Virgin Islands cruising, Pain killers and Christmas in the sun.
For the uninitiated, a "Pain Killer" is merely a mix of Rum, pineapple juice and coconut creme with grated nutmeg on top. There are those who reckon that a bit of nutmeg adds more than just taste to the drink, and it may be true!
Having filled up with fuel and water in the bustling "American Yacht Harbour" at Red Hook, we then spent the first days of December very peacefully on a mooring in Francis Bay, St John Island. It was lovely to leave behind the ferry traffic and general hubbub of the busy little port, although we had had some excellent times with new Canadian friends who live there as well as new Dutch friends who's yacht "Sotirius" came across the pond on the same ship as "Wild Bird".
In Francis Bay we snorkelled with a very laid back turtle, played bat and ball on the beach, more swimming, picnics, home-made Margaritas on the beach etc for around four days. However we wanted to get to the British Virgin Islands to meet old friends who live there as well as more old friends who were visiting on a charter holiday. What do we all have in common? Well, Sunsail of course! However this was family Letten's first yachting holiday - them being a family of extremely talented dinghy sailors, (and we're talking national champions here).
So, we checked out of the USA in Cruz Bay and made for Road Town Tortola. Mandi and Kirsty, ex Sunsailers who now work for "Conch Charters" in Road town very kindly let us use one of their moorings, and that evening we met up with dear Cathie Caine. She goes back to the early 90's with Sunsail which is where I first met her in Greece. She moved here with the old firm, and when they went corporate she elected to stay around and make the best of it. She now works for another local charter firm and is bringing up two delightful boys, Jimal and Jaylan. We were all introduced at the local "Mall" where Santa had been booked to appear. Libby loved playing with the boys and they were really kind to her. Also present where a number of other kids, so Libby was truly in her element.
Santa however failed to appear. The proprietors of local shops and businesses who'd set the thing up and were busy dispensing beer and mince pies etc were desperate. They needed a stand-in for Santa. Somebody tall, mature with a big tummy and a theatrical bent. They spoke to Cathie. Cathie spoke to me. I spoke to Penny. Penny consulted with Libby, who isn't ready for the crushing discovery that Santa is actually her dad! A text message mysteriously appeared on my phone "Dear Richard, Santa here. Rudolf's been poorly and I can't make it to the BVI tonight. Will you please look after the job for me just this once?" (or words to that effect.) I showed it to Libby who was still very bravely coping with the devastating news that Santa himself wasn't going to show up. She considered the text and agreed it would be OK. She swore to keep it a secret, as presumably did all the other kids with whom she shared the news! (Photo's, courtesy of Cathie Caine are posted on Facebook. Sadly I can't get hold of them to post here.)
Eventually we relinquished our mooring bouy in Road Town and set off into the great blue yonder. It's always hard to leave a secure spot, especially when it's been so windy. However, we never usually regret it. We cruised around a bit and included the old Virgin Gorda favourite - "The Baths" on our little tour. This is a dramatic bit of coastline where soft volcanic rock has been weathered away leaving behind a pile of boulders which appear to have been dropped randomly from the sky. You can clamber around them, over and under, and if you can pick a moment between cruise ship visits, it's enormous fun and very picturesque. On this visit we were relatively lucky, but when we returned to where we had started, the water was positively writhing with tourists wearing lifejackets. The water literally glowed in an eerie yellow reflection of the jackets. How lucky we felt once more when we were back aboard the Bird and away from the melee.
The following weekend we met up with the Lettens, Cathie and her family, Irene and Theo from Sotirius - for a "Full Moon" party at Trellis Bay. Hopefully I'll be able to get some photos from this event. It was a splendid party. We started at "The Last |Resort" - an old favourite of mine which has clearly been spruced up in recent years and then went to the beach to enjoy the music, fire sculptures and the Moko Jumbies.
We're safely alongside a dock at Nanny Cay marina, Tortola for Christmas. It's still very windy out there. We've been very generously given this slip for the weekend so we won't have to worry about the boat during festivities; about the best Christmas present we could ask for!
Here we are with our little tree. In case you were wondering, at the top of the picture is a string of fairy lights with candy-canes hanging from them. We tried improving the picture but the Girl was tired..........
Santa found Wild Bird against all odds and filled Libby's stocking. There was also a pile of gifts from Penny and I as well as her Auntie Mary.
We went to the home of Mandie and Marcelo where we celebrated Christmas in the company of their kids, Cathie and her two boys and another couple of friends. Mandie laid on a perfect spread including - to my delight - a veritable mountain of Brussells Sprouts! Penny had inadvertantly agreed to produce a Trifle - something she has rarely tasted and certainly never made. We know a lot more about trifle now than before - for example the jelly (jello in this neck of the woods) won't set if it comes into contact with almost any fruit it seems, but specifically not pineapple. We all enjoyed therefore a bowl of "Trifle Soup".
It was a wonderful day and we were treated like old friends by these lovely new ones. Libby was made very welcome by Lucas and Lauren, as well as Cathie's boys Jahmal and Jaylan.
On Monday morning, the nice people at the local parts shop opened up especially for me ($30 surcharge) and I was able to buy some hose for the generator. I also took a deep breath and stripped down the mixer elbow, guessing that even old hoses don't just burst for no reason. Sure enough the elbow was badly coked up in both the gas and water paths, so after a morning of blood sweat and tears, (Penny took Libby to the beach) it was all back together with the improvised hose in place. The generator burst merrily back to life and is noticably happier than it's been for a while. We are more dependant than ever on the apperatus since, even if we could afford to plug into the shore it's rare to find European voltage.
With some regret we slipped out of Nanny Cay the following day to make our way towards Virgin Gorda Sound for New Year celebrations with yacht Sotirius.