch hikers.  

Trunk Bay, St John's

The steep winding roads, along hair pin turns, take one’s breath away, as does the scenery along the route.

Although this is a U.S. territory, driving is on the LEFT, not the RIGHT side!    Automobiles began arriving on St. John’s not that long ago (I think it was in the early 1960‘s).  By then, all the donkeys had been trained for many years to walk on the right hand side of the road.  The islanders figured there was NO WAY they could re-train donkeys.  It was determined that it would be easier to train the drivers in their newly acquired cars to drive on the other side and so they did! 

St. John’s is mostly a U.S. National Park of almost 10,000 acres and 13,000 acres of adjoining tiny islands, coral reefs and stunning pristine white sand beaches.
Coral Harbor

Wildlife abounds - small things - not lions and tigers!!  This is one of, and I say, the BEST premier diving and snorkeling spots in the entire Caribbean.  I like it better than Belize, which is supposed be spectacular - we were bitterly disappointed when we chartered there some years ago.

 Driving up and down the mountainous terrain, we oohed and awed around every bend as we spotted the crystal clear sparkling turquoise sea and beaches below.

We poked about in Cruz Bay, the main city on the island, watching the tourists and wandering in and out of the shops til we’d had enough....which did not take long!
All the houses are so colorfull!
Note the head covering

Beach Bar/Restaurant

Later, back in Coral Bay, we explored a bit on foot & joined Mark and Lee for a great meal on shore at a local restaurant overlooking the Bay.

Skinny Legs Bar, Coral Harbor

We had a great time on Sunday at Skinny Legs Bar, watching Mark award prizes to the winners of the two day sailing regatta which had just concluded.   This local regatta is all about the fun.

Mark awarding prizes

Lee applauding Mark & the winners
Anyone protesting another boat gets fined $100, which goes to the bar tab for those in charge!

The Captains of the top three placing sailboats over the two day race must then sail small sailboats over a course.  The winner of that is declared the winner of the regatta.  Sitting on the dingy dock along with all the locals, we laughed and laughed as two grown men and one 14 year old kid raced in the crowded anchorage, trying to get around various markers without hitting any of the boats.  One Captain of His Big Sailboat had never sailed a small boat.  He promptly lost his rudder and slid all over the place, creating quite a show.  The kid whipped them all promptly, winning the race.  Seems he is a ‘ringer’ and a local champion of world wide repute. 

Getting ready to determine the final winner

May 16, 2011 Monday

Sunset over Bitter End, British Virgin Islands
After spending those fun filled days in St. John’s, and learning the true meaning of the word, ‘limin’, (means to ‘hang around idly’, forget about time, being lazy) we pulled out of Coral Bay in the mid-afternoon, dropping the anchor a few hours later off the famous resort, The Bitter End, at the very end of Virgin Gorda.  We will not check in with BVI customs as we are passing through and not going ashore. 

What a walk down memory lane Andy & I had as we cruised down the length of Sir Frances Drake Channel, pointing out various islands with a “Remember when....”  Drooling the length of the Channel, I so wished we had time to stop to play, but with so many UNSEEN islands yet to go, I’m okay with it all.  I thrive on What Is Around The Corner?  Let’s Go See.


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