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Settling into Paradise

January 4th, 2002

Happy New Years from the Islands. First let me apologize for the long pause since the last entry. I could say that we have just been having too much fun to write, and it wouldn't be far from the truth. But, the real reason I have not updated the site in almost two weeks is that the inverter (used to convert DC current into AC current) on the boat gave up the ghost, meaning I had no way of charging the computer. We should be back in business since our friend Les has brought a new inverter with him from the states.

We arrived in Virgin Gorda on the 15th of December, and opted to head into the Yacht Harbour for a night of rest while tied up to a dock. We enjoyed long hot showers, toasted our successful voyage, and treated ourselves to a dinner cooked by someone else!

Snorkeling, the thing we were most keen on doing, had to wait until the following day. Our first dive destination was the Dogs, a few rocky islands off the northwest coast of Virgin Gorda. Only seconds after we picked up a mooring and shut off the engine all three of us had donned our masks and snorkels, and flopped into the blue-green water. Sam headed off to check out a wreck he found in about 15 feet of water. Miranda and I watched the blue tangs, as a barracuda watched us. It was wonderful to find the snorkeling as awe inspiring as ever. I've always found being in that underwater world greatly relaxing, for it so completely separates one from everyday life.

We quickly discovered that food in the British Virgin Islands is not cheap, but the alcohol certainly is! So, Sam and I hatched a new plan, we would drink all our meals from now on. It was getting on towards happy hour and we decided a post snorkeling gin and tonic was in order. We saved the rum and cokes for dinner, with Bailey's Irish Cream for dessert.

Before dinner we hopped over to Trellis bay on Beef Island, which is on the north end of Tortola. This geography will make little sense to you unless you have sailed in the Virgin Islands or are looking at a chart. And for the first couple of days I found it all very confusing myself, mostly because the islands are all so close together. I would look at the chart to figure a rough time to our next destination, and looking back up I would find it already in plain view only a few minutes away. The Virgin Islands are idyllic for sailing, for not only is the setting beautiful, and the weather consistently wonderful, but the wind is always from the same direction, the anchorages are numerous, and the islands are a stones throw from each other.

Miranda, who was having second thoughts about this sailing stuff after a rough passage at sea, found herself tacking between islands, and loving it. In fact just a few days after we arrived we headed over to some rocky outcrops, called the Indians, for some snorkeling. Under sail alone, Miranda did a perfect job of picking up a mooring ball. Sailing up to it on a beam reach she headed up just at the right moment, coming to a stop right on top of the mooring and greatly impressing the charter boats all around us.

The next few days were filled with sailing and snorkeling as we leisurely headed downwind (west) toward St. Thomas. A few days before we arrived in St. Thomas we were sitting in Hurricane Hole, a beautiful little anchorage on the south side of St. John. Sam managed to tack Baggywrinkle up into the anchorage under sail, and he did a beautiful job anchoring without disturbing the other boats with a noisy engine. Tucked up in the cove we were surrounded by mangrove covered hills. We ate breakfast and swam in a morning rain shower as the goats on the hillside watched us and bleeted away. I then tackled the job of unclogging the marine head, which didn't seem such an awful job in this lovely setting - but it wasn't fun!

Checking the e-mail before we departed we received some bad news and the real world quickly invaded our paradise. Sam's girlfriend who was supposed to be joining us on Christmas day would not be coming because her mother was ill, and not doing well. Sam decided he would return home earlier than planned in order to be with her. So, we headed back to St. Thomas in a somber mood.

Luckily we have some wonderful friends in St. Thomas who were amazingly helpful. Ed and Carolyn gave us a place to stay, transportation, and more. Plus they were most wonderful in helping Sam change his ticket so he could depart the next day. We were very sad to see him go, as he had been a wonderful crew member providing not only expert sailing skill, but plenty of entertainment and joy along the way.

Miranda and I spent the week leading up to Christmas in Ed and Carolyn's condo on Cowpet Bay. It was a treat to have daily showers, laundry facilities, a flushing toilet, and a fridge and dishwasher. We enjoyed the luxury, and caught up with world events through cable TV. Miranda even managed to make herself a little Christmas tree out of a poinsettia plant surrounded by gifts. On Christmas morning we awoke and openend our well traveled presents. They had made the trip first from Australia and then over the ocean. We recieved some good books and Miranda got great new bathers (see the pics). Christmas day we went with Ed and Carolyn up to the Curerri's who have a beautiful Mediterranean home on the peak of St. Thomas which overlooked both sides of the island. It was a wonderful day filled with opening more presents, eating a delicious turkey with all the fixings, meeting some of the 40 people who were gathered there, and making new friends.

We met an interesting woman named Cara, who moved down to the islands a few years ago after living for many years in DC. We ended up talking for some time and later getting together a few times for dinner. Making new friends is one of the joys of cruising that we are enjoying most.

Getting back on the boat took a little adjustment as it was just the two of us now. The additional space was very nice, and it was good to be back home after time away from the boat. Once we were back aboard we motored up to Jost Van Dyke and Foxy's, a beach bar with a notorious New Years celebration. But, it was only December 28th so we had a few days to wait. We spent a couple days exploring the island, walking over to the beautiful beach in White Bay for lunch at Jewel's beach bar, and taking hikes up the mountainside to watch the sunrise. But Jost is a small island and we were both starting to get antsy thinking about the prospect of spending another two days in the same spot.

Fortunately, on shore that very evening, we ran into some of the friends we made on Christmas day. They were heading up to Virgin Gorda Sound for New Years, and invited us to come along. It took us a couple of days to hop our way windward to our destination and we met up with them at each point along the way for the night. New Years Eve day we anchored between Saba Rock and The Bitter End in Gorda Sound. There were 5 boats rafted together, and at least 25 aboard the flotilla. There were plenty of toys aboard the various boats, and some people snorkeled while others windsurfed. Miranda gave the windsurfing a try for the first time, managing to get up a number of times and get a feel for the board. Another try and she'll be jumping through the surf.

As New Years approached we ate a beautiful dinner aboard Cranberry Gull (see pics), and quickly cleared the decks for some dancing. We could hear the bands ashore, a salsa band at Saba Rock and a reggae band at The Bitter End. We opted for reggae, and were all soon ashore dancing in the new year.

New Years Day started a little slowly, but got rocking once we decided what the plan was. Some people decided that the best option was sitting on the boat and doing as little as possible, and some of us chose to take a couple of speed boats out to Anagada reef for some snorkeling and lobster hunting. This was a real treat, as riding in a speed boat is a complete contrast from sailing. At 30 knots we were 15 miles out in about half an hour, and the snorkeling on the third largest reef in the world was amazing. There was a great diversity of fish, the terrain of the coral was spectacular, and we managed to spot and swim alongside a sea turtle for a few minutes.

Back at the boats we ate a quick lunch and got ready to cast off our lines. The flotilla was headed down to Norman Island for an afternoon aboard a floating bar called the Willy T. We on the other hand planned to head up to Anagada the next day.

The sail to Anagada was a beautiful beam reach. What had taken only a few minutes in the speed boat, took us a good two hours. But, it was a lovely sail and I would have been happy to have done it all day. We threaded our way through the coral heads and into the anchorage only turning on the engine to find a spot to anchor among the many other boats already there. It was afternoon by the time we arrived, and a swim plus a nap meant that it was dusk by the time we got ashore. We didn't see a lot of the island, but we managed to find a spot for a lovely lobster dinner on the north side of the island at Cow Wreck Beach Bar and Grill. Fighting the mozzies off we dinghyed back to the boat and fell fast asleep.