Avast ye maties

BVI_20121114_551_Foxys_webOur final stop for the day was Great Harbor where we planned to go to Foxy’s after dinner to listen to music and dancing. On the way Brandon talked about some of his other trips and how they would have to vary their itinerary when they have kids on board (normally Tradewinds doesn’t allow children on the boat, but if a group rents the entire boat then they are welcome to bring them along).  They would have water balloon fights with the other boats or go on treasure hunts or maybe even do a little pirating!

We hopped in the dingy to head to shore. Coral Dreams was nearby eating dinner and we went and buzzed around them in our dinghy, doing a loop and rocking their boat. Apparently this is how the war started!

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Karaoke night at Foxy’s

It was karaoke night at Foxy’s and we sang a little although mostly they just played songs that we danced to.  After a while we were joined by the Coral Dreams group.

But it did take them a little while to get there… why did it take them so long???

 

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Pirates at work

Apparently while we were innocently enjoying pop hits, our sister ship was up to more mischievous deeds.  Our boat was left unguarded and Coral Dreams took advantage of our lax security and boarded.  They pirated away all of our wine and beer, stuffing it in sacks which the loaded onto their dinghy before slipping away into the darkness.

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No! Don’t take our wine!!

They then motored on over to Foxy’s to dance with us, not letting on to their roguishness.

It wasn’t until Brandon left early to go back to our boat that he discovered what had happened.  But he reraided their boat, retrieving our stolen goods and upping the anti by stealing their deck cushions and a bottle of amaretto, which apparently was the rogue captains favourite drink.

Later that night, the rest of us learned of what had happened.  Brandon stayed up late to fend off any further attacks.  It’s a good thing he did because they attempted another pirating but were thwarted by our brave captain.  In the spirit of friendship, Brandon did give them back their amaretto.

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The much loved Turkey Hat

But this was not the end of it.  We knew we had to get them back… so we devised our own plan of piracy.  The target was their boat mascot, the beloved turkey hat.

I got up the following morning a little before 6am.  Brandon was just finishing up the coffee and we knew it was time for our adventure.  Coral Dreams had been up late the night before and was certainly still sleeping.

We discussed out plan in hushed whispers on the back of our boat and then quickly boarded the dingy. The oars were velcroed to the bottom of the dingy, we unstrapped them and careful placed them in the water – I was very aware of every little splash that happened as we paddled. We reached the back of Coral Dreams and Brandon held on while I stepped off onto their boat – it was all in complete silence, we did not talk or make any unnecessary noise since we left our boat. I stepped into their dining area, the doors to the boat were wide open so I entered easily. I looked to the the right where Brandon said the turkey had should be hanging on a peg — nothing!! I scanned around the lounge and spied the hat on the other side. I grabbed it and slinked back out, stepping back into the dingy to a silently cheering Brandon. We quickly rowed away and were back at our boat in just a few minutes. The entire experience was very exciting.

We discussed our success with the rest of our boat as we enjoyed coffee around the breakfast table.  Coral Dreams didn’t even realize their beloved mascot was missing, but regardless, they were not done with us and quietly crossed the harbor, bravely boarding the front of our boat while we ate.  We didn’t even know they’d hit us until they were back in the dinghy, cheering their victory as they escaped with three of our lounging mats.

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Coral Dreams pirates approach and board Turqouise Dreams before making off with our deck cushions

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Brandon gobbling and showing them that we know how to pirate too

We quickly realized what had happened.  Brandon grabbed the turkey hat, running onto the front of the boat, gobbling, and showing off that we had a hostage.  Three of our deck cushions were missing, but Brandon had taken two of theirs the night before and he pulled them out of the deck storage area to show them what we had.  In the end we still had three mats and an empty space where the fourth mat should have been for the rest of our voyage.

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The crew of Turquoise Dreams watches as the pirates retreat with their ill-gotten booty. I think Brandon looks a little defeated, realizing he failed to protect our boat from being plundered.

Later that day at cocktail hour we poured ourselves some glasses of wine.  But something was just a little bit off… we quickly found that they had dumped out several bottles of wine and replaced the contents with seawater and soy sauce!

Darn you Coral Dreams!!!!

Tequila!


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Sandy hooks the mooring line.

Sandy hooks the mooring line.

After our success at Great Dog, we continued our journey across the sea to Beef Island.  Brandon and Monica knew of a fun little resturaunt in Trellis Bay.

It looks closed from the outside - but fun! fun! fun! on the inside!

It looks closed from the outside – but fun! fun! fun! on the inside!

We moored near the resturaunt and enjoyed our evening cocktail hour on the boat.  Then we cleaned up, I put on one of the two collared shirts I’d brought on this trip (note to self: bring an extra shirt or two next time!)  and we took a short dinghy ride across the bay to the resturaunt.

The Last Resort resturaunt

The Last Resort resturaunt

The Last Resort is a great little resturaunt on it’s own little island near the local airport… too near apparently – we were told the resturaunt will be shut down in the next few years to make room for the airport expansion 🙁

It appears that the resturaunt cat gets lots of attention from the patrons

It appears that the resturaunt cat gets lots of attention from the patrons

We enjoyed a nice dinner, took turns petting the resturaunt’s cat, and were entertained by a brilliant british entertainer who did a one man show playing songs and making jokes… and drinking tequila!!

Answer a question win a shot of tequila.  Request a song - win a shot of tequila.  Wear a hibiscus shirt - win a shot of tequila.  Yes the bottle was pretty much empty at the end of the night.

Answer a question win a shot of tequila. Request a song – win a shot of tequila. Wear a hibiscus shirt – win a shot of tequila. Yes the bottle was pretty much empty at the end of the night.

A bottle of Jose Cuervo sat on a tray surrounded by eight or nine plastic shot glasses.  The guy did a name that song game, and the winner was invited up to have a shot of tequila.  He also did a newlywed game, complete with shots for the participants and himself of course!  At one point he said anyone with a hibiscus shirt should come up and have a shot… that was me!!!

The crew from our sister ship, Coral Dreams, was there.  They had a turkey hat on which apparently is the ship’s mascot.  At one point the whole lot of them gobbled out loud towards the stage which caught the singer off guard.  The show was brilliantly funny and by the end of his act the bottle of tequila was nearly done.

After the show they played music and we danced until around 11.  Brandon ferried us back to the boat in small groups as we finished up for the night.

A school of five squid that I followed around for a while

A school of five squid that I followed around for a while

A whitespotted filefish

A whitespotted filefish

Wednesday morning we headed over to Monkey Point to do a little more snorkeling.  We swam around for about an hour and a half.  I continued my search for octopus (I never did find any on this trip) and ran into a cool little school of squid that I followed around for a while.

This large fella was hanging out below our boat.  I think it's a grouper?

This large fella was hanging out below our boat. I think it’s a grouper?

There was a big fish (a grouper maybe?) that was hanging around below our boat.  I swam down to get a better look but he shyly moved away whenever I got close.

a school of sergeant majors

a school of sergeant majors

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This little island was called Sandy Spit (no relation to my Sandy!)

We made a couple of stops in the afternoon.  One was at Sandy Spit which was a tiny little island with just enough sand to support some scrub brush and a couple of palm trees.

Swimming towards land

Sandy and Jamie out swimming towards Sandy Spit

Sandy, Galli, Sam, and I swam out and everyone else followed in the boat (and they brought cocktails!)  We hung about in the water for a bit enjoying the day before we headed back to the boat.

Monica was the perfect hostess, greeting us with tropical drinks as soon as we emerged from the surf onto the island

Soggy Dollar

Soggy Dollar bar – where the pain killer was invented

Next we sailed to White Bay where we went to the Soggy Dollar to have a pain killer!  This is the bar where the pain killer was invented – although Brandon said they must have lost the original recipe because it was a little different each time he had one.

 

Soggy Dollars

Hanging the money up to dry

Behind the bar was a line with clothes pins where the pinned up the wet soggy money from people who had swum to shore.

Our sister ship, Coral Dreams was there and we met up with them.

We barhopped to Gertrudes just down the beach and had bushwhackers.  There was writing all over the poles and roof… I borrowed a marker and left my own message…

Graffiti

 

BVI_20121114_533_Great_Harbor_webThe sun was starting to fade and it was time for us to move on so we boarded Turquoise Dreams and headed around the point to Great Harbor to settle in for a night of dancing and great mischief… but that’s another story…

The Mission at Great Dog

Snorkelers depart

Monica takes Sandy, Jamie, Sam, and Donna out to a nice snorkeling spot

After we left Virgin Gorda we motored across to Great Dog.  The seas were a little rough but after a little searching we found a nice spot on the far side of the island.  Sandy, Jamie, Sam, and Donna were going to go snorkeling.  They loaded up in the dinghy and Monica took them across to a snorkeling spot.

Galli, Brandon, and I had our own mission.  It was the second dive of our trip and somewhere out there was a sunken airplane waiting for us.


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Brandon knew the general area where the plane was supposed to be (40′ deep in a sandy area) but had never seen it himself.  He went out in the dinghy to scout but the viz wasn’t good enough to see down.

I think this is the only picture I have of Brandon with no smile.  He's directing Monica to where we will start our search for the plane.

I think this is the only picture I have of Brandon with no smile. He’s directing Monica to where we will start our search for the plane.

We decide to have Monica take us out and drop us abut where we thought it would be.  Galli, Brandon, and I loaded our gear onto the dinghy and Monica took us out.  We discussed the plan – go down and head out from land, then begin a grid search pattern.  Putting tanks on in the boat was a bit of a challenge – but Brandon helped and soon I did a rear rollover entry.  Before long we began our descent and search.

I saw several of these giant hermit crabs which inhabit conch shells

I saw several of these giant hermit crabs which inhabit conch shells

The three of us swam side by side with Brandon in the middle and Galli and I on the flanks.  We spread out some to maximize the area we could cover – Galli on the far end was just at the limit of what I could see.  We swam out and down to around 60′ – after a few minutes, Brandon had us turn.

We searched in a grid pattern, back and forth until this silhouette appeared.

We searched in a grid pattern, back and forth until this silhouette appeared.

I’m glad he knew where we were going because I quickly lost track of which direction land was.  We turned again and then a third time.  Then as we were swimming along I looked over at Brandon to see him excitedly cheering – looking ahead I could see the vague outline of the cockpit appearing from out of the haze.  Success!!

 

Here I am doing a swim through with a curious jack

Here I am doing a swim through with a curious jack

Chilaxing

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No worries… Just watching the world go by

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Galli enjoying some time to himself

Brandon taught us a new word on our trip.  Chilaxing.

Of course it was more than just a word.  It’s a state of mind.  And there is no better way to chilax than kicking back on the open seas and watching the clouds go by.  No bills.  No traffic.  The only noise is the sound of the waves splashing against the hull of the boat and the sails flapping in the wind.

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Sandy visiting with Chester. Much to her disappointment, Chester was not allowed to chilax on the open seas with us. But he was happy to great us when we got back!

I was surprised how little I thought of my previous life as I enjoyed this trip.

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Is there any better way to chilax than floating with your friends sipping tropical drinks?

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No, this wasn’t a mutiny. Sandy didn’t hijack the boat with thoughts of exploring the entire caribbean one island at a time. Okay… maybe the thoughts were there… and maybe that’s why she was so interested in taking some sailing lessons from Brandon…

Virgin Gorda’s two gas stations & more…

Drip, drip, drip…

It rained on us some Sunday night – we had to close the hatch which made it a little stuffy down below, although it still wasn’t too bad. Sandy got the worse end of the deal because there was a slight leak in the hatch directly above her. It was like chinese water torture… drip… drip… drip… Eventually we put a little towel over her.

Sandy enjoying some coffee as we motor up to the north end of Virgin Gorda

When we awoke Monday morning, the seas were a little rough. We could see the Baths from where we’d anchored and normally Brandon would throw us all in the dinghy and we’d speed across the water to be deposited on the beach there. But on shore there was a red flag out – and that meant the water was too rough to try and land there.

So we slowly motored down towards the end of the island. Unfortunately one of the motors was down because of a broken belt, so it was a slow ride. Not that I minded, most of us sat around on the front of the boat, watching the island go by and swapping stories. We saw Richard Branson’s private island – actually we saw two of them!

Our destination was Leverick Bay and as we got to the tip of Virgin Gorda, we had a choice to make. The seas were still a little rough, three foot swells rocking our boat around, as we studied a pass between the main Virgin Gorda and a smaller island. This would be the quick way – much quicker then continuing our slow trip all the way around.

Brandon is trying to decide if the sea’s are too rough to take the channel between Mosquito Island and Virgin Gorda – or should we play it safe and go around the long way.

But – of course there is a “but” – there was a catch. We could see the waves breaking all along the width of the pass. Obviously there was a reef between the two islands – was there a safe way through?? As we watched, we did see another, slightly smaller cat work it’s way through the pass – apparently there must have been a safe channel up against the main island. Brandon decided to play it safe though – especially with one engine down, it wasn’t worth the risk so we motored around the long way.

Once again, I didn’t mind the extra time. Galli and I sat on the side of the boat, watching the land pass before us. Sandy joined us after a bit and we watched as the waves crashed into the shoreline. As we approached Leverick Bay, you could see the water transform from rocky, choppy, and white capped to a smooth, calm sea in the protection of the bay.

Our first dinghy ride

We anchored and used the dinghy for the first time. Brandon motored us across to shore in two groups. We were picked up by Tiger who drove a large trolley-like open air taxi ($20 each). Tiger gave us a tour of the island as he drove us out to the Baths. The roads were steep and narrow with hairpin turns, steep dropoffs and everyone drove on the left. I tried not to watch the road (okay – it wasn’t really that bad!).

One of the bays we saw on our taxi ride

Tiger was separated up in the cab of the taxi but used a microphone to call out the names of bays, towns, and islands as the taxi climbed up the hill. We stopped at one overlook and everybody emptied out of the taxi to take pictures of the few houses and bays below us. Then Donna had Tiger use her camera to take a group picture – so we asked Tiger to do the same with our camera. Before long, there was a line of cameras waiting on the rail as Tiger patiently took each one, got us to smile, and took a group photo. We joked that afterwards we can compare all the pictures to see which camera is the best.

Enjoying our taxi tour of Virgin Gorda

Then we continued our tour. Tiger kept calling out the names of things as we passed. There’s the primary school. That’s an insurance company. This apartment complex using such and such color scheme. Here’s Sol – one of the island’s two gas stations, gas is $5.65 per gallon (or something like that – don’t remember the actual amount). Later we got to see the other gas station. I think most of us thought this was the best part of the taxi ride as we exchanged puzzled looks and laughed about the mundane sights that were being pointed out.

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Finally we arrived at the Baths. Here is a video of us exploring the baths and I’ve also compiled some pictures here.

BVI Tradewinds

Everyone on board claimed to have terrible memory – I’m sure we each secretly snuck into the lounge to study the passenger list.

Just a quick post while we’re on shore and I have a wireless connection.  Trip is great – there’s twelve of us altogether.  Captain and first mate (Brandon & Monica), a couple of trainees (Galli & Sam), English couple (David & Louise), friends from San Francisco (Donna & Jamie), and a couple from Mass (Steve & Nancy).

Sandy enjoying a cocktail as Brandon takes us out to sea

 Cabins are small but sufficient – you spend most of your time above deck anyway.  We’re spending a lot of time getting to know our shipmates – everybody is very friendly.  It’s really a great group to spend the week with.

From the left: Galli, Sam, Steve, Nancy, Louise, David, Donna, Bruce, Sandy, Jamie – Brandon and Monica are back on the boat enjoy a small break from the rest of us 🙂

The weather has been a little more rainy and windy than anticipated.  The seas are a bit choppy with 3-4 ft swells at times.  My fears of sea-sickness have not been realized and I’ve done extremely well during this trip (just took dramamine a couple of times when snorkeling).

Enjoying snacks on the front of the boat during the captains happy hour

Barracuda that was hanging out below our boat

We’ve done a few snorkeling trips and on sunday Brandon, Jamie, Galli, and myself went for nice dive.  Saw giant hermit crabs (in conch shells), loads of tarpin, parrotfish, spotted drum, lobster, conch, large schools of blue tangs.

There have been a few moon jelly’s around which made people nervous at first but they’re pretty harmless and we’ve gotten use to them.

 

 

I’ve also been working on my freediving skills while snorkeling which are vastly improved.  I can dive down and spend several seconds swimming across the bottom getting a close look at all the critters like this pufferfish.

Puffer swimming along the bottom

Brandon and Monica are fabulous hosts and at meal time we get to enjoy the many gourmet treats they prepare for us.

Breakfast- Yum! Yum!

Our first land trip of the week was on Virgin Gorda where we took a taxi to the Baths.  This is an unusual area where numerious granite blocks worked their way to the surface.

Ack – getting called back to the boat – one last quick picture of the baths.

The Baths

 

Turquoise Dreams

Looking at the tradewinds brochure and dreaming of more vacations

Our home for the next seven days was a 46′ long catamaran named Turquoise Dreams.  She was the first boat in the Tradewinds fleet… which might explain why Brandon spent so much time with a wrench in his hand (just kidding… despite a couple of hiccups that boat was in great shape and absolutely beautiful).  It had six cabins each with their own bathroom, a lounge inside the boat (which didn’t get used much because we were always outside), a kitchen where Monica and crew whipped up fabulous meals for us, a seating area outside where we would eat and hang out, and of course an expansive deck for laying out under the caribbean sun.

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Having a good time at Willy T’s

Our itinerary took us to 19 stops on 8 different islands across the BVI.  We snorkeled, swam, danced, pirated, sailed, and went from a group of strangers to good friends enjoying a dream vacation together.

Couple of big tarpin float alongside the ledge

We spent our first night at Peter’s Island and the next morning after breakfast we motored a short distance to Little Harbor where we did our first snorkel of the trip.  Sandy and I swam from the boat towards shore where we explored the reef which was just along the shore.  Some beautiful blue fans and corals (elkhorn & staghorn – I know two coral names!) were there along with an array of colorful fish.  After a bit we went back to the boat where I discovered a barracuda hanging out just below between the two hulls.  Galli told me of a ledge on the other side of the boat so i went out and explored along it. Saw some great fish – couple large tarpon, big puffer, french angels, scorpion fish (swimming).  Finally, Brandon called me back to the boat – it was time to move on.

Effective camoflauge – I only saw this little fellow because I saw him swimming just before he set down on the bottom

Brandon working the sails

So we unfurled the sails and this time let the wind carry us.  We lay around on the deck enjoying the breeze and getting to know each other.  Galli has told me some stories of doing boat deliveries – out at sea for 6 weeks at a time – sometimes not seeing another boat or land for two weeks at a time.  Boredom is a bit of a danger.  He must have learned to be a good listener on these trips because when he asked me about my job he appeared genuiley interested as I discussed computers and writing reports.

I also went on my first dive of the trip in Manchioneel Bay.  Brandon, Jamie, Galli, and I went down while the rest of our gang snorkeled about checking out the sea life closer to the surface.

Click here for more diving pictures.