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April 2007

Bait fish

 

We are snorkeling in about 10 feet of water but we can only see about four feet down.  Is the visibility that bad here in the Virgin Islands?  No, the tiny bait fish in the school below us are so thick we can’t see through them to the bottom.  In early April, we visited the British Virgin Islands (BVI) for the first time in our own boat.  We had enjoyed these islands on charter boat vacations several times, but visiting in our own boat and enjoying them at leisure was a treat.

 

 

Tiny bait fish at Great Camanoe

We had scheduled our time in the BVI to attend the Full Moon Party on April 2 at Bomba’s Surf Shack on Tortola.  Bomba’s is built on the beach from pieces of wood collected on the beach over the years.  It is appropriately named a shack.  Once a month on the night of the full moon, it draws a big crowd from Tortola and the surrounding islands.  For the Full Moon Party, a large outdoor area across the street from the beach is used to handle the crowds.  There is a wide variety of people and they are all having fun.  John left Ann alone for a few minutes.  When he returned, a tall dark and handsome young man in his twenties who worked as crew on one of the big yachts was in the process of telling Ann how beautiful she looked that night.  John walked up and all of a sudden the young man had to leave.  We had a great time people watching.

Reef in BVI

 

The diving and snorkeling are still superb in the BVI.  The bait fish that were so thick we couldn’t see the bottom were at Lee Bay on Great Camanoe Island.  The one inch long iridescent fish swim in huge schools that mold to the shape of the rocks they are swimming around.  The bait fish attract pelicans and other sea birds as well as larger fish.  As we snorkel along, we watch mackerel feeding on the small fish and are startled to meet a five foot long tarpon taking a survey of the bay.  We went scuba diving off the boat in thirty to fifty-five feet of water at the Indians near Norman Island.  While snorkeling at George Dog, we saw a lot of big fish including a four foot black barracuda.

Snorkeling on a reef in BVI

The Baths on Virgin Gorda

The BathsDuring previous charter trips to the BVI, we have always enjoyed the Baths on Virgin Gorda so a return trip to The Baths was high on our agenda.  The Baths are several miles of large granite boulders piled on top of each other at unique angles.  The angles form interesting pathways between the rocks where you can hike from one area to the other and where Caribbean waves rush in.  There are several “caves” formed within the structure and climbing up and over the rocks is a fun experience.  It has gotten crowded in recent years, so we left our anchorage early in the morning to arrive before the crowds and were surprised to pick up the last mooring ball just before 8:00 am.  Charter boats circled the area all day hoping for an empty mooring.  Commercial boats brought crowds of snorkelers.  We swam into shore from our mooring ball and enjoyed hiking through the rock formations, despite the large crowd of visitors.

Ann had always wanted to attend the Methodist Church on Jost Van Dyke, but our charter boat vacations had never given us the opportunity to attend.  The church is a small yellow building on the beach with a red roof and red shutters.  On Easter Sunday, we anchored in Great Harbor and went ashore for the Easter Service.  The church is small with permanent seating for about 40.   The service was filled with singing; however, there were no musical instruments, so all songs were sung a capella.  There are no musical scores included in the hymn book.  The books only include the verses to the songs and all verses were always sung.  We quietly sneaked out after two hours when the sermon ended without participating in the final two hymns and communion.

Bobby and Betty at Jost Van DykeBobby and Betty, Ann’s parents joined us in mid-April for a visit to the U. S. and British Virgin Islands.  We had a wonderful time sharing the cruising life and the many beautiful spots with them for more than 10 days on the boat.  They traveled 160 nautical miles through the Virgin Islands with us, visiting 9 different islands and stopping in 19 different anchorages.

Bobby and Betty met us at Crown Bay in St. Thomas and enjoyed watching the docking maneuvers of Queen Mary II early one morning.  We enjoyed the beautiful beaches at Maho and Francis Bay on St. John.  Betty was surprised at the large termite mounds that we frequently spotted in mangrove areas on St. John.  We hiked up to the Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins and enjoyed seeing the ruins of an old sugar mill and rum distillery.  After a walk up more than 167 steps at Maho Bay Campground, we were treated to a beautiful sunset and a Prime Rib dinner at the Maho Bay Campground.

Bobby and Betty on Jost Van Dyke

Betty and termite moundThe highlight of the trip for Bobby was an afternoon of snorkeling at Maho Bay.  The leisurely swim displayed beautiful coral and sea fans in brilliant purples and yellows.  We saw numerous tropical fish in all the brilliant colors.  As we made the turn to circle back to our starting point, we swam within a foot of a large sea turtle enjoying a meal.  We continued to follow the turtle at close range for over two minutes as he glided through the water.  It was a real treat to be so close to the turtle for so long, since most of the turtles we have seen are very shy and swim away quickly once they know we are around.

Another cruising experience we shared with Bobby and Betty was conching.  Bobby and Ann manned the dinghy while John dove down 25 feet to gather five conch at Salt Pond Bay on St. John.  The water was rough and John had to make several dives to find conch large enough to meet the legal fishing regulations.  After gathering the conch, we headed to the beach for conch cleaning.  John pierced the shells in just the right spot and Bobby helped pull the conch from the shell and pull off some of the conch “extras”.  Bobby learned quickly how slimy these conch can be and that the only way to rid your hands of the slime is to scrub them in the sand.  After cleaning away everything but the white muscle, we pounded the conch, soaked them in lime juice, and cooked up cracked conch for the crew.

Betty points to a giant termite mound

Bobby and Betty were amazed at the rock formations of The Baths and also enjoyed a quiet morning visit to Jost Van Dyke.  It was fun to people watch at the busy beach at Cane Garden Bay and later swim in the crystal clear waters while anchored with a stern line ashore at Little Harbor on Peter Island.

Sandy CayLeinster Bay

 

 

 

 

 

 Sandy Cay

 

View of BVI from Leinster Bay, St. John USVI


We stayed a week at a St. Thomas condo with Bobby and Betty.  Fifteen inches of rain that week limited our activities, but we were happy that the rain didn’t arrive until we were off the boat.  We said good-by to Bobby and Betty in Crown Bay on May 1 and we began to make our plans to quickly travel south to meet John’s daughter Ashley later in May.