April 2012


(Last Full Month in the Caribbean)


15th April


rljump Back at "The Baths"


The wind is back. For nearly a week now we've enjoyed very gentle breezes and small seas. This is great for snorkeling and visiting exposed anchorages such as "The Baths", but the heat can be stifling. Currently we're back on a mooring buoy outside "Saba Rock" resort in Virgin Gorda Sound. There is precious little lee from the prevailing wind; literally just what's afforded by the buildings on the rock, but in high wind conditions it's easier to sleep at night if we're on a mooring as opposed to riding to anchor. The "Sound" is a good place to be generally, as there is a lot of places to visit within a small area. For our mooring fee we get in addition a free bag of ice and a full tank of fresh water. "Happy Hour" on the rock is great value and for Libby there are (caged) Toucans to talk to, huge Tarpons to feed (at the appointed hour) and the other sea life in a separate tank which also gets fed in the early evening for the amusement of the tourists. So everyone's a winner! In addition it's rare to pass a couple of hours in the bar without meeting interesting people. It's there we first met the Safaris, and where we've caught up with other cruisers. Last night we bumped into newly-weds Barry and Gail whom we first met back in Culebra at a party hosted by yacht Borealis.


It's hard to credit the fact that 15 days have flashed past, half a month without any update here. It's usually a case of having to be in the mood to sit at the laptop, but connectivity has a lot to do with it. In the increasingly rare* circumstances that we get internet on the boat, then it only takes a bit of fiddling about before I get inspired to commit some words to posterity. *(Various wi-fi amplifiers we had have now all gone south. Now technically they're illegal in the US, although I've heard tell they can be obtained for around $70 in the BVI. Since that's twice what they cost in the UK, we're going to limp-by without one until we touch base in England next month.)


So, we're cranking up the home schooling right now with Penny currently in the chair. Circumstances have recently completely disrupted the programme, and it was very hard to get going again. It's not Libby's fault, but we have serious concentration issues right now. I meet this with a mixture of frustration and compassion; I well remember that for myself I spent most of my own schooling gazing out of the classroom window. In common with most parents no doubt, I see failings in my progeny which resonate exactly with memories of my own behaviour. And yes, the positive side of this is as thrilling as the negative is depressing. Anyway, I did some writing exercises with Libby this morning while Penny washed the floors aft, then while I did the carpets etc, Penny took her through Maths exercises. After a few days now of consecutive schooling, Libby is actually starting to enjoy it again thank goodness. I must say though, notwithstanding the above, we've somehow taught Libby to read fairly well, and she has developed a love for books.


So, what have we been doing so far this month? Well, let me review the pictures from my new waterproof snappy camera........


bday1 Abby, Cathie, Auston and Penny


Libby with Cathie's boys Jamal and Jaylan libjj


Regular readers will remember Cathie Caine who quite literally organised for us to have such a great Christmas. Well it was her birthday at the beginning of the month, so that weekend (Easter weekend) we helped her celebrate and met some more of her lovely friends. Celebrations also coincided with full moon, (Good Friday) so we all met up in Trellis Bay once more.


Come bed time, after dropping the girls off at the Bird I nipped over to the "Last Resort" in the hope of meeting my old pal Tony Snell. Tony built this restaurant on the little island in Trellis Bay some decades ago, and named it in the Goonish style for which he has been revered throughout his adult life. I first heard about Tony as a boy reading a compendium of World War Two stories by author Paul Brickhill. The tale of Tony Snell is entitled something like "The Man Who Wouldn't Die". In brief he was shot down in his Spitfire over Sicily, escaped the wreckage on foot, fled from a Nazi firing squad, (he was out of uniform and considered a spy) was recaptured but escaped from the transport train to POW camp and continued to thrive. When I first sailed into Trellis Bay around fourteen years ago, Tony was the slightly elderly bloke who put on a hilarious musical comedy show with dinner. We became friends and subsequently I even did some of the musical entertainments for him. Anyway, on this evening I arrived at the Last Resort as the last diners were paying their bills and there was Tony sitting at his usual table. He's amazingly sprightly for his ninety years, and such a gentleman. In spite of not laying eyes on me for some twelve years, he gave every indication that he remembered me as if it were yesterday. Some people have this terrific ability to make other people feel good.


The following day a whole crowd gathered at Mulligans, Nanny Cay where we had parked Wild Bird. This open-air bar has just installed kids play equipment such as a trampoline and swings etc. Somehow we all managed to have an excellent afternoon!




On Sunday I took the dinghy around to Road Town to try and find a Catholic church. I'd have settled for other denominations, but I learned that there was indeed a Catholic church in the middle of town with the service beginning at 09.00. It took around 15 minutes of bone-jarring planing in the one-metre swell to get me there, but it was worth it. After a dismally secular Easter Sunday in Turkey last year, I needed a proper fix. It wasn't disappointing. The service was led by a charismatic Indian priest, and as may be expected the music was delightful. It was sufficiently restrained (by local standards) such that I didn't feel out of place, but still joyfull to the full. Most of the tunes were known to me, and those that weren't were quickly learned thanks to the tendency to sing each hymn at least twice through. That's part of the reason the service lasted two hours, but it didn't feel like it at all.

This island's chief industry is in the financial sector, and there is a large number of ex-pat accountants and the like whom we'd not normally come across in day-to-day life. The Easter congregation was probably around 90% black, but I was surprised at the size of the white contingent. They all looked like accountants too, dressed in red/white striped long-sleeved business shirts (but no tie), brown socks and brogues. However there was not the slightest hint of segregation that I could determine. That may seem like a strange observation in this day and age, but the reality is that communities do still tend to stick to their own kind by preference. I think most people know my opinions on racism so there's no need to repeat them here.


Tuesday we headed out to notorious "Norman Island". This is a largely deserted island with an ancient ship called the "William Thornton" permanently moored in the principal anchorage. Usually referred to simply as the "Willy T", this floating bar/restaurant has earned a notorious worldwide reputation for late night shenanigans. I occasionally visited years ago as a single man, and it was 50/50 for a disappointing evening or one with naked revelers throwing themselves from the roof etc. On this occasion, we didn't go near the place, opting instead for the milder "Pirates" restaurant on the beach, where we allowed ourselves a couple of light snacks and "Painkillers" at happy hour while Libby blended with holidaying youngsters.


We've been carting two old dive bottles around with us since we first began. Somehow we never got around to having them re-certified, but astonishingly I discovered it costs just $8 to rent a bottle with just a further $5 if you want it filled up again. And so, in the relatively clear water of "The Bight", I spent a joyous couple of hours under the boat scraping off the barnacles. What a job. Yuck. I've been fretting about the growing fouling on our bottom for a couple of months now. In certain places here the barnacles and other organic life target the boat very aggressively. Up until now I've been fighting back with a snorkel, but it's really exhausting to try and clean the keel and other deep sections with one lungful at a time. It's many years since I mucked around with dive gear (save 10 mins at Vounaki last year to change an anode) so I was a bit pathetic. I didn't have enough ballast really, and planting my feet on the hull while I scraped the bottom of the keel upside down sent me into a spin a couple of times when the boat was hit by passing wash causing the ground to lurch around in my peripheral vision. On the second dive I was much more comfortable thank goodness, and the hull is now more or less clean.


With strong winds forecast for a few days hence, we got up early and took ourselves to "The Baths". You've seen pictures from here before, but here are some more.
















After the Baths we snorkeled at a little island called "Great Dog" before going up to the sound and anchoring off "Mosquito Island", Richard Branson's latest acquisition. Indeed we were in good company as his massive catamaran, "Necker Belle" was with us in the anchorage. No sign of Sir Richard though!


And so to Saba Rock where lessons have finished, lunch is getting underway and the wind has eased back a little from the consistent 30kts we've been seeing since last evening. I now need to be sociable with the family once more!