Friday, April 13, 2018

RVirgin Voyage in the British Virgin Islands

In January, we received the invitation of a lifetime. Our friends, Dan and Barb were planning their fifth sailing trip to the British Virgin Islands (BVI), and they were looking for crew members! Since Doug did some sailing in his younger days, he was quick to sign on. I, on the other hand, remember him trying to explain wind direction, booms, and all those lines, knots, and ropes ...

Not sure that I am smart enough for this ... but every yacht needs a photographer and galley help, so sign me up! Thus, we changed some of our camping plans, parked the Wildebeest, and flew from Orlando to the island of Tortola, BVI to begin ...

RVirgin Voyage in the British Virgin Islands!

Our skillful captains and good friends, Dan and Barb are very familiar with the BVI and planned the grand tour route. They took sailing lessons a few years ago and have come back every year since to hang out in their favorite sailing playground. We are so happy that they welcomed us on as rookie crew members. Both Dan and Barb are knowledgeable and eager teachers, and I soon realized that I would be doing more than just photograph and feed the crew! 

Our floating home for the week was a brand new 45 foot monohull sailboat. It was so new that it had not even been named yet. I called it the "Sunny Side Up" when, during a particularly windy sailing day, Dan assured me that there was no way that the winds would topple our craft. True to his word, they kept "the sunny side up" all week!

The British Virgin Islands along with the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, experienced great devastation from Hurricanes Irma and Maria last September. Six months later, the scars were still evident as many once beautiful restaurants, resorts, and homes still lie in ruins.

Beaches and hillsides were stripped of most of their palm trees and foliage,

... and ships were tossed and thrown haphazardly by the 200+ MPH winds and still lie wherever they happened to land.

But as Dan and Barb confirmed with The Moorings, the yacht chartering company that we used ... the BVI is "open for business". They need the tourist's support and dollars to aid in the recovery of the area.

While they still have a long way to go, businesswomen like Monica of Flash of Beauty Bar and Restaurant on Anegada Island were happy to welcome us back. Visiting with her under the shade of her "still under construction" colorful open-air patio, she shared her struggles and hopes as she rebuilds her beachside paradise. 

As we discovered, she, like many BVI business people, still have more rebuilding to do. We have no doubt that her resilience along with her welcoming personality and ability to serve up the BEST RUM PUNCH EVER will bring the tourists back to enjoy a piece of paradise.

Despite the changes from the storm, we were all smiles as we enjoyed our nine days in paradise.

Day 1 Travel from Orlando, Florida to Road Town on the island of Tortola, BVI: Arrival ... First Lessons ... Provisioning ... Dinner at Charlies ... Overnight in our New Monohull at The Moorings Dock

Ready to board the "pond jumper" that will take us to the BVI!

Captain Dan briefing the crew ...
as a "newbie" I am definitely feeling overwhelmed!

$675 later we have our week's provisions.
Because many of the BVI's stores and restaurants are still closed,
we needed to ensure that we would have enough food, water,
and of course, wine, beer, gin and rum to last us the week.

After dinner at the the dockside restaurant, Charlies,
we settled into our brand new 45 foot monohull yacht for the night.

Day 2 Ready, Set, Go: Sailing Send-off ... Motoring Out of Harbor ... Rhone Marine Park Snorkeling ... Exploring Salt Island ... Overnight at Cooper Island, BVI

Captain Morgan from The Moorings
explains all the gadgets to the "experts".
I just needed to know how to turn on the gas burners
so that I can get the coffee brewing!

First lesson: motoring the boat out of the harbor.
Somehow, I ended up in the middle of a regatta race ...
time to turn the wheel over to the experts.

After attempting to snorkel to see a sunken shipwreck in
Rhone Marine Park and tasting more than my share of salt water,
I realized that I needed a snorkeling refresher course and lots
more practice. Doug was excited to swim with his first sea turtle!
As for me, I was happy to stick to land exploration for now
as we scouted out Salt Island.

Stand-up paddle board (SUP) lessons ...
I had managed to stand up on the board at one point but fell in.
Guess I need a refresher course on SUP techniques also!

The cooks prepare dinner in the galley.
Rainstorms forced a change in our outdoor grilling and dining
plans ... it became Italian spaghetti night.

Day 3 Sailing Lessons: The Baths National Park ... Snorkeling ... Overnight at Melone Bay, Virgin Gorda Island

The winds are blowing ... time to get the sails up!

Captain Dan in his glory!
Yes, the boat is tipping a bit in the wind, but he promises me
that he will keep the "sunny side up".

I'm holding on tight just to be sure.
See my white knuckles??!!

We snorkeled from our dinghy to shore to explore
the unique rock formations of The Baths National Park.
A hike to the top of the island brought us to
The Top of the Baths Restaurant for a delicious lunch
and spectacular views. 

Doug is thinking that the winds are too strong for him
to take the helm, but Dan has other ideas.

Baptism by fire!

On our way into harbor for the night, we passed by Saba Rock,
one of Dan and Barb's favorite BVI restaurants during past visits.
It was sad to see the destruction from the hurricanes,
but we are hopeful to see some rebuilding taking place.

Saba Rock before the storms.

We grabbed a mooring ball in Malone Bay
and enjoyed a Caribbean sunset.
Mooring balls cost $30/night or
you can drop your anchor for free.

Day 4 Let the Northwest Winds Blow: Sailing to Anegada, BVI ... Loblolly Bay ... Flash of Beauty ... Cow Wreck Beach ... Dinner at Potters By The Sea ... Overnight in Anegada Harbor

The northwest winds were blowing strong ...
a challenging and fun day to sail 14 miles across the Caribbean
Sea to the island of Anegada. Doug is learning about
all the electronic gadgets that will help keep us on course.

Anegada is a very flat island and doesn't have the hills
that are characteristic of the other BVI landforms.
It is straight ahead of us ... somewhere!

Barb's turn to teach Doug the art of catching the
mooring ball and securing the ropes.
Skilled teamwork = Success!

Because Anegada is so flat,
it is the island of spectacular beaches. We are happy
that Dan was able to rent a car and show us a few of them!

Wish I could have taken a few of these
huge conch shells home with me.

We happened upon a couple of fisherman
picking out the perfect lobsters that could likely
end up being our dinner this evening.

We enjoyed lobster and mahi mahi cooked to perfection
by Sam, the owner of Potter's By The Sea.
We are hopeful that the crowds, music, and limbo
dance contests of the past will soon return.

Day 5 Chris at the Helm: Sailing Lessons as We Cross the Caribbean Sea to Gorda Sound ... Viewing Hurricane Destruction ... Snorkeling Among the Coral Reefs ... Overnight in West End Bay Near Marina Cay

Winds are more favorable for us today,
and Barb is making this sailing gig look easy.

Captain Dan decided that it was my turn to give it a try.

Not sure that I am a "natural"...
but it was fun to feel the power of the wind as we
sped across the water at about 7 knots/hour.
And yes, the white knuckles are back!

Land Ho!

My snorkeling technique is getting better and
my confidence growing as we viewed some amazing
coral formations and the fish that hang out in West End Bay.

Day 6 Play Day: Motor Around Guana Island ... Snorkeling ... Curing the Caffeine Withdrawal Headache ... Full Moon Party ... Overnight in Trellis Bay

Even the pancakes were smiling
on this beautiful BVI play day.

Since the winds had died down, we found the
water more calm and clear ... perfect for snorkeling.

But Doug had not been feeling great for the last few days, and we
attributed it to "sea sickness" from all the wind.
But when it persisted after the winds died down,
he decided that it was caused by caffeine withdrawal.
Note to self: add Diet Coke to our provisions list.
A dinghy ride into Trellis Bay Market secured the cure ...
Rum and Coke for all!

Another delicious sunset dinner ... we used the grill
on the boat for steaks, brats, hamburgers, and pork chops.
Yes, we ate well!

The rise of the full moon can only mean ...

... music, dancing and fun at the
Trellis Bay Full Moon Party.

And I got swept off my feet by some very tall,
very talented, and very fun stilt dancers.

Day 7 Easter Joy BVI Style: Sunrise ... Fun at the Bubbly Pool ... Sandy Cay Exploring ... Soggy Dollar Mango Rum Punch ... Snorkeling With the Sea Turtles and Stingrays ... Overnight in Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke Island

Got up early on Easter morning to see the sunrise
and praise God for the ultimate "Son Rise".

Feeling much better now that he is all "caffeined up",
Doug motored us to Jost Van Dyke Island for a day of fun.

We hung out in the Bubbly Pool,
explored Sandy Cay,

... enjoyed the Soggy Dollar Bar and Grill's
delicious Mango Rum Punch,

... and snorkeled with sea turtles and sting rays
in Great Harbour.

When we took the dinghy into shore, we found a
community that had lost their church but is coming together to rebuild.
We hope that some of the money that we spent while visiting the BVI
can assist them in their efforts to bring back paradise.

Day 8 Water Sports Fun: Snorkeling Around The Indians and The Caves ... Skiing Behind the Dinghy ... Diving Contests ... Paddleboard Yoga ... Sunset Dinner at Pirates Bight ... The Best Souvenir ... Overnight in Norman Island Bay

Lots of opportunity to practice my snorkeling today
as we explored the waters around these rocks called
The Indians.

Next stop: The Caves.
Yes, we snorkeled into these openings in the rocks
and marveled at the many schools of colorful fish.

Next up: Stand Up Paddle Board "skiing"
behind the dinghy. I'm getting better ...

I think Dan sped up when Doug got on ...
he's not about to try and stand up.

Skill, grace, balance and a desire to get wet
is all that was needed as Barb and I did our
SUP Yoga routines.

Meanwhile, the boys had their diving competition.

How do we end up looking so good after being in the
water all day? A salt water bath, of course!
Soap up, jump in, and hope for the best.
Time for dinner at The Pirate's Bight.

After dinner, I struck up a conversation with a local man
who was enjoying the sunset with his precious 4 year old daughter.
As we started to talk, Jonia held out her arms to me.
It was so wonderful able to enjoy some "grandmother time" as Jonia's
dad told me about the health and developmental struggles she had
since being born prematurely weighing only 1 pound 14 ounces.

As I sang her songs, she smiled.
Her dad said that I reminded her
of her grandmother ... only
I am white :-)
What a great souvenir ... memories of
precious Jonia's smile and hugs!

Day 9 Heading Home: Sailing the Sir Francis Drake Channel ... Arriving Back At The Moorings Dock ... Heading Home ... Reflecting on The Blessing of RVirgin Voyage

By the last day Captain Dan had his crew trained in
so well that he could take a nap as we brought the
boat back into The Moorings dock.

Our early start gave us time for one last sail in the
Sir Francis Drake Channel before ...

... securing the bumpers with perfect clove hitch knots,

... and catching our "pond jumper" back home.

Yes, I have to admit that I was nervous going into this trip, but what a gift ... to be surrounded expert sailors and good friends!

We are grateful for Dan and Barb who gave us the support and encouragement to learn the skills, experience the fun, and enjoy the beautiful moments that made RVirgin Voyage to the BVI so memorable.

Until next time ... embrace those beautiful moments ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

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