Friday, June 4
Over Miami, Not Through It
So, on this trip, we avoid Miami by flying Houston - Dallas - San Juan - Beef Island. The connection from Houston in DFW is close. The regional jet commuter flight to DFW parks at a remote terminal and we have to be bussed to the main terminal. Naturally, the bus empties at the very end of Terminal A, and our departure gate is in the middle of Terminal C. There is a train that connects the terminals, but it runs in the opposite direction and will take twenty minutes to reach our departure gate from the nearest boarding point. We walk/run and arrive at the plane just as they are closing out the flight, barely make it aboard and find our seats, but soon we are on our way. Next stop: the Caribbean.
The flight from DFW to San Juan takes four and a half hours. Another benefit of traveling through DFW: unlike most flights from Miami to San Juan, this flight is not heavily loaded. We are able to spread out and sleep comfortably, and we miraculously have no screaming babies aboard.
We smile as we see Miami International Airport out the window of the 757 from flight level three-nine-zero. The wind over the Atlantic is light today, the seas are silky smooth, and the skies are clear and sunny. All of this makes the waters in the Atlantic over the Bahamas, Abacos, and Turks and Caicos crystal clear with brilliant, vibrant shades of blue. Even from 39,000 feet, it appears in some places that we are looking down at a view so clear that I find that I am searching for details on the sea bottom. The colors today over the Bahamas Bank are surreal - more like a painting than reality - maybe like a television commercial for some cool tropical drink. Just the sight is refreshing; turquoise, emerald, aquamarine, flamingo, peach, and every conceivable shade in between. The sand bores are perfectly visible, making complex and interesting patterns across the bank. I think that I have never seen this area look so beautiful.
We arrive in San Juan right on schedule. This is looking like it is going to be one of our better experiences with American Airlines.
Just as our time to board comes, an announcement is made that our flight has been cancelled because of an "equipment shortage". Luckily, Nancy and I are sitting near the checkin counter and are the first to the service counter after the announcement is made. We get confirmed seats on the next flight to Tortola, which is scheduled to leave an hour and a half later than our original flight.
Some other people that were on our flight also get seats on the next flight, but some people are told that they may not make it to Tortola today. The talk among the travelers in the gate area is that this cancellation of flights has been happening often lately, and we hear the reason why: the Beef Island airport opened its thousand-foot runway extension two weeks ago. This additional runway makes it possible for American Eagle to land their ATR-72's at Beef Island now. The 72's can carry thirty more passengers than the smaller ATR-42, which was all that AmEagle could fly to Beef Island prior to the runway extension. The current AmEagle schedule of flights, made six months ago, is based on using only 42's. Our scheduled equipment was a 42; our new flight is on a 72. The word is that flights are being cancelled to combine trips on the 72's.
I guess that, technically, our delay really is due to an equipment shortage since the ATR-42 is 15 feet shorter than the ATR-72!
Davide is planning to meet us at the airport, so Nancy gets out her cellphone and calls him on his cellphone to tell him that we will be late. We should be arriving around 6:00 PM, so I suggest that Nancy and I just take a taxi when we get in since he and Cele will be busy getting Brandywine Bay going on this Friday night. Nancy relays this to Davide, but he will hear nothing of this, and insists that Cele will be at the airport to pick us up.
Now we have time to kill - so it sounds like time for rum. I walk back down to the airport bar to pick up a couple of rum-and-cokes. To my disappointment, I find that you cannot buy Coca-Cola in the San Juan airport: PepsiCo has this airport sewed up. The bartender suggests rum and Pepsi. Like the old John Belushi/Dan Akroyd skit on Saturday Night Live: "Cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger! No Coke; Pepsi!"
Rum and PEPSI? No way, Jose! We settle for a couple of Heinekens - at $4 a can and just barely chilled - and wait for our flight.
Just as our new boarding time comes, the gate agent makes the dreaded "Ladies and gentlemen, we regret to inform you..." announcement once again. This time, there is apparently no crew for the departing flight. She says that there is a flight crew scheduled to arrive at around 5:00 PM, but that the crew will have to pass through U.S. Customs and Immigration before they can come and man our flight. Furthermore, we will not even begin the board-the-bus process until the flight crew is aboard the aircraft.
We tell ourselves that we should relax - we are on island time now. We are anxious to see Cele and Davide. After all, it has been seven weeks since we saw them last. The four of us spent a fantastic Easter weekend in San Francisco with my brother Steve and his wife Liz this past April. Ron Barrilito was there, too. We cruised for two days up in the Sonoma Valley, enjoyed some of San Francisco's finest restaurants in the evenings, and Davide cooked an exquisite Easter dinner. Davide and Cele celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary that weekend. Davide explained to us how brilliant he was when he chose their wedding day, that he will always be able to remember their anniversary date because it is on Easter. Silly Davide!
At 6:30, we are finally on the ground at Beef Island. Thankfully, the three pieces of luggage that we checked is here also. Nancy and I quickly make it through customs and walk outside and into Cele's arms. The day has had its shaky moments, but everything is wonderful now.
After a quick stop by Cele's house to unload and shower - and have an ice-cold Carib - we drive over to Cele and Davide's Brandywine Bay Restaurant. Walking through the kitchen, we exchange greetings with cook Patsy and sous-chef Laura. Signor Davide is busy in the dining area greeting guests at a table when we arrive, but quickly breaks away to greet us with a beaming smile. It really feels good for us to all be together again.
Things are slow enough at Brandywine Bay tonight for Cele to be able to take the night off and sit and have dinner with us - a real treat. Normally, things are so busy that Cele does not get a chance to relax until dinner is long finished. Cele produces a bottle of wine that she has been saving: Penfold's St. Henri Shiraz, a beautiful un-oaked wine that is glorious. Nancy and I love big reds, and this one is perfect. Nancy starts with mussels in a sake and wasabi sauce, and grouper for her entree. I have tortelloni with gorgonzola filling in a pear and walnut ricotta sauce, and grilled branzino for my entree. The tortelloni is delicious, and I use bread to get the last drops of the smooth, creamy, luscious sauce. The branzino (a small sea bass) is rubbed with rosemary and garlic, and is cooked whole. Branzino is a tasty fish with a skin that has a nice layer of fat that cooks up crispy and flavorful. It really amazes me that a restaurant with such a small staff can produce such fabulous dinners every night here in the islands where there is no gourmet market, and absolutely nowhere to obtain fine ingredients on quick notice. It must be difficult, but Davide loves doing it - he is passionate about doing it.
We enjoy being able to sit and relax with Cele. After a lot of laughs - many at the expense of poor Davide who is busy working and cannot defend himself - Nancy and I say goodnight and drive Cele's truck back to their house and are quickly asleep.
Saturday, June 5
We are walking out to the Moorings customer service desk when Jimmy Hodge leaps from his seat to greet us. Jimmy is well known as one of the best bareboat captains in the BVI. We first met him back in 1990, at the Anegada Reef Hotel bar. When we left Anegada, we seemed to bump into him everywhere we went. Then, the next year, we again crossed paths with Jimmy. It seemed that fate just put us together. In September of 1994, Jimmy came to Houston and spent two weeks with us. We had a grand time taking him out to the Texas honky-tonks, where he learned to two-step.
Over the years, our meetings with Jimmy have mostly been by pure chance. When we would sail, we would check with his brother Julian at the Moorings and see if Jimmy was on the water, and we have once or twice been able to call him at home. However, for the most part, Jimmy has been difficult to reach, especially on the spur of the moment. Bumping into him first thing this morning is an unexpected surprise treat.
We last saw Jimmy this past March during our stay on Anegada. While there, he proudly showed us his cellphone, saying that he was now "Always on!" But, on the last night there, he lost his cellphone in the water. Most likely, it fell from his pocket boarding or leaving his dinghy. We spent quite a while the next morning looking for it around the dock at the Anegada Reef Hotel, but could find no trace of it.
This morning, I jokingly ask Jimmy what his cellphone number is, and he tells me "Still de same." Luckily, Jimmy was able to get a replacement phone with the same number. He is still "Always on!" Jimmy tells us that he was supposed to be out on a charter for the next week, but that the he just found out that the charter was cancelled at the last minute. Since it appears that he will be shore-bound, it is fortunate that we bumped into him quite by chance this morning.
When we check in at customer service, we learn that our boat this year will be Cat Tales, our fourth Leopard 38 in five years. Last year, we sailed its big sister, the Leopard 45. With only Nancy and I aboard, the 38 is a palace. We already have 34 sailing days on the 38, so we skip the chart briefing and the boat familiarization briefing and board immediately. When we board, we find a Moorings person in the galley checking the kitchen inventory item by item. I quickly check the rest of boat and find her and her rigging in excellent condition, fuel, water and propane tanks full, and all equipment ready. I also double-check the items that we know we will need and that are frequently missing, like winch handles and all of the coffee pot parts.
We stow our gear aboard, then walk over to the dockside grocery, planning to pick up initial provisions there. We will be moored in Brandywine Bay tomorrow afternoon and will have time to go into Roadtown to do a complete provisioning, so we only need a day's worth right now. However, we find the dockside grocery stock sparse and the prices outrageous. $12.50 for a bottle of Pusser's? I don't think so! Of course, at home we have pay over $25 for Pusser's, but this is the islands and Pusser's is a seven dollar rum. Even drinking water is expensive - $2.00 for an unlabeled gallon jug. To make matters worse, the grocery does not have any pineapple juice, which translates to no painkillers. We leave, buying only a single case of Carib and a few bags of ice.
We drop the ice off in our freezer, put some Carib in to chill, and then take the short five-minute walk over to Rite-Way, where we find all that we need to get going (except more Carib). We take a taxi back with our provisions, quickly stow them, cast off and are away from the dock at 12:00 noon sharp. I have my Garmin GPSMAP 196 mounted above the steering wheel and am amazed to see the level of detail depicted on the electronic chart for inner Wickham's Cay. Someone has done a good job of surveying Wickham's Cay. Or, more likely, the chart detail was derived from aerial photogrammetry.
We dinghy ashore to the Cooper Island Beach Club (CIBC) bar for painkillers to commemorate our first experience with painkillers, which we had at this very bar fifteen years ago. We are thankful that over the past fifteen years Cooper Island has remained virtually unchanged. Hurricane Hugo forced the replacement of the dock back in 1992, but other than that, it is pretty much as we found it when we first came here in 1989. They still serve painkillers from a big Igloo cooler sitting on the back of the bar.
We sort of miss the old dock, which was much like an amusement park attraction. It consisted of short sections of wooden deck hinged together on floating barrels, and it even turned a corner. Each section bounced up and down with lively action when you walked on it. Tom Sawyer's Island at Disney World has a floating bridge that is similar to the old dock. The only difference is that Tom Sawyer's bridge has safety handrails. You were perfectly free to fall straight off the Cooper Island dock. Some nights, the only safe way to navigate the dock was on your hands and knees.
One night years ago we watched a drunken sailor successfully negotiate his way on hands and knees out the dock to his dinghy, which he climbed into alone. He started the dinghy outboard, cast off, and drove away, only to make it about twenty yards from the dock before falling overboard. He thrashed and splashed as his empty dinghy motored in tight circles around him. Somehow, he managed to avoid being run over each time his dinghy cruised past, while attempting to grab on to it. He was finally able to throw an arm over the gunwale, snag the runaway dinghy and manage to drag himself back aboard. This act was performed much to the delight of the crowd that had gathered on the dock to watch the entertainment. When we saw him up bright and early the next morning, it was as if nothing unusual had even happened. We guessed that the previous night's performance was probably not his first rodeo ride.
We make dinner reservations before leaving the CIBC bar, then walk down the Cooper Island beach, hoping to do a bit of shopping at what we call "The Cooper Island Mall", but we find the little T-shirt boutique closed. James Leonard's place next door shows no signs of recent activity, so we figure that Jamsie must be off-island.
Back aboard Cat Tales, we mix up our first jug of boat painkillers and continue adjusting to island time. We discuss names for our as-yet unnamed dinghy, coming up with various cat-related ideas like "Litter Box" and "Kitty Litter". Finally, I get out our roll of duct tape and cut out the lettering to christen this year's dinghy Cat Litter.
A tropical wave passed through bringing rain and squally conditions to the islands a couple of days earlier, and the weather conditions have been steadily improving since. Today, the sky alternates from clear deep blue to the occasional grey of a shower, but the showers are becoming lighter and less frequent than they were yesterday.
I get out our new portable fathometer that we bought to survey the Anegada approach and give it its first ocean test. Cat Tale's fathometer is reading 52.0 feet, and the portable reads 52.1. Not bad at first thought, but I wonder whether Cat Tale's fathometer is properly calibrated for true depth. Determining that will have to wait until we are in shallow water.
Nancy and I shower and put on our Jams World for dinner. We are dressed and up on deck in time to get some great photos of a sunset over Tortola before dinghying ashore for dinner. There are a few empty mooring balls tonight, even at sunset - quite a change from years past.
When we reach shore at the Cooper Island Beach Club, we are seated at a nice table for two on the edge of the terrace for dinner. We start by ordering conch fritters (always!). We are in a full-bodied red mood, so we also order a bottle of Penfold's Cabernet Shiraz. The wine list at the CIBC is not complex, but it doesn't need to be. It is not quite dark yet and Manchioneel Bay is a beautiful scene as the sky fades to pink. In this setting, any decent wine is going to taste great.
Our wine arrives and is a bit too warm to drink when first opened. They apparently store their wines in the kitchen or some other quite warm place here. Because of that, I doubt that wines age well here, and I suspect that it is worthwhile to take the tasting seriously when a bottle is uncorked.
Our conch fritters arrive quickly. There are only four fritters to an order - less than most other places. They are moist and soft, quickbread-style with nice bits of conch meat. Not as much meat as we normally put into our fritters at home, but tasty nonetheless. They are served with a kicked-up mayonnaise sauce that is quite spicy. I am guessing that there is a decent touch of habanero sauce in it, as the habanero flavor lingers for quite a while.
We both order tonight's fish special, which is a Cajun-mango mahi-mahi. The fish is perfectly prepared with a nice sauce reminiscent of a béarnaise, but a great deal spicier. We have to hastily order two bottles of water to avoid quickly draining the bottle of Cawarra, which has suddenly become quite drinkable despite its warmth.
Tonight also features a baked cheesecake dessert, made here on the island. Our waiter tells us that there is only one portion remaining, so we quickly order it, along with a hallmark CIBC custard. A nice dinner on a beautiful starry night at a beachside table for two. Life is good.
Back aboard Cat Tales after dinner, we lay out on the tram for a while and look at the sky. The sky is clear, and the moon, full only two days ago, has not yet risen so stars are everywhere. The brightest object in the sky is Jupiter, just to the west of overhead. Since we are moored far from the beach, the Southern Cross is clearly visible just off Cistern Point. In this latitude, Crux is only visible for a couple of months a year - May and June. Even then, it is low in the sky - only about 10 degrees above the horizon. That is low enough that if it is hazy at all or if there are any clouds on the horizon, it will not be visible. Getting a nice clear view of it like we have tonight is a real treat.
Sunday, June 6
While we are having our morning coffee, another shower comes along and provides us with a rainbow that it seems that we can simply reach out and touch. We decide that the weather is nice enough for us to dinghy over to what we affectionately call "Trash Beach" for some beachcombing. Trash Beach is the beach in Cooper Island Bay, on the windward side of Cooper just across from Haulover Bay. The beach is in a weather bay and collects all of the flotsam that comes its way - hence our name for it. It is literally covered with items of all descriptions: a plentiful selection of driftwood, shoes, toothbrushes, bottles, odds and ends of all descriptions, and is at once both ugly and interesting. We always enjoy visiting here, where it is apparent that the "driftwood" of the 21st century is actually mostly made of plastic.
Nancy needs a nice piece of beach wood to make a new hall pass for her classroom. Other teachers use traditional printed passes for their students to carry in the corridors when they must leave the classroom to go to the restroom. Nancy uses passes that we make from small pieces of beach wood, engraved island-style with a magnifying glass. Her girls' hall pass has disappeared, so she searches for an appropriate replacement.
Back at home, everyone where I work has a neatly engraved plate outside their office with their name on it. Everyone, that is, except me. My nameplate is a nice piece of driftwood from Trash Beach, about 3 by 15 inches, with my name neatly "island engraved" into it. We have perfected our engraving technique. Instead of using a hand-held magnifying glass, we use a large magnifying work lamp on an extension arm - the type that is meant to be clamped to a table or desk. I clamp the unit to the arm of an adirondack chair on our patio. I make sure that the glass is positioned so that it is not generating its hot beam until I am ready for it. I then sit in the chair with the piece to be engraved in my lap and carefully swing the glass into position so that the focal point is several inches above my lap. Wearing dark sunglasses, I then slowly bring the piece of work up into the focused sunlight, where it burns neatly and quickly. The light is so intense in the generated smoke when engraving that, without sunglasses, I cannot see my penciled markings on my work.
I have packed our digital mini-disc audio recorder along with us this morning, and I set it up to get a recording of the sound made by the "blue bitch" stones as they are washed up the beach by waves, then tumble back down, taking on their nice smooth polished exterior. The beach is lined with granite stones, called "blue bitches" by the locals because of their color and extreme hardness. There are large banks of these stones here, combined with bits of coral, that have been rounded, smoothed, and polished by the constant wave action of the incoming swells. The waves push the stones up high on the steep shore. Then, as the water recedes, the stones tumble back down to the bottom of the beach. On their way back down, the stones make one of the most beautiful sounds in the world. The sound is sort of like a "rain stick", but much deeper voiced. The sound of a wave carrying the stones up, then the stones tumbling down is soothing and relaxixing, something like "Whoosh! Cottle cottle cottle cottle....".
The wave and wind conditions seem to be good this morning for recording. I made a recording here last year, but I did not have a wind muff for my microphone and it was windy. Since then, I have made a good wind muff. Today the wind is also not quite so strong, so I am hoping to get a nice long recording. If I am successful, I will make a CD of the sound that should be the ultimate relaxer.
After setting up the recorder, I find some nice frangipani (Plumeria Filifolia) specimens to photograph in their native habitat. The frangipani here are pretty much taken for granted, but it turns out that they are actually a "species" plant versus a "cultivar". Cultivars are common in the U.S., but species plants are rare. Furthermore, this species is virtually unknown outside the Caribbean.
On our January trip down here for Davide's birthday, Nancy and I obtained two mature seed pods on Scrub Island from Pam McManus's frangipani outside Donovan's Reef Restaurant. When we returned home, we waited for the pods to open. When they did, we harvested the seed and I planted 24 of them, of which 22 germinated and produced beautiful seedlings. On our March trip, we collected more frangipani seed pods from Anegada. In Houston, I grew 18 more seedlings from those. I then offered the remaining seed (about 200) on an internet garden forum. The incoming email requests for those seed was overwhelming, and I exhausted my entire supply in only a day or so - and paid a lot of postage.
I also posted pictures of our frangipani seedlings and found that just about no one had ever seen any plumeria specimens like these - even people with hundreds of plumeria. I did find a Florida-based nursery that was offering unrooted cuttings of the plant for $50 a cutting. I suppose I gave away a gold mine, but it was worth it. I enjoy knowing that there are now little Caribbean frangipani plants growing literally all over the world - India, Hawaii, Australia, England, and many, many places in the U.S. Also, several people that I mailed seed to sent me plumeria seed or cuttings in return, so our plumeria collection has expanded nicely as well.
The Cooper Island frangipani are blooming nicely, and I find my way up some goat paths nearly to the top of the island and get some nice photos while Nancy searches for her new hall pass and shells. Ascending the rocky hillside is definitely easier than descending. At one point during the descent, I briefly look away from the slope as I am placing my hands down for balance. Both hands land squarely in cacti and come up with about ten needles firmly embedded in each palm. I have learned yet another island lesson - watch where you put your hands! I brace myself against the rocks with my knee (after carefully watching where I put it) and remove the needles. I find that it is less painful to just quickly and firmly jerk them out. Most of them come out cleanly, but a few leave behind little barbs that will remind me of this lesson over the next few days.
Back down on the beach, I pick up the recorder which now has about 45 minutes of the restful rhythm of the Blue Bitch Band on disc. We walk back across to Haulover Bay and are really struck by the beauty this morning. The water is clear and the shades of blue are fantastic. When we reach our beached dinghy, we find that the incoming swells have been occasionally breaking over the dinghy's transom, so that it is now heavily loaded with water. I scrounge up an empty plastic container and bail the dinghy. A suitable bailer is not hard to find here. After all, we don't call the place "Trash Beach" for nothing.
We dinghy back through the shallows at Cistern Point to Cat Tales. Nancy makes us some big-mofo sandwiches while I unload the photos that we have taken thus far into my notebook computer. The sandwiches with ice-cold Caribs are a feast and satisfy the appetites of us two pirates.
After our lunch at the Cat Tales Deli, we slip the mooring and motor across to Brandywine Bay. When there are two or less boats on the Brandywine Bay moorings, Davide suggests using two mooring balls to hold the boat facing into the small waves coming in from the mouth of the bay. Nancy secures one ball to the bow, and I motor out in the dinghy and tie a stern line through the second ball. Nancy hops in for a swim in the clear water of Brandywine Bay. Before construction of the Blackburn Highway on Tortola, Brandywine Bay was a popular beach, often crowded with beach-goers on weekends. The highway was built right across the beach, though, eliminating the recreation area. The BVI government is now considering filling and redeveloping the beach here because there are now no nice beaches on Tortola's south side.
Go Team, Go!
We dinghy in and walk up the hill on Half Moon Point to the restaurant. The first person we see as we walk up is Mike Morphew, just outside the back door of the Brandywine Bay kitchen. We had a fun-filled evening sitting with Mike and his wife Val in back January at Davide's surprise birthday party. Mike tells us that Val is in the States at the moment. Sadly, we will miss seeing her this trip. She occasionally helps Davide in the office so that when I phone for Davide, she sometimes surprises me with her delightful way of answering the telephone.
Davide and Cele are already here, along with Scot and Lou. Mike introduces us to Scot, then Lou walks up and introduces himself as "Lou Schwartz". He tilts his head slightly, looks at me curiously and asks if we have ever met before. I tell him no, but tell him that if he is "Jolly Louis", then we do know each other. He smiles and says that he is indeed "Jolly Louis", owner of the well-known Jolly Roger restaurant and bar over at Soper's Hole.
Lou and Mike are coaching the team, and they have selected the surprise ingredient list for tonight's dinner. The list will not be revealed to the chefs until 2:30 PM and, of the chefs actually cooking, only Davide and Scot are here at the moment.
Nancy and I borrow Cele's truck and make a quick run into Roadtown to fill our provisioning gaps. We go to Bobby's and find that their prices are a bit higher than Rite-Way. Some items at Bobby's (like our benchmark can of Pringles) are even higher here ($2.40) than at the Moorings dockside market ($2.19). But they do sell Carib and Rite-Way does not. We pick up our Carib and a few other things and head back to Brandywine Bay.
The format for the Taste of the Caribbean competition is centered around a mystery "mise en place" basket. Each team is presented with a basket of ingredients, the contents of which are unknown to them until they begin the timed event. From this basket, they must select and prepare a three-course meal. The team has only thirty minutes after discovering the contents of their mystery basket to plan their menu. The menu must be written and must be absolutely complete. It must specify all recipes, including all the precise amounts of all ingredients used, and must include the exact method used to prepare each dish.
The team is then given exactly the amount that they list in their recipes of each of the basket ingredients. They will not be allowed to use any additional quantities or ingredients. Further, the team will be penalized for even the tiniest amount unused amount of any of the ingredients that they are issued. The chefs must also follow their written method precisely. Thus, once the recipes are declared, there will be no on-the-spot adjustments made. The first thirty minutes are therefore intense. The format is quite a challenge, much more difficult than the "Iron Chef" television series format.Nancy and I arrive back at Brandywine Bay just as the chefs are receiving their mystery basket. Not all of the chefs are present yet - Roger and Henry have not yet arrived. The NECI chefs are on island time, it would seem. Willo is in New York, giving a presentation for the BVI Tourist Board.
Since the team is short-handed, Mike and Lou help with the critical task of menu planning. I get lots of photos of them working out their details. It is interesting watching and listening as they formulate their plan for the dinner courses.
Added points for creativity motivate them to be innovative with their menu and recipes. For example, one of the ingredients in the mystery basket is a large quantity of chocolate. This would normally be part of the dessert, would it not? The chefs decide to use the chocolate in the main course, as part of one of a mole sauce that will be on each plate.
There is added difficulty in tonight's scenario as well. In the real competition, the chefs will only have to prepare 25 dinners and only six dessert plates. Tonight, there are 48 dinners and desserts to be prepared. It all must come from the small kitchen at Brandywine Bay, and each course must be completed, plated, and served at once. This will be a real test.
Roger arrives about a half hour late, just as the menu planning is complete. Still, another pair of hands is a welcome sight. Just in case, Mike and Lou have been standing by to fill in for the two missing chefs. Finally, Henry arrives to complete the kitchen team. He looks sleepy and says that he thought that they were all supposed to be here at 3:30.
The chefs work in the now-cramped Brandywine Bay kitchen, Scot is working on a scallop mousse, Davide is carving grouper, Roger is carving duck, Henry is prepping mushrooms and vegetables, and Chelston is working on a panna cotta. The only working team member that is not present is Keith, who is off island tonight.
Nancy and I take a break and go out to Cat Tales to unload the Carib, shower, and dress for dinner (Jams World, what else?). The wind has backed to the north and there is a gentle breeze coming across Brandywine Bay from the north side of Half Moon Point, so I swing Cat Tales around and tie one mooring ball to each of the bow cleats to hold her into the wind.
In contrast to the other team members, Dwight's work on the team does not appear to be demanding. He makes up a few shakers of his cocktail and pours them into tiny (one ounce) cups on a tray. His entire job is done in only a few minutes.
As the dinner guests are seated, they are each given a critique sheet and are requested to write their observations of each course, with overall impression, any criticism, and and suggested improvements.
The chefs quickly, carefully, and precisely plate the first course - Paupiette of Grouper and Scallop Herb Mousse on a Saffron/Lime Reduction. The Brandywine Bay staff - Spice, Duncan, Kim, and Nadine - quickly serve the plates. The dish is colorful and tasty. The mousse, which is steamed inside the grouper, is light and goes well with the sauce. The saffron/lime sauce itself is a treat, with the delicate saffron flavor levitating above the lime. All in all, the dish shows a lot of creativity and brings home the point that the work of a fine food chef is truly performance art. The dish is nicely paired with a sauvignon blanc wine, provided courtesy of TICO. A special plate for the first course must be prepared for Dr. Smith, as he is unfortunately allergic to shellfish.
The second course soon follows - Roasted Duck on a Spiced Mushroom Polenta with Passion Fruit and Mole Sauce. The presentation for this dish is awesome. The passion fruit sauce and mole sauce (the chocolate!) are divided on the plate and provide a palette on which a layer of duck confit is molded. The confit is then topped with a ring of the spiced mushroom polenta. A roasted duck leg is then carefully placed in center of the polenta ring so that it is standing vertical. A second piece of roast duck is placed alongside, with sliced papaya on the side. This dish is paired with a nice Syrah wine, also courtesy of TICO.
Chelston's dessert - Vanilla and Passion Fruit Panna Cotta on a Caramel Sauce - is the final touch, and a nice finish. Since I am a passion fruit fanatic, I am exceptionally happy with tonight's meal, which included it in two different courses.
After dessert is served and the team is introduced to the guests, embroidered hats are presented to the members of the team and to the BVI government dignitaries that are present. Dr. Smith says that he does not think that he deserves a hat because his wife Lorna always asks him when he is going to cook dinner, but he never does.
Most of the guests quickly leave following the presentation. In just a short while, it is only the restaurant staff, Cele, Davide, Nancy, and myself. Davide can finally relax and have a glass of wine and Nancy and I have a shot or two of Ron Barrilito as we sit out on the terrace and reflect on the evening. Davide tells us that there was another special dinner request received in the kitchen. However, when the kitchen team learned that it came from bartender Dwight (who had seated himself at dinner with the guests) they said "Screw him!"
Davide will be leaving for Fajardo next Sunday, so we make plans to pick Cele up at Trellis Bay that morning so that she can get away and join us for a day on the boat.
Nancy and I walk down and dinghy out to Cat Tales. The night is quite pleasant, especially after the dinner, wine, and rum. The moorings are placed well here, out in the middle of the bay where there is good breeze for a comfortable night's sleep
Monday, June 7
Off to Anegada!
We bear off, shut down the diesels, and are a sailboat at last. Setting the headsail balances the boat out nicely for the close reach to Anegada. The sail over this morning is easy, smooth, and pleasant. The wind is a fairly steady 12 to 15 knots, with only an occasional gust to 18 or 20, and the seas are fairly calm. Our average GPS speed is in the mid sevens, with an occasional leap to nine in a sustained puff.
Today is an "eight mile day": I first spot the trees on Anegada with naked eye from over eight miles out. The one piece of equipment that Cat Tales is missing is a pair of binoculars. It makes little difference, since the binoculars that are normally provided on bareboats are almost always useless. They must be considered expendable items, because they are typically the lowest quality that can be had, have corroded frames, are poorly sealed, and fill with fog at the slightest hint of moisture. I make a note to myself to buy a decent pair of lightweight binoculars to keep in our BVI gear bag.
The rhumb line heading from the east end of Scrub Island to the Anegada entrance is 028°. This morning, I find that steering 050° holds us pretty much on course. An occasional adjustment up or down a few degrees and we sail within a few yards of the rhumb line all the way to the Anegada outer channel marker. I get some nice photos of the approach to use in our "Navigating to Anegada" web page.
The Lagoon 38 cat that has been sailing directly to weather of us has been converging with us all the way over. I can tell that, to my surprise, this doggy Leopard 38 is slowly pulling ahead of the Lagoon. She seemed to be ahead of us when we first spotted her coming out of the North Sound, but as we converge, I can tell for certain that we are slowly putting bearing on her and, barring any shifts, will be a few boatlengths in the lead of our "race" at the finish. About two miles out from the channel, the Lagoon bears off hard, takes our stern, then heads back up briefly, appearing to be following us into the channel. However, after only a couple of minutes, she bears off again and takes a low course, apparently headed to the west of Pomato Point.
As we harden up to sail the channel, we see the Lagoon (now over a half mile to leeward) drop her sails and start to motor toward the channel entry. We manage to carry sail the way through the channel entry and on up the channel. The sun is high overhead with only a few clouds, making the water off Pomato Point a striking turquoise, almost glowing. It is separated from the deeper blue of the sky by the thin strand of white sandy shoreline below the slightly thicker band of green vegetation.
About half way up the channel, we furl the jib, drop the mainsail, hang a left and motor through the moored boats to our anchorage off the Anegada Reef Hotel dock. Someone on the bow of another boat points at the green inner channel marker and yells out at us that we must go around it. There are "speed bump" shallows here, but I know where they are. After years and years of windsurfing through the anchorage, I know the place like I know my own back yard. We laugh about the incident as we pull up to "our spot" and drop the anchor.
We dinghy in and are greeted by Lawrence Wheatley, who has a surprised look on his face and tells us that he is expecting us next week. I laugh and tell him to keep expecting us - that we are indeed coming back next week to stay in the hotel. I spot a young woman that I quickly determine must be Lorraine Wheatley. I have exchanged email with her and spoken to her a couple of times on the phone, but we have never actually met in person. I walk up to her and say "You must be Lorraine!". Her puzzled look turns to a broad smile when I say "I'm Walker." Lorraine is a pretty young lady, and it is nice to actually meet her at last.
Clinton Vanterpool walks past, smiles, and waves at us on his way down to his boat as he heads out lobster fishing.
We walk into Sue Wheatley's gift shop and are pleasantly surprised to find Sue. On all of our recent trips, Sue and we have crossed paths, always meeting only briefly at the Anegada airport as one is arriving and the other is departing. Sue tells us that she is leaving for Tortola on this afternoon's flight but that, since we are here, she will cancel her flight and stay on Anegada. We make plans for Sue to join us for dinner tonight at the ARH.
Rex had found my corrections to the Anegada channel as was depicted on the CYC/Maptech charts and the Garmin BlueCharts that I published on the internet as part of my Navigating to Anegada information. It turns out that Rex was at Anegada back in 1982, aboard the H.M.S. Fawn. The Fawn did some surveying work off the west end of Anegada, between Pomato Point and West End. Rex was curious regarding my source of information for the channel marker positions as I had charted them. When I replied that they were my own measurements, Rex then asked me to review a new set of charts that his office was just releasing - the "Leisure Folio of the British Virgin Islands", chart series SC5640. He mailed me a copy of the charts. They are quite nice - and I believe that they are the best set of BVI charts that you can currently get. He also wrote that my recorded positions for the Anegada channel markers would be on the next revision of Admiralty Chart 2006, the largest scale chart that they currently publish of Anegada.
When I reviewed the source data for the charts, it became apparent that there was essentially no recent depth data for the area around the Anegada approach and anchorage. I wrote back to Rex, asking if his office would be interested in a survey of the area. He replied that they would indeed be interested, since the most recent survey of the Setting Point area was taken in the 1850's - before the United States Civil War!
Based on that, Nancy and I made plans to do a thorough survey, hoping to chart all of the area between Setting Point and West End. Rex coached me as to things to take into consideration while doing the survey, how to record the data, etc. The only additional piece of equipment that we needed was a portable fathometer, which I recently purchased. So, here we are on Anegada at last, about to gather data that will bring the charts of the area forward by nearly two centuries.
At our present position, the portable fathometer reads 4.3 feet. I take a lead-line measurement and find that the portable reading is exactly correct. We are in business! My plan is to dinghy to each point in a fine grid of positions, navigating by GPS, and record the depth at each position. To factor out tidal conditions, we will also record the time and depth at the boat and normalize all of the survey readings to the average depth at the boat. I brought a covered clipboard/case in which to store my data recording sheets. Anticipating a wet environment in the dinghy, I also brought plastic sheets, various pens, and a china marker, hoping that some combination of these will provide a suitable method for recording the depth data.
I cast off in the dinghy and begin taking measurements, starting near where Cat Tales is anchored. After recording only a handful of points, I have indeed managed to get my writing equipment wet. To my dismay, I find that no combination of paper/plastic/pen/marker is usable. It is obviously time to rethink the data recording part of the project. I head back to Cat Tales and Nancy and I formulate a new plan. I will go back out and call in positions and depths to her over the FRS radio, and she will stay aboard and record them in a dry environment.
This new plan turns out to work well, and we collect 45 data points in the eastern end of the anchorage area in the next hour or so. As I am taking data, a dinghy is motoring out of the Neptune's Treasure channel into the hotel anchorage area. They appear to be waving, but I am quite preoccupied and do not realize that they are waving at me.
I ask about Keith Smith, who we have not yet seen. Sue tells us that Keith is off-island taking care of his mother, who has been ill lately. Sue does not know when Keith will be back.
While we are sitting here, Clinton pops in, opens the beer cooler, reels and exclaims "OH NO! You are OUT!". I make a remark about how the ARH bar could not possibly be out of Heineken, and Clinton says "No! O'Doul's!"
Nancy and I look at each other in utter disbelief. Clinton - O'Doul's - No Way! When we were here in March, Nancy and Clinton were joking around about Clinton's beer consumption. On a normal day, Clinton might away a couple of cases of Heineken. And that was before he switched to rum or vodka late in the afternoon. Clinton explained to Nancy, "I drink beer like most people drink water." Nancy shot right back at him, "I've never seen anyone who could drink that much water!"
Sue explains to us that Clinton has been to the doctor for his high blood pressure, and that the doctor has Clinton on a prescription that is not compatible with alcohol. Clinton smiles, winks, and nods agreement with Sue's explanation. Surprisingly, Clinton is going along with the doctor. Yes, Clinton is indeed drinking O'Doul's - but not by the case! Where he used to drink six or eight Heinekens in an hour, it now takes him nearly an hour to drink a single O'Doul's. Honestly, finding Clinton with an O'Doul's in his hand is just about the last thing that I would have expected to find on Anegada.
The plan was to have a sinking party - to use his barge Isabel V to tow her to her final resting place, then open the seacocks while Kenneth and friends sat aboard Isabel V and toasted her as she went down. Kenneth used a backhoe to load her with sand while she was tied to the dock. However, when he got ready to tow her, he found that the sand was loaded a bit unevenly and Carrier began to list when she was untied. In fact, as she began to list, the sand shifted even more and she began to list farther and farther - so much so that she nearly sank right there at Kenneth's dock! Sue, Keith, Clinton, Kenneth, and everyone else that was on hand for the sinking party rushed back aboard her to move the sand to a more balanced position, but they were unable to level her enough to be safely towed. They lashed Carrier alongside Isabel V and gently drove away from the dock, with Isabel V stabilizing Carrier. Clinton predicted that Carrier would not make it past Pomato Point.
Kenneth managed to get Carrier to her final destination - the Anegada North Drop. Keith, who was violently seasick from the ride aboard Isabel V, had the honors of climbing aboard Carrier and opening the seacocks before she was untied. Then Kenneth, Sue, Keith, Clinton, and friends raised a final toast to Carrier as she gracefully dipped bow first and slipped to the bottom.
After the wonderful afternoon at the bar - island life at its best, we start back to the boat. On the way out, we meet Wendell Creque on the dock. Wendell has just today arrived back on island from Florida, where he has been busy getting his new boat "Little Bit Express" ready to bring down to Anegada next month. Wendell looks different - he has hair! We have only seen him with his head clean shaven and brightly polished. With the short grey hair, he reminds us a bit of Bill Cosby.
After cleaning up and dressing for dinner, Nancy and I walk over to Kenneth's dock to look over Carrier II, his new boat that he is building from scratch. At this point, she is completely skeletal - only stem, keel, ribs, strake, and a sheer strip. She looks like a piece of sculpture. Kenneth is looking her over as we arrive, deciding what work he will do on her first thing in the morning. He says that he thinks that she is about 25 feet, but he isn't sure.
Kenneth is proud of his work, and he is a confident builder. He tells that Carrier II is the 30th boat that he has built, but he admits that the first three boats would not even stay afloat. He loves the art of boatbuilding, and does not have a single drawing or other written plan for this boat - the entire design is streaming from his head as he proceeds with the construction.
The Wild Child
We all say goodnight, and Nancy and I take the ride back out to Cat Tales, where we have a wonderful night's sleep. We always sleep better at Anegada than anywhere else in the islands. Maybe it is because we feel so at home here.
Tuesday, June 8
Cat Litter is a Bitch
We decide to dinghy ashore for breakfast at the ARH. After breakfast, we stop for a short morning visit with Sue, then head back out for more surveying. Before leaving the dock, though, we walk over to Kenneth's service station to refill the dinghy fuel tank. Sue's new building is being built just past Kenneth's, on land that Sue leased from Kenneth. When it is complete, Sue will move her gift shop over here. The shop will have a few additional features that the current shop does not now have. When we were here back in March, we saw the foundation and framing of the new building begin. Now the building is nearly complete. It looks as if only some finish work will be required before she is ready to open.
I put one of Cat Tales's boat cushions in the dinghy to ease the pain and continue the survey, moving westward from my previous runs. We manage to get about half of the deep water area south of the anchorage recorded before it becomes too windy for me to safely continue working so far offshore in the dinghy. When I am out at the furthest points, I am completely out of Nancy's sight aboard Cat Tales. Furthermore, the FRS radios will not work at that range with me so low in the water. When I am out of radio range, I record the data in the GPS's memory using the waypoint description field. It takes a lot more time than calling it in on the radio, but it works.
Of greater concern to me is the fact that when I am out of Nancy's sight, I am also out of radio range. Should the dinghy quit, my plan is to toss the dinghy anchor, which is tied to the dinghy painter to increase its scope, and wait for help. Nancy knows, if she does not see or hear from me within a reasonable amount of time, use the VHF and call the ARH for assistance. I am also confident that, if need be, I will be able to drift into position to the west so that I can flag down help from the nearly constant procession of boats going into and out of the anchorage. I have a supply of fresh drinking water aboard. The resulting adventure might not be pleasant, but I feel reasonably secure. My feeling is that the dinghy is the only reasonable way to take the data out here, since I need something that can safely travel close to the reefs - over them when necessary.
I come in closer and complete the inshore soundings in the anchorage area by early afternoon. When I get back to Cat Tales, Nancy tells me that J.D. stopped by and said hello. J.D. Leipold is an internet friend from the Washington, DC area. We have met before here on Anegada, but only briefly. Nancy tells me that J.D. is on Hazelnut, a Belize catamaran that is moored just to the south of where we are anchored, and that it was J.D. that waved at me from the dinghy yesterday afternoon while I was surveying. She says that J.D. and his group have gone over to Loblolly Bay for the day.
After cleaning up for dinner, we dinghy back in and join the party in progress on the front deck of Sue's gift shop. Sue, Laura, Clinton, and Mitch are sitting out on the front deck having a cocktail party and invite us to join them. We have a couple of Caribs with them and a lot of laughs. Sue tells us about the yard sale that she is having on Saturday. The sale will be right outside the gift shop, and she will be getting rid of years of old stock from the shop. It sounds like fun, so we decide that Cat Tales will be staying here until Saturday afternoon.
A group walks in to Sue's shop, and their leader walks up and introduces himself to me as John Myers and says that he knows me through TTOL. I say to him, "So, what do you go by on TTOL?" He replies "Cheezler". I laugh, shake his hand and say "Oh, so you're f---ing Cheezler!" and we have a short but quite nice visit. Right off, I can tell that John is someone that I would enjoy being around. He has a sharp wit and a keen sense of humor.
We leave the party when we see dinner being served. Tonight we have snapper, which is served with a ratatouille that is good, accompanied by a bottle of Penfold's Koonunga Hill Semillon-Chardonnay.
The couple seated at the table next to us recognize us and introduce themselves and we chat with them during dinner.
Wednesday, June 9
We get back to work, and I finish the soundings east of Pomato Point by noon. I not only record the depths at the grid points, I also use the GPS to accurately chart the coral heads and shoals within the grid area. In particular, I carefully chart the large exposed reef that lies about a mile and a half due south of Pomato Point. This reef, which is the major hazard to approaching Setting Point from the south, has never before been charted! When I am windsurfing off of Setting Point on a really good day, this is where I normally end my outbound runs and jibe over to starboard for the screaming reach back toward the anchorage. Over the years I have come to call this patch of water "the swimming pool". The water on the inside (north side) if the reef is clear, and the bottom is mostly clean white sand. The surface is usually smooth since it is sheltered by the large reef from the waves coming from the south. The visual effect is much like looking into a shallow swimming pool. I am surprised find that the water here is over twelve feet deep right up to the edge of the reef.
Charting the reef itself is quite a challenge, even in the dinghy. It is fairly cloudy today, and when I am in the rougher water on the south side of the reef, I can barely see the reef if a cloud covers the sun. At times I have to wait for bright sunlight before attempting to move close in along the outside of the reef. When the sunlight is bright, I take advantage of the visibility and motor the dinghy directly through the narrow passes between the coral heads. I record 36 GPS waypoints on this reef alone, which should be sufficient for me to accurately plot the reef on a chart.
There are also smaller coral heads that break the surface of the water off to the northeast, between the reef and Setting Point. I bring the dinghy up within touching distance of each of them and mark them as waypoints on my GPS.
When I complete the western edge of the survey grid, I record another 17 waypoints around edges of Jake's Shoal, just off Pomato Point. This reef has also never been accurately charted. There is a fishing boat pulling fish traps just to the southwest of Jake's Shoal, and the crew stops and watches me with interest as I probe the reef.
After the morning's work, Nancy and I head in to make that trip over to Cow Wreck that we never got around to yesterday. When we get to the ARH bar, Ali tells us that a man from FineEdge.com was just here asking for me. The man is out driving around the island with Lawrence now, but should be back here in half an hour or so. We sit, have a BaCarib, and wait for a while. Nearly an hour goes by, so we decide to head on over to Cow Wreck. My butt is really, really sore from the pounding the floor of Cat Litter during the survey.
When I walk into the office to tell Ewart that we will at last be taking yesterday's intended taxi ride, he tells me that Jimmy Hodge called on the phone for me earlier. Ewart rings Jimmy back on his cellphone and hands the phone to me. Jimmy tells me that he is over at Leverick bay right now on a charter and is planning to sail to Anegada tomorrow if the weather is not too bad. The ARH taxi is out on a run to Loblolly Bay, so Ewart drives us over to Cow Wreck.
By the time we arrive, the clouds have left and the day is beautiful with nice clear skies. The sight as we walk on to Cow Wreck Beach is absolutely breathtaking, the colors rich and vibrant. As we join a group at the bar, a couple of people in the group recognize us, call us by name, and tell us that they used our website information a lot while planning their trip. They tell us that this is their first trip to Anegada, and that they came over because of all that I have written about the island.
Just then, Lauren pokes her head out the door and yells to me that I have a phone call. I come in and speak to Lawrence, who tells me that the man from FineEdge.com is back at the hotel, and that he will be shortly coming over to Cow Wreck to talk with me.
We laze around, catching up on the news from Alex. We really enjoy having Alex as a close friend. His wife Tieka and their two girls are in the States for the summer, so Alex is alone on Anegada. He has a new business endeavor - renting Honda "Ruckus" 50cc scooters for $40 a day. They look to be an ideal vehicle for seeing Anegada, and can go places where no other vehicle could go. Nancy and I plan to make use of them in future exploration of the island.
Eventually, a fellow walks up to the bar and introduces himself as Mark, from FineEdge.com. He tells me that they publish cruising guides, mostly for the U.S. west coast. They are working on a new cruising guide for the BVI, and he wants to use my Anegada information in it. I tell him that they are welcome to use anything of ours, including our new depth survey data. He is pleased to hear about the survey data, and tells us that he has a cartographer that can chart the data for us. This might work out to be a serendipitous meeting. He cannot stay on Anegada for the evening, so we exchange telephone numbers and email addresses and make plans to communicate when Nancy and I get back to Texas.
Rondell Smith arrives in his taxi to pick Mark up to take him to the airport. Luckily, Rondell is also a National Parks Trust agent. Alex tells Rondell about the bird. The bird has walked up under a lavenda bush and is now resting in the shade of it, only a few steps from the Cow Wreck bar. Rondell goes to his taxi and gets a towel, covers the bird's head with it and picks the bird up. As Rondell is walking back past the bar, i ask him what kind of bird it is. Rondell tells us that it is a brown booby, and that he thinks that he can help the bird survive. Rondell carefully puts the bird in the taxi so that he can take him and feed him while his wing mends. Hopefully, the booby will soon be all well.
Ewart appears and calls out for us and we drive back to the ARH. When we arrive, we find that Keith Smith has just returned on this afternoon's Clair Aero flight. Keith tells us that he has been on St. Thomas taking care of his mother and that she is in much better health now. He also tells us that he has heard that we have a new lawnmower for him. I tell him that it should be here in a few days, that it may arrive on Kenneth's barge Friday afternoon. Clinton is at the bar and I mention to him that I would like to use his 16 foot fishing skiff to complete my survey between Pomato Point and West End. That is too far to be taking the dinghy with its limited fuel capacity. He tells me that he has a fishing trip booked for tomorrow, but that he is not confident that they will show up. If not, the boat is mine.
When I shower for dinner, I take a peek in the mirror at my sore butt. The skin between my buttocks just below my "tail bone" is missing, and there are open wounds on both cheeks. No wonder it is so sore!
I also found that the garden was overgrown with weeds and seriously needed mowing. We tried for three days to find a mower that we could borrow, but there was just no mower to be had. Most of the mowing on Anegada is done by the goats that roam freely. However, goats do not work well in a garden environment since the flowering plants would probably be the most appetizing thing there.
When we returned home in March, I decided to take the bull by the horns and buy a new mower for the Botanical Garden. The island has given us so much pleasure that it seems to be a small return payment from us, and it will make us feel good to know that we are contributing to the island in more ways than just spending money there. I checked around locally in Houston, looking for a suitable mower, and then I called Davide asking him for advice on how to ship it down. He told me that shipping would likely cost more than the mower.
Davide had a brilliant solution - he would soon be traveling to St. Thomas and offered to go to the Home Depot there and buy a mower for me. Home Depot would deliver it to West End by ferry, and he would then pick it up and put it on Kenneth's barge. I gave him my requirements - mainly that the mower be as light weight as possible and have large rear wheels - and he promised to pick one out for me and have it delivered.
We have fish again tonight - a snapper, a mahi-mahi, and another Koonunga Hill. During dinner, we banter a bit with a group at a nearby table. The couple seated at the end of the table is in a party-on mood. The wife removes her bra, and her husband is now wearing it on his head. It looks like a Kodak moment to me, so I snap a good picture of his clowning. He walks over to see the evidence and we begin to chat.
Somehow, the talk leads to mention of LSU football, and I mention the memories of listening on the radio to the football games between LSU and Ole Miss back in the days when Billy Cannon was at LSU.
He asks "What part of Mississippi are you from?" I reply "The Delta." He raises his brow and asks "What part of the Delta?" I say "Greenwood" and he bursts out "My wife is from Greenwood!"
He turns and tells his wife that I am from Greenwood, and she runs over to our table. They are Marcelle and Fritz Englade from Baton Rouge. She was Marcelle Bostick, of the Bosticks that owned Charmaine's Restaurant when I was growing up in Greenwood. Charmaine's, now long gone, was one of the top food establishments in at the time in Greenwood. We talk and find out that Marcelle was three years behind me, graduating from Greenwood High School in 1969. I did not know her then, but I knew her older brother George. Since Greenwood is such a small town, it is no surprise that we find that we know a lot of people between us. We both grew in a tiny Mississippi Delta town and never met each other until we both wound up on Anegada tonight. We marvel at how small the world really is.
Thursday, June 10
In a foul mood, I go ashore and see Clinton. This morning's weather is still a bit rough from last night's wave, so I tell Clinton that I will wait for a better day to use his skiff.
Kenneth asks me how large I think the boat is. He has never taken a measurement of her! I pace her off twice and tell him that I think that she is twenty eight feet. He shakes his head, strokes his chin, pauses and says "Ah tink twenty fife ah twenty six". He gets out a steel tape and hands me the end of it, which I hold to the stern frame rail. Nancy steadies the tape amidships as Kenneth stretches it to the bow. Carrier II measures out exactly twenty eight feet. Kenneth laughs and says "Well now ah no! An ah haf a lajah boat den I tot!"
Nancy and I feel privileged to have been part of the team that made the first measurement of Kenneth's new pride and joy.
I ask Kenneth about all of the coral heads and shoals that I have charted, asking if they have names. He tells me that many of them do, and tells me that if I bring over my chart, he will try to give the names of all of the hazards that I have charted.
We drive over to Cow Wreck, stopping along the way to photograph century plants which seem to be in bloom everywhere. The plants at the peak of flowering must have sweet blossoms, because the heads of the mature ones are swarming with bees and hummingbirds collecting the nectar.
I take many more photos of the Anegada frangipani, and we collect more ripe frangipani seed pods. I will start more new Anegada frangipani seedlings. The demand for these unusual plants seems to be high, so I may sell some of the new seedlings.
We drive and find the small freshwater pond that Alex described yesterday. The pond is a big depression in the limestone, and is only about 75 feet in diameter. It is deep in the center, however, and must not be connected to the underground aquifer like the "fountains" are, since the water level is well above the aquifer level. Alex told us that there is an interesting type of fish, something like a bass, in here and that he has seen fairly large ones. We do not see any fish, but we don't doubt that they may be here. We are not tempted to drink the water, though, because the pond is lined completely with cowshit. The banks near the edge are slippery and we wonder how many cattle have slipped into the pond and never been able to get out.
A bareboat captain is at the bar and is both friendly and entertaining. He makes his specialty drink for the other couple at the bar, then, realizing that he has made an entire blender full, offers Nancy and me one as well. It really is a tasty concoction with cranberry juice, coconut rum, dark rum, and strawberries.
He introduces himself - Kevin Parsons - and tells us that he is on the charter from hell. His eight-person charter is a family - mother, father, their three children aged fourteen to eighteen, and each child has brought along a friend. The children are completely undisciplined and the mother complains constantly. I tell him that I think I have the picture: each child has a friend to entertain them, and Kevin is not only the skipper - he is the "nanny" to the kids while the parents remain totally disconnected. He says that I have it exactly right.
Kevin is a personable fellow, but even at Cow Wreck he has to keep the kids in line. As he puts it, the parents have put him into the position of having to be the "bad guy". Apparently, they never tell their children "no". At one point, he has to yell across to them because they have turned on the outdoor fresh water shower to rinse off, then walked off and just left it running. Fresh water is precious on Anegada. He also tells us that on a couple of occasions the parents have returned to the boat at night, leaving the kids at the bar. The kids then proceeded to order drinks and put them on Kevin's tab - and the father has yet to square that up.
We make a reservation with Alex and place our order for dinner before driving back to Setting Point to clean up. Ewart tells us that Jimmy did not come over today. The weather was pretty nasty in the early part of the day, so we are not surprised.
When we return to Cow Wreck, we have a delicious dinner. Nancy has their lobster, which she says is the best of any that she has ever had on Anegada. I have the seafood platter, which is a combination of fish, shrimp, and conch. The conch is delicious, and I realize that I have been missing out by not ordering it before. It is tender and tasty, far better than what I had expected.
After dinner, we drive back to Setting Point and walk over to Potter's By The Sea. Skipper Kevin is there and we drink and laugh until way past midnight. The boys from Kevin's charter are there, and I see first hand that they are telling Potter to put their drinks on Kevin's tab. Kevin is surprised when I tell him that the boys have a problem because I have already told Potter that Kevin has no tab tonight - his drinks are all on our tab.
Nancy and I wisely take a a couple of ibuprofen before going to bed tonight.
Friday, June 11
We will be leaving sometime tomorrow, so today will be our last day with the dinghy. I take the dinghy out and do a GPS survey of the shoals off Neptune's Treasure, Whistling Pines, and Setting Point. These shoals also do not currently appear on any current charts.
Afterwards, we drive over to our secret beach. There are no signs of any previous vehicle tracks as we drive over the sand road in. We walk the beach in search of more beach treasures, and I have a bit of difficulty walking because of the raw wound between my buttocks. I find that standing out in the cool salt water gives quite a bit of relief.
We find some really nice purple sea fans. We also find that the "beach club" that we began building here with Cele and Davide back in March has been improved a bit - some "additions" have been made to it.
After a pause for a Carib, I grab my camera and walk back along the beach to the west. Believing that we are safely alone out here, I leave my swimsuit behind. The fresh air and lack of sand feels good on my skinless rear end. When I start to walk back, I am startled to see another vehicle up on the dunes, apparently watching me. I drop down below the beach dune line, out of sight of the top and walk on further. As I round the last point returning to our encampment, I see that the occupant of the vehicle has walked down onto the beach ahead of me. I pause briefly, then continue walking toward him. As I approach, I can see that he is in uniform - it is the local customs officer. Apparently, he has seen the fresh tire tracks leading down to this otherwise deserted location and suspects that some sort of illegal activity may be at hand. It must be obvious to him that, since I am naked except for the camera in my hand, I must not be smuggling anything, so he quietly turns, walks back up to his vehicle, and leaves.
We talk over dinner plans and decide to have dinner at Neptune's Treasure tonight. It has been many years since we ate at Neptune's, and Laura Vanterpool has been telling us that it is her and Clinton's favorite restaurant. It is time to try it again.
When we run out of cold Carib, we decide to go back to Cow Wreck beach for a while. As we leave the beach, we detour by Neptune's to place our dinner order. As we drive along, we are amazed at the Anegada orchids. There are areas where the orchids are thick. Some of them are a pale white, some are pink, and some are a vibrant purple color. We have three Anegada orchids growing in our greenhouse back in Houston and we hope that they will someday bloom like these. Remembering the pond yesterday and looking around, we make the observation that although Anegada is quite dry, it has no lack of fertilizer!
When we get to Cow Wreck, we find no one at all around - we have the entire place to ourselves. We have, for once, had enough Carib, so we spend the rest of the afternoon sipping Wreck Punches (made with rum, of course). Our tab here will wait until next week. Alex told us last night that it could wait until next year!
On the drive back to Setting Point, I see that Isabel V is back at the dock, so we stop. There, sitting on a pallet, is a big box with my name on it. It is the mower! We stop back by the ARH bar, where Lorraine introduces us to Courtney. Lorraine beams a big smile as she tells us that Courtney is her fiancé. From the look on Courtney's face, this is news to him also!
I take some photos, then go back to Cat Tales to shower. When we return for dinner, we sit out on the terrace and watch the sunset. Nancy has a steak and I have garlic shark. Both are quite good, and the service is friendly. It is easy to see why people like Neptune's so much. It is, however, still tonight and we are uncomfortably warm, even sitting outside on the terrace. I notice that most everyone else is sweating also. Julian Putley, author of The Drinking Man's Guide to the BVI and Sunfun Calypso, is seated at the table next to us. His group is sweating. Sue drops by and sits with us for a while. She is here visiting with Vernon, Foxy, and Tessa and invites us to come to their table for drinks. She introduces us to Vernon, whom we have never met. Vernon, the patriarch of Neptune's Treasure, started out fishing with Foxy over forty years ago, long before there was a Foxy's bar. Foxy is also a fisherman at heart, and is here with his family on a fishing trip.
Vernon tells us that he has been living on Anegada for forty years now, how he and Foxy started fishing out of Jost Van Dyke, how they used to stay in tents here on Anegada, long before there was anything here. Vernon, with roots in Portugal and Bermuda, is a classic man of the sea and can tell endless stories. His enthusiasm, liveliness, and pleasant accent (which reminds us of Louisiana Creole) make conversation with him entertaining and informative. Meeting him tonight is definitely one of the high points of this trip.
Saturday, June 12
I head over to Kenneth's to see how his project is coming along, but first walk past, down to Sue's new building so I can take a few photos of the construction. Charlie, Sue's pet Nubian goat, is tied up at Kenneth's, so on the way back I stop and play with him a bit: he loves attention.
I go over and watch Kenneth at work. This morning, he is cutting the sheer rails. Watching how easily he works to make this complex shape that must at once curve and match the rib contours fascinates me. He is an expert craftsman. Watching how lovingly he labors piques my curiosity and I ask him whether he likes building boats better than fishing. He tilts his head back, smiles as if I just have asked the magic question, and says "Ahhh! Bildin! Ya - much betta den fishin!"
I step over yesterday's cargo and uncover the mower carton, getting ready for Keith to bring the backhoe over, when Sue pulls up in her car (a Nissan Pathfinder). She is here early to start setting up for her yard sale this morning. Sue asks if she can help me, and offers to haul the mower for me in the back of her car, where it will easily fit. I realize that it will be much quicker and more efficient to do it that way than to use the backhoe, so Sue and I lift the carton into the back of her car and drive it to a seagrape tree, where it will wait for our return next week.
When Sue and I get back to her shop, she asks if I would like to go with her to pick up Charlie and take him up to her house. I know that Nancy would, so I dash out to Cat Tales and bring Nancy in. Sue hands me her car keys and I drive us back over to Kenneth's to pick up Charlie. After Sue gets her morning love from Charlie and has him show us some of his tricks, she leads him around to the back of her car and Charlie hops right in. I drive us all down to Sue's Pomato Point house. When we get there, Sue releases Charlie. He has total freedom here in the yard, with no leash. Sue tells us that Charlie is good about the yard and never leaves it, even though it would be easy for him to do so. He does nibble at Sue's flowers, but not too much. There are plenty of other things here for him to graze on.
Without the leash, Charlie is really playful, and loves to gallop around the yard. We all play around in the yard with him for a while. When I run across the open yard, he runs right after me just as a dog would - except that he really likes to gently butt his head against me whenever I come to a stop. I can feel that he is powerful, but he is also gentle. It is also obvious that he adores Sue, and that he is quite protective of her.
We drive back over the Sue's gift shop to prepare for the yard sale. Nancy and I set up the canopy, and then we help Sue and Roberta move all of the stored items from the storeroom of the shop out to the yard sale area. Sue asks if Nancy and I could take her car back to her house and bring back all of the items that she has out on the front porch there. It takes two trips for us to bring all of it. Sue is having one hell of a yard sale!
The yard sale is supposed to begin at noon, but the smart shoppers are here by 10:30, picking through the sale items before they are even removed from the packing boxes. Sue has a lot of cookware and food service items that she is parting with, and Bell and Lauren quickly move almost all of that to the large pile of items that they are purchasing. Dotsy arrives a little bit later and finds the rest of the cookware. Sue also has a lot of CHristmas decorations that Nancy and I are surprised to see quickly sold.
I take a break and climb the seagrape tree with Ellie's son Mike. Mike is amazed when I climb to the top of the tree (about 18 feet!) and poke my head out above the leaves. He thinks I am Tarzan. Nancy thinks I am nuts.
Sue means business - she intends to get rid of every bit of what is here. She prices everything way, way low. There is a fair amount of silver jewelry here as well - nice bracelets that are still marked $28 are now four for a dollar. Nice craftwork papier mache lizards, marked $28 each - four for a dollar. Nancy bought all that she had (nine) to put in her classroom in Houston. We also buy a stack of ARH mousepads at a dollar each, some pareos, some handkerchiefs left over from Lowell's funeral, and lots of other things, winding up with a pretty fair stash of stuff - for a grand total of $15.00! We have no clue how we are going to get this stuff back to Houston, though.
Ellie is here helping Sue with the yard sale, and she and Sue are extremely busy with all of the activity. By 11:00, people are swarming over the sale like ants at a picnic. Sue's stuff is selling fast. She has some jewelry items - earrings, rings, and bracelets - at 25 cents each, which attract many of the younger island girls. Ginger, the barmaid from Potter's, shows up wearing, well, Ginger-clothes and gets lots of stares and a few words from Flo, the preacher's wife. I get lots of pictures.
By noon, which is when the sale was supposed to begin, virtually everything is gone. Sue takes the remainder of the items and places it all in a large bag that she auctions off for a few more dollars. When she tallies up, she has sold nearly $400 worth of stuff and has a much cleaner storeroom.
Sgt. Fox of the Police Department drives up and Sue introduces us to him. We talk for a bit, but he appears to be here on a mission. The customs agent also drives up and he and Sgt. Fox sit in chairs on the beach with a pair of binoculars, apparently deeply interested in something going on out in the water. I never do find out what it is.
Nancy and I go out to Cat Tales and check over our provisions. We will only be aboard for another three days, and it is apparent that we bought too much drinking water. It also looks like we have more Carib than we will consume over the next couple of days. We bring in some of our unopened drinking water jugs and give them to Sue, and I stash a case of Carib in her storeroom so that we will have it when we return next week.
Franklin appears, all cleaned up, with his duffel at about 3:20. At 3:30, we set the mainsail, hoist the anchor, and sail out of the anchorage. Other than idle ARH bar chat, we have never actually sat and talked with Franklin before. On the way to Trellis, though, we have cold Caribs, relax, and really do talk. He tells us that people occasionally complain that he "looks too serious". It is true that he can have a serious look, but he also has a light side and a nice smile when he chooses. If anything, he is reserved around people that he does not know well, and that probably comes across being unfriendly. He tells us that he is from Dominica, although for some reason most people think that he is from Jamaica (we thought so, too).
As we sail along, I reach down and find in my pocket the keys to the rental car that we had on Anegada. Franklin will be returning to Anegada on Monday, so I give them to him. I also call Ewart and tell him that they can stop looking for the keys because I know where they are...
The wind is light, and we don't get to Trellis Bay until 6:30. Trellis Bay has changed quite a bit since we were here last. There is now a "No-Go" zone off the east end of the Beef Island airport runway, clearly marked with lighted yellow buoys. No vessel taller than 10 feet can go inside the buoys. The bay also now has a clearly marked entrance channel, with a line of red and green buoys.
Jeremy Wright and Mick Kollins are out on the water, dressed in pirate's garb, on Jeremy's outboard-powered Hobie Cat. There is no ferry at the dock for Franklin to catch, so we are in no rush. We stop just inside the Trellis Bay entrance markers and ask Jeremy what's up. They have just had a blowout birthday party over on Little Camanoe for Ceiba and Zante, Aragorn's two children. Apparently, they really did a bang-up job of it. They had previously buried Aragorn's old treasure chest on the beach. Aragorn led the birthday party around the beach, where they discovered a couple of nasty looking pirates (Jeremy and Mick) digging for treasure. The surly pirates kept the kids at bay while they dug. When they pulled the chest out of the hole and opened, they found prizes and goodies for the children. They have leftover goodies now, and are out freely tossing them to people aboard the boats in Trellis Bay.
Franklin and I dinghy in and beach the dinghy in front of the CyberCafe. Jeremy has the coldest beer around - he keeps it on ice - so we grab a cold Carib. I see Aragorn and Federica and say hello. Franklin and I walk over to the North Sound Express office. We find out that there will be another ferry over to Virgin Gorda in about an hour, so I say goodbye to Franklin.
Nancy and I motor back over to Marina Cay, clean up, and have dinner at Pusser's. We had recently heard reports of poor service here, but our server is excellent - prompt, friendly and accommodating. We enjoy a our dinner and have no complaints at all.
Sunday, June 13
A Hard Day at the Beach
Ashore, we have the "Full Monty". This breakfast is absolutely gigantic, and quite British. It consists of a multi-grain bread covered with bacon, fried eggs, sausage, cheese, tomato slices, and covered with beans. There are a couple of other fellows sitting with us when our breakfast is brought to us, and their eyes bulge at what we are about to attempt. It is good and tasty, but I can only manage to finish about half of it before I am stuffed. Jeremy should give prizes to anyone that can actually eat all of this for breakfast!
When we finish, we walk down the beach and see Mike and Jen on their way back from the airport. They have just dropped off one charter and are waiting for the next to arrive. They invite us out to look over their new boat, so Nan and I go give Aristocat II the once-over. I had seen pictures of ACII during her construction, but the pictures did do her justice. She is undoubtedly the nicest cat of her size that we have ever seen. The layout is smart, making great use of the space. Nowhere does she feel tight or cramped. She has a nice large built-in dedicated beer cooler (I like that!). Jennifer demonstrates her favorite part of the boat for us - the electric heads. Unbelievable. They really do deserve to be proud of this fine baby. Topsides, she is well thought out, and set up for easy short-handed sailing. Alas, she's also already booked from now through about the next decade.
While we are ogling and drooling all over AristoCat II, I spot Cele waving to us from the ferry dock. I run pick her up and bring her back to AristoCat II. Cele has just dropped Davide off at the airport. At the moment, the BVI Culinary Team is boarding their charter flight to Fajardo for the CHIC Taste of the Caribbean competition. She is also quite impressed with Aristocat II. Cele, Nancy, and I say goodbye to Jen and Mike and dinghy back out to Cat Tales.
We motor around to Lee Bay on Great Camanoe, where another party is just leaving when we arrive. We have the beach to ourselves for most of the day. We lime away the entire day swimming, eating, floating, drinking, sunning - pretty much a day of general relaxation. After all of the work we have done at Anegada, we are ready for a day like this. In the afternoon, I try my hand at balancing rocks and wind up with a few interesting and impossible-looking stacks. I walk into the interior of the island and set up the digital recorder to capture the peaceful sounds of the birds singing.
The three of us consume a ridiculous amount of Carib and rum, which probably has something to do with our relaxed feeling. We decide to go back to Trellis Bay for dinner. As we are mooring in Trellis Bay, a fellow from The Last Resort came by Cat Tales to collect our $25 mooring fee. He asks if we have plans for dinner. I tell him that we are thinking of going in to Jeremy's or De Loose Mogoose, to which he replies "I don't think that's such a good idea". He is direct about recommending The Last Resort. He also offers a free bottle of wine with dinner. At this point, our resistance to any suggestion is pretty low and that bottle of wine is pretty much sounding like a continuation of the party, so we let him take our reservation.
We have a few fresh passion fruit aboard that we bought at Rite-Way, so after the mooring fee collector leaves, we cut them open and we continue to mix rum drinks, now featuring passion fruit and Passoá. The party goes on!
We shower, which clears our heads a bit, dress, and dinghy over to The Last Resort. We are pleased with our food. It is nothing like the mediocre fare that we had the last time we were here - which was probably in 1990 or 1991. I order a squid salad (in my state, it sounds interesting), and I thoroughly enjoy it. I also have a tuna steak that is decent. As we are finishing our meal, the "singing chef" begins his musical act. Sorry, we may have been drinking all day, but we are not yet in a state that makes this act entertaining. We decide to not hang around for whatever trick "Bottom" the donkey has been taught.
I pay our check (the "free" wine is on there) and we dinghy Cele back in. We walk Cele to her car and offer (strongly suggest is more like it) to drive her home, but she repeatedly assures us that she is fine, so we say goodnight.
We are moored just off The Last Resort and, thankfully, the singing chef does not sing late. We sleep soundly.
Monday, June 14
We look over the damage to Gli Gli, the Carib canoe that Aragorn built with the help of down-island Carib craftsmen. A month ago, Gli Gli's stern was mysteriously knocked off in the middle of the night while she was tied to a mooring. The damage to Gli Gli is extensive. Not only is the stern missing - the keel has lost its structural integrity and will likely have to be replaced. Since this is "backbone" of the canoe, it appears that she will essentially have to be entirely rebuilt. A couple of Carib craftsmen are alongside Gli Gli this morning doing some woodwork. I watch one of the craftsmen hewing a part out of a solid block of wood using an adze.
I spot Aragorn out on the dock, with his inflatable loaded with fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, and T-shirts. He is about to take off on his morning round of selling to the boats anchored in the Trellis Bay and Marina Cay anchorages. The sight of the loaded boat is striking with all of the bright colors. Aragorn pauses before leaving to let me to get a few nice photographs. We stop back by the Trellis Bay Market, pick up more Carib and another bottle of Limón, and we are ready to leave.
The wind is unusually light today - at most three to five knots from the southeast, so we don't bother with sails. We motor out of Trellis Bay, around Sprat Point and the Bluff, and across the Sir Francis Drake Channel. The channel today is like glass and the water is extremely clear with the bottom plainly visible in many places.
We decide to do a grand tour of Cooper Island, so we motor to the east side, in close to Coral Bay, the home of the Leonards. We cruise into Cooper Island Bay and photograph Trash Beach from the water. We then motor around Black Bluff, Markoe Point, and Red Bluff, past Carvel Bay, and around Cistern Rock.
As we near Cistern Point, I spot a cat with a Texas flag in Manchioneel Bay. Drawing closer, I identify the boat as a Sunsail Belize 43. I know that my friend Bill Tyer from Houston is chartering a Belize 43 from Sunsail this week, starting yesterday. Since this is their first morning out, I suspect that the boat that we see must be them, so we motor into Manchioneel Bay and pass close astern. Bill and his wife April are on deck. They see our Lone Star flag, but they do not recognize us! We draw close, and they ask what part of Texas we are from. Finally, when our faces are are no more than ten feet apart, Bill shouts "It's Walker!"
We pull alongside and visit for a while. The rest of their party is the large group that we saw snorkeling as we passed Cistern Rock. They are out of beer (already?) and are heading off to Virgin Gorda to restock as soon as the snorkelers are back aboard. We take photos of each other before Nancy and I motor over to visit Salt Island.
I ask his name and he replies "Henry". His entertainment is a small transistor radio. There is no electricity on the island, so the radio must be battery operated. I ask Henry what size batteries he uses and he replies "D". I tell him that I only have AA batteries with me, and he tells me that he can use them also. I tell him that I will be right back with batteries. He asks "Would you have a cold beer?". I smile and tell him that I will also bring a beer. With no electricity, there is also no refrigeration here. I suspect that an ice cold beer must be a real luxury. Nancy and I dinghy back out to Cat Tales, and I pick up four packages of AA batteries and a couple of cold Caribs. I dinghy back in and give the batteries to Henry and stay to have a beer with him. He tells me that his job is gathering salt and making charcoal. I am amazed that he can stand doing this. He is sitting on this hot island, only a few feet away from the hot charcoal pit. Apparently, Henry lives on Cooper Island and commutes over to Salt Island every day to work. Before I leave, Henry gives me a bag of clean Salt Island salt.
We motor back to Manchioneel Bay and have lunch at the Cooper Island Beach Club. While there, we make dinner reservations. Afterwards, we go for a snorkel. We swim from Cat Tales in to the beach just south of CIBC. With no wind and seas, the water is sparkling clear today. As we swim in, we see rays, starfish, and conch, as well as "the usual" assortment of colorful tropical fish. When we reach the beach, we swim south to Cistern Point, across the shallow reef, and out to the back side of Cistern Rock. There we see tarpon and a school of barracuda. The tarpon and the barracuda allow me to swim close enough to get nice photos. Continuing around Cistern Rock, we see a flounder on a rock. The flounder blends with the rock almost perfectly, and is barely visible. Next, we encounter a school of squid and I get some nice photos of them. We have seen squid before, but it has always been either dark, or cloudy water, or the squid were too timid to let me get close enough for a decent photo.
When we return to Cat Tales, we lounge around and enjoy Caribs and - what else - painkillers! It is hot and still and the cold drinks are ideal for the afternoon.
As sunset nears, the anchorage is nearly full with only a couple of mooring balls still available. As boats arrive, I am impressed to see the Cooper Island launch run out to them and guide them in to the available mooring balls. Later, though, the stragglers have to make do anchoring out in 70 feet of water. Fortunately (and to my surprise), none of them attempt to anchor inside the mooring field in the dark.
At dinner, we have the menu specials - I have a conch Creole and Nancy has the chicken with mango salsa. Our dinner and the service are good, which is no surprise to us. We always enjoy Cooper Island. Other than Anegada, it is the only place that we always visit when sailing.
Tuesday, June 15
I notice that there are five of the Voyage 500 catamarans here this morning. Voyage must be doing well.
We have our last breakfast aboard Cat Tales, then untie and begin motoring across toward Hodges Creek while we pack. Like yesterday, the Drake Channel is dead flat, with large glassy patches on it. The wind is so light that we actually have to motor back upwind in order to get enough ventilation to be able to stay below and pack.
I take our flags down. This year, we only flew the Texas flag and our private "Mangum" flag. Almost everyone that we saw asked us about our flag. We made it up about ten years ago. The design is two white sails against a blue sky, with white stars in the sky and red stars on the sails. The outline of the sails against the background also forms each letter of our initials - N, W, and M. The four stars have special symbolism to us.
We motor into Wickham's Cay. I am unable to raise anyone at the Moorings on Channel 12, so I just motor up alongside the dock. Someone spots us and waves us down to an open slip. Nancy quickly sets the fenders and docklines to port while I head for the slip. I stop outside the slip, spin Cat Tales, and guide her smoothly and perfectly to a stop. The dock crew does not even have to use the docklines to position us. As I shut the engines down we get compliments from the dock crew on our docking.
Nancy goes up to customer service and calls Cele to let her know that we are in. The debriefer arrives soon, and the debriefing is quick. She mostly just wants to hear both of the heads flush. I tell her that there are no binoculars or lifejackets aboard - that we sailed without them. She signs our deposit release, and we are done.
Nancy and I take our time unloading. We still have cold painkillers and Caribs aboard. We also still have unopened drinking water and canned juices, which we pack and take with us. Davide and Cele can use them. We fill two of the Moorings dock carts when we unload. We are not known for running out of clothes in the islands!
Cele drives up just as we push the two carts into the reception area. She tells us that she has just spoken to Davide, and that the team received favorable comments last night, but that no official results will be available until sometime tomorrow.
We drive back to Cele's house and unload. We have much more than we came with, thanks to Sue's yard sale, so we decide to mail some of our stuff home to lighten our baggage load. We drive to a grocery store and get some cardboard boxes, then we drop Cele off at Brandywine Bay and drive in to Bolo's to pick up some packing tape and bubble wrap. The it is back to Cele's to carefully pack two boxes full of stuff - the yard sale stuff, plus a few items that we will no longer need on the trip, like our flags and most of our charts.
We then drive back in to Roadtown and carry the two boxes to the post office. They tell us that we can send the boxes by air mail, which will take about two weeks, or by surface, which should take six to eight weeks. We figure that six to eight weeks could easily turn into never, so we opt for air. The cost: $132! That yard sale stuff is no longer inexpensive!
We stop by Capriccio di Mare for lunch, then we drive to the West End customs dock to pick up supplies. Cele is expecting mussels and duck for Brandywine Bay and a case of pesto for Capriccio. When we get to the dock, Smithy's ferry from St. Thomas is not in yet, so we walk up the road to the Jolly Roger to kill time with cold Caribs. Kay Schwartz comes in and tells us that she has not heard any recent news from the Culinary Team. She is also anxious to hear tomorrow's results.
We see the Smithy's ferry arrive, so we walk back to customs. The customs officer can only find the mussels, and tells us that the rest of our shipment should be on the next ferry, which should arrive in another half hour or so. We start to leave, but Nancy spots "YWINE" on a box. We walk over and look, and find the rest of the shipment is there. There is no invoice on the outside of the boxes for customs to use to assess duty. I suspect that the invoices are packed inside the boxes, so I offer to open the boxes for the customs officer. He declines, and just asks me to write down a list of what we have received, saying that they will settle later. I write a brief list, hand it to him, and go get Cele's truck. We load the stuff, drop the pesto off at Capriccio, and drive back to Brandywine Bay. There, we open the boxes and do indeed find the invoices.
Nancy and I decide to try a new restaurant in town for dinner tonight - "The Dove". We call and make a reservation, then Cele, Nancy, and I drive back to Cele's house to shower and clean up for the evening. Davide's truck is in the shop, so we drop Cele back off at Brandywine Bay and Nancy and I drive in to The Dove.
The Dove has a good bar - their specialty is martinis. It is hot in the dining room when we arrive. The hostess turns on the air conditioning, and Nancy and I sit outside at the bar and sample martinis. No disappointment here! The bartender knows his craft.
By the time we finish our martinis, the dining room has cooled down and we go to our table. The restaurant is in a house that was built in the 1800's. The interior has been nicely redone, and is quite interesting. Little wonder - the owner's mother is a prominent architect on Tortola. In fact, she is the architect for Wali Nikiti, the new house that Cele and Davide are building on Scrub Island.
Nancy has a steak, and I have tuna tataki. Our food is good, and the service is good. We are also impressed with our waitress. Cele told us earlier that she and Davide had heard mixed reviews of The Dove. After our dinner, we go back to Brandywine Bay to pick Cele up and we give her our favorable review of The Dove.
Wednesday, June 16
Back to Anegada
When we were down in March, there were no rental vehicles available at all on Anegada for several days, so I called Dean Wheatley several weeks earlier to reserve a jeep. When we arrive at the Auguste George International Airport on Anegada, we are met by Dean. Ewart is also there, not knowing that Dean was picking us up. Ewart tells us that we are in room number one at the Anegada Reef Hotel before leaving.
We load our baggage into Dean's nice large Ford Crown Victoria (not your typical Anegada vehicle!) and drive to his and Henrietta's shop, where we pick up our jeep.
After a quick run to the Anegada Reef Hotel to drop off our bags, change into gardening clothes (old jeans and real shoes and socks), and pick up a six-pack of Carib from our stash in Sue's storeroom, drive to the seagrape tree and load the still-boxed mower into the back of our jeep.
Hard Workin' Man
The garden starts to look better as soon as I start cutting. I first do all of the fine trim work around and between all of the plants, then hit the large open spaces. Nancy helps by moving the irrigation tubing that is laying on the ground out of the way as I work. The job is hot and dusty. I have to take a break every half hour or so and drink some of iced tea. I am looking forward to the Carib that is on ice in the Jeep.
I finish the job at 2:00 - a little over two hours after starting the mower. The mower, which had a nice new shiny black showroom look only a couple of hours ago is now covered in orange-red Anegada dust - and so am I. That Carib is ice-cold now, and the first one goes down in about three sips. We put the mower away under a tree in the garden. The National Parks Trust has authorized construction of a garden shed for storing the mower, but that it will probably be a while before it is actually built.
Nancy and I go back to the ARH, where I shower and try to get all of the dust out of my eyes, which are intensely burning. When we come out, Ewart tells us that Cele just called to tell us that the BVI Culinary Team earned a silver medal at the CHIC competition in Fajardo. Nan and I drive over to Cow Wreck to rest. Nancy gets a neat photo of a group of people limin' at the edge of the water.
After showering again and dressing, we drive back to Cow Wreck. Nancy sits on the open-air back "rumble seat" of our Jeep and holds on for dear life as we bounce across the rough Anegada "roads". We have dinner on the beach where we enjoy a beautiful sunset. Our dinner is great - Nancy has fish and I have Bell's conch, which is now my favorite dish here. As Ellie is serving us, she calls me "Uncle Walker". I am flattered, but tell Ellie that I am not that old. We agree that I can be her cousin, which I take as a great honor, even though I know Ellie is just joking around.
We also see Captain Glen, who is leading a Sunsail flotilla. We have a long visit with Glen. He is from Bequia and loves sailing more than just about anything. Glen tells Nancy that she needs to come sail with him for a week.
When we walk back to our room, we are worn out, and we sleep soundly in the cool of room one.
Thursday, June 17
When I go out to get my morning coffee, I find Clinton about to go out lobster fishing. He is working on rigging a couple of lobster traps, made of wire and sticks. I notice that the outboard engine is not on his skiff, and Clinton tells me that the outboard has died, and that he has pulled it off so that he can take it to Tortola on Kenneth's barge tomorrow for repair. I will have to wait for another trip to finish my survey. My butt is not disappointed!
I walk back to our room, get my GPS, and walk along the shore to record the positions of the docks and the major buildings. As I walk on the beach past Neptune's, Vernon Soares asks how my survey work is coming. I stop, have coffee and chat with him for awhile.
When I get back to the room to put the GPS away, Nancy is ready for breakfast. I am not hungry, so I walk over to Kenneth's while Nancy has breakfast. Kenneth is discouraged this morning because he ordered and paid for 3/8 inch marine plywood, but the wood that was delivered to him is ordinary 3/8 inch CD grade sheathing. He has now sheeted the starboard side of Carrier II with it, but he is unhappy. He paid over $70 a sheet, and received wood worth only about $15 a sheet.
When I get back to the ARH, Jamsie is waiting to tell me goodbye. He has caught a ride to Virgin Gorda on a sportfishing boat and will be leaving shortly. He tells me that he is getting tired of living on Cooper Island. He has a seabed lease pending for another ten mooring balls at Cooper, but he is talking of leaving and going to school.
Nancy and I load more Carib into our cooler from our stash and drive over to our secret beach for a while. By early afternoon, we are out of beer and ready to go exploring. We drive through the Anegada outback searching for more frangipani seed. I take lots of photos of the huge sphinx moth caterpillars eating the frangipani leaves.
We find a new north-south road across the middle of the island. OK, calling it a "road" is a stretch but, driving carefully, we are able to get all the way across the island and onto the southside paved road near Nutmeg Point. Along the way, we gather dozens of ripe seed pods. By now, we must have a few thousand Anegada frangipani (P. Filifolia) seed. We finish off the afternoon by driving back to Cow Wreck and experimenting with new rum drinks.
When we get back to the ARH, I grab my marked up chart and start to walk over to Kenneth's. As I reach the ARH gate, Kenneth comes driving through, so I walk back and join him at the bar. Kenneth tells me the names of the shoals that I have drawn in on the chart. There are Prawny Shoal, Barracuda Shoal, Higgins Rock, Setting Point Shoal, and many others to the east of where I have surveyed.
Kenneth says that he hopes to get the marine plywood that he ordered, and that, if he does, he will remove the CD sheathing that he now has in place on Carrier II. He says "only a deh ta tek off an' a deh ta put on". He knows that he will never be satisfied if he leaves it as is. He says that he will pay for the sheathing that he has used, and will be able to use it on some the interior parts of the boat.
Rondell stops by and tells us that the brown booby is looking pretty healthy and that he thinks that he will be able to release him in two or three weeks.
I see that Clinton is back in from fishing, so I walk down on the dock to where he is cleaning a large catch of queen triggerfish. He tells me that these are the first triggerfish that he has caught since November. I am wishing that we had one more night on Anegada because I know that these fresh triggerfish will be delicious.
Nancy and I shower, dress and sit at the ARH bar with Laura, Clinton, and Kenneth. Clinton is still drinking O'Doul's. We visit a few minutes before driving over to the Pomato Point Restaurant for dinner. We are the only ones dining here tonight, so we have the place all to ourselves, The restaurant is pretty at night, and has a gorgeous sunset view over the water. While waiting for dinner, I walk in and look at some of the artifacts in Wilfed's Anegada Beach Museum. He has some interesting things here. Later, Wilfred comes by and talks to us as we finish our dinner. He tells us that he was over at his Lobster Trap Restaurant earlier.
When we get back to Setting Point, Nancy and I walk over to Potter's again. Tonight we find Berris sitting at the bar so we sit and visit with him before going to bed.
Friday, June 18
Breakfast at Neptune's
I ask Vernon about the abandoned steel mats and construction at the west end. He tells me that there was a NASA tracking station there during the early days of the U.S. space program, when Alan Shepard and John Glenn were making the first U.S. manned space flights. Later, in the Apollo program, additional equipment was installed there. All of it was removed long ago, and all that remains are rusty steel and fiberglass ground reinforcement mats that were placed for helicopter landing pads.
John, a friend of Vernon's, comes up in his dinghy and joins us for a while. Together, John and Vernon tell some really great tales. They leave, get into John's dinghy, and John carries Vernon out to Bequia so that Vernon can run her engine for a while. Vernon broke his ankle this past November and has not been able to sail since. He is looking forward to sailing Bequia again soon.
Nancy and I decide to have breakfast and order omelets. I believe that my omelet is the best that I have ever had anywhere. It is prepared absolutely perfectly, nice and moist inside with tender vegetables, bacon and cheese. We note that breakfast at Neptune's Treasure is outstanding - not only is the food excellent, the setting out here on the terrace in the morning is simply incredible. We will be doing this more often!
Lunch at Cow Wreck
As we are getting into our jeep, Tony arrives with a bus load of people. I can hear a man in the bus saying to someone else, "It's him. I know it's him!" He and his wife dash out of the bus, run over to our jeep, and he excitedly asks "Are you Walker?". Nancy and I laugh and I jokingly say "Maybe. Whether or not I am Walker depends on why you are asking." He grins and introduces himself as Mark and his wife Lyn. He tells us that they know us through our website, and want to thank us for the Anegada navigation information. He says that they just sailed in and that, with our instructions, it was a piece of cake. Nancy takes pictures of their group, with me included. Nancy and I drive away feeling happy as usual.
Laura is at Sue's when we arrive. We sit with her and Sue and have a fun afternoon visit and a few glasses of wine. I go out and play for a bit with Charlie, butting heads and shoving each other back and forth. Charlie is in an even more playful mood than last Saturday. Nancy gets several pictures of Charlie and me, one with with Charlie wearing the "Billygoat Charlie" hat.
We dawdle at Sue's until well after 4:00 before heading for the airport for our 5:20 flight. Sue follows us to the airport and helps us unload our baggage. Our soft cooler still has four Caribs in it on ice. When Sue lifts it from the jeep, it tips and ice water runs down her chest. She, in the now-transparent wet shirt, laughs as I say "What would Davide give to be here now?"
I open the cold Caribs and pour out the ice. Sue, Nancy, and I each take one and I offer the fourth to anyone in the airport waiting room. A very British woman immediately accepts it and thanks us.
Nancy and I check in and have to pay $20 for extra baggage. Surprise! We are again on the second plane, which will not depart for another 45 minutes. We are going to need more beer! Lincoln is sitting outside and I ask him if I can bring him a beer. He tells me that he does not drink beer, but that he would have an orange juice. I take Sue's car and drive into the Settlement for more Caribs. I find that there is a Carib shortage in the Settlement, and that there is no Carib. At Cardie's, I settle for three cold Heineken, and I stop at Pal's to pick up a bottle of orange juice for Lincoln. When I get back and give Lincoln the OJ, he tells me that I must go fishing with him the next time we are on Anegada. Lincoln's boat is one of the many built by Kenneth.
We are just finishing our beer as the second plane is ready for boarding. We hug and kiss Sue, say goodbye, and are soon looking back at our wonderful Anegada as it fades behind the airplane. We land on Virgin Gorda to let one person out, then we are on to Beef Island. Cele is waiting for as when we arrive there. We drive to her house to unload and clean up.
I get out my notebook computer to check my email and find that it is dead. It will not even blink its LEDs when I turn it on. Apparently, it also participated in the wet T-shirt contest at the Anegada airport because the inside of the case is damp. I am not really concerned about the computer, as I did a full backup of it before we left. What I am concerned about are the over 1,000 photographs from this trip that exist only on its hard drive. I remove all of the removable covers that I can, hoping beyond hope that the computer will dry out and come to life.
The three of us drive to Brandywine Bay for dinner. Davide shows us his silver medal and the plate that the team received for winning the "Spirit of Competition" award. He is already planning for next years competition.
As Davide explains the way the competition took place, it becomes apparent that the competition was unfair. The teams were divided into two groups, with half of the teams cooking on the first night (Monday), and the other half cooking on the second night (Tuesday). The teams that cooked on Tuesday, however, were allowed to watch the Monday teams. Thus, much of the surprise element was eliminated for the Tuesday teams. For instance, up until Monday, the teams believed that they would be cooking in a large modern kitchen with plentiful equipment. When the Monday teams prepared their detailed menus from the surprise basket ingredients, they still thought that this was the case. But, when they went into the "kitchen" to prepare their dishes, they found that they were actually working in a hotel meeting hall, with each team set up on makeshift tables and cooking over small portable propane burners.
To make matters worse, there was only one oven, and it had to be shared simultaneously among all of the teams. Imagine the difficulty! Some teams need a 250° oven, and some need a 450° oven. To make matters even worse, the oven door was essentially never closed because everyone was checking on their dishes. This meant that the oven was never hot. If you knew this ahead of time, you could plan your menu accordingly - either avoiding the oven altogether, or only planning dishes that required a relatively cool oven.
Further, except for one single ingredient, the "surprise" ingredient basket on Tuesday night was identical to the basket on Monday night.
All of this gave a huge advantage to the teams that cooked on Tuesday night. Not surprisingly, the team that won the gold medal was a Tuesday night team.
After a wonderful dinner (of course), we close the restaurant and drive back to Cele and Davide's house for a nightcap of Ron Barrilito. I find that my computer will now attempt to start, but beeps and shuts down before actually coming to life. Although still not good, this is showing promise.
Carolyn Chaney comes by for a short visit and then says goodnight. We all go into bed. A short while later, she calls for Davide - a large land crab has Carolyn cornered. Davide goes over, then yells across "Walker! Bring your camera!" I quickly pull my shorts on, find my camera and attach the flash, and run over to Carolyn's house, expecting to find a monster crab. Instead, Carolyn and Davide show me a beautiful cactus blooming by Carolyn's pool. The cactus has huge blooms that only open at night. It is 1:00AM, so the blooms are at their peak, and I get some nice pictures.
Saturday, June 19
Davide and I drive to Brandywine Bay, where I spend the morning working on his computer system while Davide goes into Roadtown for a meeting. Davide wants to make some changes to his system so that he has better backup and better remote access, while retaining good security. I run a number of security tests and find that his system is currently safe because he has an effective firewall installed. The phone rings mid-morning and I take a dinner reservation for the restaurant. When Davide returns, I recommend to him that he replace the tape backup system with a high capacity disk system, and that he install VPN software for remote access.
Nancy and Cele come to Brandywine Bay, and the four of us drive over and have lunch at Fat Hog Bob's. We make plans for our upcoming COCO II charter, which is now only six weeks away. After lunch, we drive back to Brandywine Bay. As we arrive, we see "Mama Cocha", Dorothy and Herve Liegeois' Lagoon 410 catamaran, just entering the bay. Nancy and I borrow Cele's truck and drive back into Roadtown for some last-minute shopping. We visit the Sea Urchin shop, where Nancy finds and buys a Jams World dress that she does not have. We visit Sue's new shop Huckster's, which has nice wares, primarily home decor items. In the old customs house building, Huckster's is attractively decorated.
When we get back to Cele's house, we go for a short swim in the pool. Bear, Carolyn Chaney's border collie, is a real water freak. Bear loves being in the sea. Around the pool, he is excited and playful, but carefully stays out of the water. The swim is refreshing because this afternoon is hot, humid, and still.
We clean up and drive to Brandywine Bay for our last dinner of this trip to the islands .
Party on the Patio!
After dinner, we all (Dorothy, Herve, Cele, Davide, Nancy, and I) rejoin out on the terrace for grappa, rum, and Tuaca. We are all in a party mood and have lots of fun. Spice uses my camera to get some pictures of us trying to behave.
Sunday, June 20
Carolyn Chaney has brought over her book Pictorial Cyclopedia of Exotic Plants From Tropical and Near-Tropic Regions, by Alfred Byrd Graf. This book is an incredible reference, and I spend time searching through it trying to identify a tree that is common on Tortola. I have a seedling of it back in Houston. I cannot find anything conclusive enough to make a positive identification, but I can tell that it is definitely not a tung nut tree as I had originally thought.
Way too soon, it is time to head to Beef Island. We hug and kiss Cele goodbye and Davide drives us to the airport. After we check in, Davide and I drive over to Trellis Bay to pick up three of Jeremy's ice-cold Caribs. I have a quick visit with Jeremy, who tells me that he has some tremendous ideas for my BVIPirate.com website. In fact, since Trellis Bay has a rich pirate history, we discuss making Trellis Bay the world headquarters for BVIPirate.com. We decide that we must work on this idea.
Our plane leaves right on time. We pick up three more bottles of Ron Barrilito on our stopover in San Juan and learn that the San Juan duty free shops allow you to purchase up to six bottles of Puerto Rican rum, even if you are on a domestic flight to the U.S. For the past year, we have been buying Ron Barrilito in the duty-free shop on our way back home from the islands. We are relieved to find that we are not smugglers after all.
Nancy and I fly through Dallas - again missing Miami - on the way home. We are fairly quiet, and I reflect over the past two weeks as I try to fill in the gaps in my handwritten journal.
To Cele and Davide
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