Virgin Islands – still!
It’s very hard to leave. We’ve cruised down to the Spanish Virgin Islands – namely Culebra – and are now back in St Thomas. Here are some reasons we’re finding it hard to go anywhere else……
Flamenco Beach Culebra
And we never really were “beach holiday” people, but really the Islands of St. John and now Culebra have given us new insight.
What wasn’t captured on camera was Rich pratting about in the surf with Libby’s “Boogie Board”, eventually emerging with a snapped board and slight concussion!
After suffering a day of humiliation in a golf buggy, I was past caring what anybody thought about this old fat bloke stumbling around in the surf.
Yes, we splashed out indeed on some motorised transport to see more of the Island.
My laptop died a sudden and horrible death, so I was motivated to get to a decent “Maul” to find a new one. This we did in Puerto Rico, and we had such a charming time there we intend to take the Bird, (as opposed to the ferry) next time. Happily most of my other programs have transposed to the new laptop and work OK; especially important to me is WS_FTP – my preferred means of uploading files.
March 31st 2012
We are now back in Red Hook, East end St. Thomas. March has simply flown by, much as we feared it might having settled upon an exit strategy for May. I have to describe this month's events in pictures really - too much great stuff happened to waffle on in words alone.
The new laptop took a while to get organised, and by then we were back in the USVI at Water Island. This is a quaint spot just south of Charlotte Amalie. Our favourite bay is "Honeymoon Bay" for many reasons. More on that in a moment.
We met the lovely "Hack" family all the way back in November, before even the arrival of Wild Bird on the ship. We were working the cheap (relatively in this place) happy hour nibbles at the "Green House" on Charlotte Amalie's waterfront when we spotted a "Libby shaped" girl looking a bit bored. As is our usual practice, we encouraged the girls to play together and that's how we became friendly with this extraordinary family - originally from Canada. They have traveled extensively in Europe and South America and are currently living here. This time we met for lunch in Crown Bay Marina, and the picture shows, clockwise from Penny: Richard Hack, his Mum Matilda, Dad Adam, Valerie Hack peeping around her daughter Meaghan who is the Mum of young Bella. Bella is also home schooled and is a real treasure. She is very patient playing with Libby, who to our shame tends to be somewhat demanding!
The following day we ran into James and Pattie on La Aventura - Jimmy Cornell's old boat. I first met them in Marmaris, Turkey at the end of 2010. They gave me a meal and company one evening in return for some assistance with their electronics. Penny and Libby had already gone home, so they helped me feel less lonely. Anyway, there they were in Honeymoon bay having recently crossed the pond, just two up. Libby and I joined them ashore in the evening at the "Drive-In" movie theatre. This quiet little backwater has a great local community, and they have regular activities such as the Monday night Drive-in.
On monday nights, they string a great white sheet between two palm trees and after waiting for the sun to set, they play a programme consisting of extraordinarily amusing 1950s authentic "Drive-In" clips and adverts. Utterly hilarious and easily the best part of the programme in my book. It really IS a drive-in too. The golf cart is the preferred form of mechanised transportation on this island and sure enough, a fleet of the things drive up every Monday.
Libby played frisbee with some generous older local kids until the programme proper began. You can just see her bottom left above after I sent her to fetch her shoes, abandoned in her haste to join in the games. Following the ancient ads, a cartoon is played. This evening we were treated to an original "Tweety Bird" to Libby's complete delight. Yes, that old-time cartoon violence is as appealing to the new generations as is was to us! The "Main Feature" was an incredibly dull sci-fi flick about some future nightmare when everyone has a great big green digital clock on their arm. When your timre runs out, you drop dead. Luckily for me, Libby's time ran out about half an hour in, so we scampered back to the dinghy and Libby was soon to bed. I was sad about the choice of film though. Apparently they sometimes show some good classics.
Having bunkered with fuel and water in Crown Bay, we decided to head back to Tortola and see how our BVI friends had fared in our absence. However, just as we got out of the harbour and came on bearing, a fleet of cats sped past in the opposite direction. It was our friends on yacht "Safari" finally making their way west after having had to replace one of their engines in Tortola. We were so delighted to see them, we immediately turned around and joined them in the vast anchorage off Charlotte Amalie.
Safari had planned to travel west in the company of similar "Leopard" cats, and we had happily stumbled upon them on their first leg together. We got together later and took the cable car up to the lookout above town, and rode the ferris wheel and jumped in a jumpy thing which was new to me.
Suddenly Libby found herself back in the company of the Safari kids, Storm and Teak who are a year older and younger respectively. There were also much older kids on the other boats, all of whom were charming and generous towards their younger counterparts. After Libby bounced on this contraption, I had to have a go. I was so chuffed about turning head-over-heals forwards and backwards until Safari Craig had a go. Admittedly I have seven years on him, but Craig demonstrated that it IS possible for adults to have some style.
The cat fleet was anxious to get moving, so we all headed off a couple of days later, having enjoyed a last long boozy Sunday afternoon at Honeymoon Bay, (where the resident musician bravely let me have a go with his kit). We reconvened in Culebra where we spent another couple of glorious days. We set up camp at Flamenco beach, and Nix attempted to get the classic "beach kid" shot, but with our cumulative three, this was never going to happen!!
Camped by one of the deserted lifeguard huts; shade for the grown-ups and a playhouse for the kids.
The fleet was getting a bit fragmented; the larger contingent were anxious to get further west. We lingered a final night in Tamarindo bay before heading over to Fajardo on the east coast of Puerto Rico. We fooled around in the water with my new cheapo waterproof camera, then had a rolly uncomfortable night.
It was a real delight to spend some days with the "Safaris" in Fajardo. We rented cars and drove around, still in awe of the vast "mauls", masses of fast-food joints, 6-lane highways and cops and barbed wire everywhere. On Sunday we drove down to a "country club" where the privileged wealthy few may dine in peace and splendour where even the waiting staff are white and well spoken. It was spooky. We didn't mean to go there, but the promised "water park" was closed and we were desperate to show the kids some fun. The country club had some water-based amusements for the kids of RESIDENTS ONLY!!! We kept schtum, sipped our dry white wine and nibbled at some affordable starters..
Having failed thus far to extract a lobster from its habitat ourselves, we took advantage of a local fisherman who sold us his solitary catch one day. Libby's expression sums up my exact feelings too. I'm just not a hunter.
We decided it had to go on the BBQ as we hadn't a large enough pot. Therefore it had to be slaughtered first. Penny told me where to stick the knife in order to deliver a swift end to the miserable creature. In went the knife. Flap flap flap went the lobster. Flap flap flap went the lobster (again). "I ain't dead mate!" In went the knife again and again until finally the poor creature gave up the will to live, mercifully before I did. It was very tasty though, even though the BBQ ran out of gas just a tiny bit before the ideal cooking time.
It was about then that I realised that nothing had gone wrong with the boat for a month or more. Even as the thought crystalised in my minnd, I desperately fought to surpress it. I certainly didn't vocalise it. But, it was too late. My foot went through the heads floor, the generator threw its last belt and also blew the exhaust pipe off the skin fitting. We also managed to lose the only debit card for our dollar account. Grrrrr.
Craig and I spent a bit of time fixing up Safari's electronics in preperation for their long distance ambitions. The girls watched over the kids, but we always had an eye on the weather. It's a rotten trip back up east against prevailing wind and swell towards the BVI. For us we were as far west as we wanted to be, so when the weather window presented itself we had to go. It was hugely sad to leave behind this fantastic family. Since we met them at New Year we'd become very fond of them. The kids had really found a groove, and we all enjoyed each others company enormously.
So as the end of the month drew close, with heavy hearts we motored back upwind to Culebra for a night and straight on to St Thomas. Anchored in Honeymoon Bay once more I was in dinghy range of a lumber yard which sells "Marine Ply", but only by the sheet. A sheet is 4' by 8'. They cut it half for me; I needed less than 4' square to fix the bathroom floor. Then we anchored in Red Hook where our great friends the Hack family solved our debit card problem. Then the 15hp dinghy engine let us down for the first time, just when we needed it most. In the end I needed to buy a new propeller. It felt like a slipping clutch and I thought it must be the sheer pin. I now know that these larger engines don't actually have a sheer pin, but they DO have a gearbox which normally contains a lot of oil, except when it's allowed to flow out and into the cockpit by an out-of-date engineer (with no internet access) who's mistakenly hunting for a nonexistent sheer pin!!
Heigh ho, it's all fixed now and every day is a school day.