We've arrived in Tortola! We had to change planes in San Juan and the 40-minute flight to the British Virgin Islands took us over many of the islands we hope to visit this week. The water looks wonderful and the beaches!!! We can't wait!!!
A van was waiting for us at the airport. There was plenty of room for all of our bags and us and we had a comfortable ride to the marina, where Fantasy Island was waiting for us. She was easy to find, as she dwarfed all of the other boats. What a beauty! Photos don't do her justice. The crew was waiting for us with welcome-aboard drinks and a light lunch, making us all feel comfortable right away.
After lunch we were off on our adventure! In just minutes we were under full sail, speeding toward an island in the distance that Laila said was Jost Van Dyke. We marveled at how quickly and easily we sped through the water with very little of the rocking motion we'd associated with sailboats in the past.
We bypassed Great Harbour, (Foxy's is located there) because it looked a little crowded in the anchorage and instead we sailed onward to White Bay, motored through a narrow opening in the reef and anchored in shallow water with a white sand bottom. What a beautiful spot! On one side of us was a colorful coral reef with lots of fishes, and on the other, a wonderful sandy beach. We couldn't decide whether to go snorkeling on the reef or walk on the beach, so we did both!
Dinner was wonderful. After a selection of hot appetizers including Brie cheese wrapped in phyllo pastry, Clive grilled steaks for us on the barbeque while Laila stir-fried a vegetable medley to go with them that created beautiful visual appeal. (She commented that first we eat with our nose, then with our eyes and finally with our mouths.) We had a Australian Shiraz wine with dinner ' a wine from South Africa that I hadn't heard of before. Dessert was a delicious chocolate mousse that Laila somehow whipped up during the sail over from Tortola.
We were planning to visit Foxy's in the dinghy after dinner, but by then we were all so relaxed we decided to just stay on the boat, listen to some music and leave Foxy's for another trip. After a couple of after dinner cordials we all turned in early looking forward to tomorrow's adventures.
Despite our good intentions we didn't get up until 9. Tomorrow we'll do better! Laila had fresh-baked muffins, cereals, coffee and juice out for early risers, then produced Nutty Pancakes with orange butter and nutmeg syrup for a sit-down breakfast after we'd all opened our eyes. As if by magic, all of our cabins were cleaned and the beds made while we were having breakfast. Jim and Matt wanted to have another look at the reef with its colorful tropical fish, and so did John and Freddy, so we decided to delay our departure until after lunch. Bill and Trudy took the small dinghy to the beach and bought some nice souvenirs at a small hotel at the other end of the bay. Then we all went ashore and hiked over the hill to get a little exercise and to have a look at Foxy's. We bought some tee shirts and vowed to return there for his weekly pig roast next year.
In the afternoon we sailed to Marina Cay, just off the eastern tip of Tortola. It is a small island surrounded on one side by a big reef, which protects the anchorage making it nice and calm. We went ashore for drinks during happy hour and enjoyed listening to Michael "Beans" Gardner, a one-man band who plays guitar and harmonica and keeps time by stamping on a case of Heineken. He reminded us of Jimmy Buffet and had us laughing at his outrageous songs and banter. We swaggered back to the boat saying "Arrr" a lot. (What's the last letter in the Pirate alphabet' "Arr...") We had a chilled soup, rack of lamb for dinner with a Kiwi-Mango cheese cake for dessert. Yum!!
Today we managed to get up a little earlier ' all except Bill and Trudy that is ' who didn't show until mid-morning. We had scrambled eggs and bacon, fresh breads and fruits for breakfast then raised the sails and were off for Virgin Gorda. On the way we passed several large monohull sailboats upwind. John, who has sailed all of his life, was amazed that we were actually pointing higher into the wind than the monohulls, sailing at 9 to 10 knots in a 15 to 20 knot breeze while our drinks sat on the table safe and sound, with no intention of moving from their appointed places. We passed the monohulls like they were standing still! Matt steered much of the way there with Clive's help. Clive is a patient teacher and Matt is learning fast! We sailed up to North Sound and anchored near The Bitter End Resort. Maynard and Evie took the small dinghy to go see Biras Creek, where friends of theirs stayed last year. I joined Jim and our son Matt on a kayaking trip around the harbor while the rest of our group went around the point with Clive to scuba-dive on the outer reef.
Sarah took Matt tubing behind the dinghy, too. He's got so much to do he's having more fun than he did on our trip to Disneyland last year! Later in the afternoon we spent some time at the Bitter End Resort, had a drink ashore then returned to Fantasy Island for dinner. Clive took us out of the main anchorage to a remote area behind the outer reef (bareboats aren't allowed here so it wasn't crowded at all) and we anchored here for the night, perfectly sheltered from the waves but with the gentle sound of surf in the background. What a relaxing sound. There was a nice breeze and we decided to turn off the generators and enjoy the peace and quiet of this beautiful place. There was a new moon today and I don't think I've ever seen so many stars! We lay on the trampoline with Irish coffees, trying to identify the constellations. John identified the most and so we voted him honorary captain for the sail to Anegada tomorrow.
We had a light breakfast so we could get an early start for Anegada, sailing past Necker Island on the way out. Necker Island is a small private island owned by Richard Branson, who owns Virgin Airlines, originally developed as a retreat for family and friends. It has become one of the most exclusive and luxurious vacation spots in the world renting for $26,000 per day, but we all decided that the view from Fantasy Island was better, and that we were probably having more fun than their guests were.
John said that the last time he sailed to Anegada it took him about 4-1/2 hours to get there but it only took us around 2 hours, not counting the stop for some snorkeling and scuba diving on Anegada's famous reef along the way. The reef was just opened up to recreational snorkeling and diving recently, having been off-limits for several years, and the coral is magnificent!! We sailed all the way up to the end of Anegada, anchored off the eastern point and took the dinghy around the corner, where we found a seemingly endless beach with nobody in sight and great snorkeling on the reef just offshore! Clive had to drag us away to return to the yacht in time to take her back to the Anegada Reef hotel, where we went ashore for a fresh-caught lobster dinner to give Laila a well-deserved night off. The crew works so seamlessly and efficiently that keeping the boat clean and running well seems effortless, but we all know that they are really working their tails off from dawn till after dark and appreciate the great service and the ever-present smiles. The lobsters were huge and delicious.
Today we had a fast and relaxing down-wind sail back from Anegada. We almost decided to return to that beach on the other side of the island ' we could have easily spent another a full day there, but decided that we'd save it for another trip ' something else we could look forward to.
In no time we were back at Virgin Gorda, where Clive took us ashore at Leverick Bay and arranged for a taxi to take us on a tour of the island, which is about 10 miles long. Our driver first took us up to Virgin Gorda Peak, where we had a great view of North Sound and the surrounding islands, then we stopped at Little Dix Bay, a five star resort (we still like Fantasy Island better!). We stopped at the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor marina for lunch at a local English-style pub and picked up a few odds and ends at the various stores located there. Next we drove to a bar high on a hill overlooking The Baths (we'll go there by boat tomorrow) where we had refreshing Pina Colladas, and finally to the end of the island at Copper Mine Point. The cab returned us to Savanna Bay, where Fantasy Island was waiting for us at anchor - Another perfect spot with a reef on one side and a long, perfect sand beach on the other. Clive brought the dinghy in and picked us up right on the beach. The scuba divers went diving with Laila while Jim, Matt and I enjoyed some water-skiing and tubing. Clive promised to teach Matt to windsurf tomorrow. Dinner consisted of Caesar Salad, broiled mahi-mahi with caviar butter, and key lime pie for dessert. Tonight Jim and I decided to turn in early and watch a movie in bed. Jim picked "The Deep" which we'd never seen. It was of particular interest because the underwater scenes were filmed on the wreck of the Rhone, which the others will be diving on tomorrow.
We woke up at before 7 in the morning. We were already under way and Laila was preparing breakfast, which we ate while sailing down the coast of Virgin Gorda. We arrived at the baths before 8 and went ashore to beat the crowds. We were the first ones there and had a great time climbing between the huge rocks and bathing in the natural pools that they formed. We found the trail to Devil's Bay and went there for a swim, then returned to the boat just as dozens of others boats were starting to arrive. We sailed down past Ginger and Cooper Islands and anchored in the lee of Salt Island where we went ashore, met the small local community and were shown around the salt pond, which still produces a small amount of sea salt and provides a bag a year to the Queen of England as rent. The divers went off with Clive to dive on the wreck of The Rhone, a Royal Mail steamer that sunk during a hurricane and the most famous wreck in the BVI. She lies in two main pieces in 35 to 110 feet of water off the southeastern tip of the island. They came back raving about the dive, which was the highlight of the trip as far as they were concerned.
We anchored at Peter Island later in the afternoon and Matt finally got his Windsurfing lesson while Jim and I followed him in a kayak. Maynard, Evie and Bill went diving while John, Freddy and Trudy decided to take it easy. Tonight we had stuffed mushrooms for an appetizer, then BBQ jumbo shrimp-kebabs with couscous and blackbean salsa. Laila whipped up decandent vanilla hearts for dessert (where does she find the time to do all this??)
In the morning we moved around the corner to half-moon bay, a picture-perfect anchorage with a crescent-shaped beach kept in immaculate condition by the Peter Island Yacht Club. We took the dinghy ashore, walked to the hotel, shopped for a few souvenirs and then had a swim before returning to Fantasy Island for lunch consisting of cheeseburgers in Paradise (gourmet edition), a garden salad and another of Laila's fresh-baked breads.
That afternoon we sailed to Norman Island where we spent time trying out the wakeboard (challenging but fun), windsurfing and visiting the caves around the corner of the island. At the caves, schools of fish surround you looking for a handout when you jump in the water. John and Freddy, our dyed-in-the wool scuba enthusiasts, took one last shallow-water dive off the point, as they don't fly out until late Sunday afternoon.
For dinner, Laila and Sarah pulled out all of the stops. First a delicious local pumpkin soup, then a West Indian curried pork tenderloin in pineapple boats with native vegetables, and a fresh-baked apple pie for dessert (Jim's favorite ' and a special request). We selected a sparkling rose wine for the meal. After dinner we enjoyed good company and a variety of after-dinner liqueurs before turning in for our final night on board.
I can't believe the week is over already! Today we had Coconut 'n Rum french toast for breakfast, and then sailed over to The Indians for one last snorkel before returning to the dock. There are so many places that we didn't have time to visit. Next time, Maynard wants to try some bone fishing at Anegada and we all want to spend more time at that fabulous beach on the far side of the island. We didn't dive and snorkel at Lee Bay, one of the spots our friends recommended to us, nor did we get to visit Green Cay or Sandy Cay off Jost Van Dyke, snorkel the Dog Islands, or visit the infamous "Willy T", a raucous floating bar and restaurant, while we were at Norman Island. Next time we also want to anchor overnight at Great Caminoe where there's a small bay behind a reef that only two or three boats can visit at a time, rent a jeep to tour Tortola on our own, visit Cane Garden Bay and spend the evening ashore listening to Quito Rhymer and'the list goes on. Next time Matt and I will probably have our scuba certification and we'll all do more diving, too. This was unquestionably the best vacation any of us has ever taken! Sarah packed us goodie bags to supplement the airplane food (or lack of it) and sadly we all said goodbye to Fantasy Island, Clive, Laila and Sarah as our taxi waited.
We couldn't imagine a better yacht, a better crew or a better time and we're already starting to make plans to come back again next year.