December 2, 20016
Good Mawnin’ – I gon’ tell you some ting – dat trip was dee bes !!!
As you may know, we used to live in the islands – 3 years St. Croix, 7 years in St. Thomas, and 3 months in Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands, or BVI. We haven’t been back for about 5 years, so lots of changes. But what a trip — If you’ve never been, put it on your bucket list. The beauty is heavenly!!! For those of you interested in camping, I’ve included some info, as well as our sailing stops, and a few restaurant reviews.
It was a long haul to get to and from the boat. Four plane trips, 2 ferry rides. and countless taxis. We tried UBER for the first time, and it worked out very well, while still in the USA. I especially like that you know what it will cost before you start the trip. Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous taxi drivers who go out of their way to run-up the meter when you are clearly new in town. Not so with UBER – you can relax – no listening to that infernal meter tick-tick-ticking.
On Saturday, we arrived in Tortola. There used to be a campgound at Brewer’s Bay, but it seems to be no longer in existence. We are here to board our 50′ Catamaran for a week of sailing the islands. “Tennessee Waltz” would be our home.
The captain was my son Gene. The crew consisted of Gene’s wife Jenny, and my grandsons Timmy, Dan, and Matt. Also on board acting as crew were their friends the Cooks – Dad, Mom, and three sons, along with Tim and me. (Six boys, ranging in age from 6 to11). After a briefing for the captain and main crew, and a boat walk-through, we were on our way. First stop – Norman Island.
Norman Island is one of a number of islands reputed to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s pirate novel, Treasure Island. It is a well-known destination for cruisers and other tourists because of three sea-level caves at the base of cliffs.
The caves are ideal for snorkeling. There are no permanent inhabitants (other than wild goats), but there is a restaurant and bar named “Pirates Bight”. There is also an old schooner named the William Thornton, or “Willy T”, which operates as a bar and restaurant. The Willy T gets pretty rowdy, and is not suitable for small children. But we did explore the caves, and have dinner at the “Pirates Bight”.
Picture of “Pirate’s Bight”.
What the heck is a “bight”? For years I’ve heard and said that word, not knowing what it means. Well, in geography, a bight is a bend or curve in a coastline, river, or other geographical feature. It typically indicates a large, open bay. It is distinguished from a sound by being shallower. OK – now we all know.
There are no campgrounds on Norman Island.
On the second day, we snorkeled at The indians, then spent the night on a mooring at Cooper Island. The Indians are four rocky pinnacles that rise straight up, about 100′ from the ocean floor. It’s one of my favorite places to snorkel because it’s like being inside an aquarium. There are lots of blue tangs, parrotfish, cow fish, damsel fish, sergeant majors, jacks, queen angels, wrasse, trunk fish, and all the usual suspects, including an eel or two. If you’re lucky, you might spot a queen trigger fish. You need luck because they’ve been pretty much fished out. Unfortunately for them, they happen to be delicious.
This is a painting of a Queen Trigger Fish.
Cooper Island used to be an overnight stop without too many tourists. There was one building on the beach which served as a restaurant, and a dock that was home to more barracudas than I care to think about. There were also a few simple beach cottages for rent. Today, the island remains fairly simple, but the beach has tuned into a pretty large restaurant/bar complex. The barracudas have moved on. Although there is no campground on the island, staying in one of the cottages is more akin to camping than to a luxury resort, although a bit pricey.
Day three was an incredible day at The Baths on Virgin Gorda, and a night at Leverick Bay. There are no camping facilities on Virgin Gorda at this time.
The Baths are a result of geologic changes to granite that eroded into piles of boulders on the beach. The boulders form natural tidal pools, tunnels, arches, and scenic grottoes that are open to the sea. Since 1990, this area has been a BVI National Park.
Although it was a bit frightening getting onto the beach due to rough water, everyone had a great time exploring, climbing on the boulders, and swimming in the grottoes.
This it the Leverick Bay resort. They had good food, and a pool for the kids to play in. They even had a laundry that boaters could use – with six kids, you know we did laundry!
On Tuesday we put the sails up, and headed for Anegada, my favorite island. Here’s a photo of Matthew (age 7) at the helm with my son Gene.
Anegada was formed from coral and limestone. At its highest point the island is 28 feet above sea level. Anegada is 11 miles long and fringed with mile after mile of white sandy beaches. Named Anegada or the “Drowned Island” by the Spanish, Anegada is famous for its horseshoe reef that extends 10 miles, and has claimed over 200 known shipwrecks. It is quite a trek to get there – and tricky. There are many coral heads and odd currents that surround the island. It is also difficult to identify landmarks and dangerous reef areas, making Anegada off limits for many charter companies, and in fact, it was once advertised as the “Forbidden Cruise”. Since we owned our own boat, we traveled to Anegada back when there were no water markers. One person stood at the bow with a hook, and pointed the way through the reef. The hook was used to push away from coral heads, if necessary. It was really, really scary, but very exciting, especially when you made it safely through the reef to your anchoring spot. Today there is a well-marked channel into Setting Point so, with good weather and a vigilant crew, the trip to Anegada is delightful.
What makes it so great? The beaches – Cow Wreck, Loblolly, and Flash of Beauty to name a few. The restaurants. The friendly people. The flamingoes – yep, there is a flock of them. The fishing. The lobster. And oh yes, there is campground . Actually, it’s a “glampground” at the Anegada Beach Club. The resort features seven uniquely designed and beautifully appointed Beachfront Luxury Tents. The tents are raised above the dunes and overlook a pristine, powder sand beach. The rate is $300/night (yikes).
Picture of the outside –
and of the inside –
I did meet a young man who primitive camped on the dunes above the beach between Cow Wreck Beach and the Anegada Beach Club. He said that no one bothered him there, but the wind was very strong, and the bugs almost ate him up alive. Not for me!!!
Anegada is also known for the large salt ponds which cover much of the west end of the island. In the 1830s, thousands of Caribbean flamingos lived in these ponds, but they were hunted for food and feathers throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, and disappeared by 1950. Thankfully, they have been reestablished. As of 2016, the flamingo flock numbers approximately 200 birds. The birds are another tourist draw, but officials are trying to keep the number of visitors to the flamingo areas at a level that allows the birds to flourish. Observation decks have been built to keep people in one area only. if you are unaware of their existence and stumble across them, it is quite a shock – but a good one.
You may think a beach is a beach is a beach. I disagree. Check out Cow Wreck Beach.
And to think that just days ago, I was sitting there having a pina colada -ahhhhhh…
All the kids at Cow Wreck
From the left: Nolan, Danny, Mick, Matthew, Timmy, and Liam. The kid crew.
The sun is setting at Loblolly Bay –
Anegada has some of the best restaurants in the islands. Naturally, the specialty is seafood, with lobster as the star attraction. The Anegada Reef Hotel is usually our “go-to” place, the food is fabu.
The people are friendly, and are customer oriented. When we woke up on Wednesday morning at anchor, a small boat pulled alongside with a single passenger who began to belt out “Oh what a beautiful morning…”. Naturally, when he started singing, we all ran towards the sound, including the kids, to see who was singing. It was very cool. And then “Welcome to heaven on earth. My name is Sam, with a capital S, and I would like tell you a little about my restaurant. If you come for dinner, please call before 4pm to let us know you are coming, and if you go somewhere else, have a safe and wonderful time. But stop by to say hello”.
This is Sam –
I could write a book about Anegada, but I have move on to our next stop, Jost Van Dyke – White Bay during the day, and Great Harbour for dinner and overnight on a mooring.
Remember I told you we lived in Jost for a short while? Here’s a picture of White Bay.
Do you see the blue and pale green awning? OK – now look at the branch above it, partially obscuring a window. That window was in our apartment. Yep, I know – spectacular, right?
Also on this beach is Ivan’s Stress-Free Bar and White Bay Campground. Ivan has tents, bare sites and cabins.
After playing on the beach, we motored around to Great Harbour and moored. It was Thanksgiving Day, and I knew Foxys wouldn’t let us down. Correct ! On the menu was a full Thanksgiving dinner, and it was delicious. Everyone had a great time.
For our last day, we went to Monkey Point, on Guana Island. The snorkeling there is excellent.
On our way to Soper’s Hole, to moor for the night, we were rewarded with this gorgeous sight.
In the evening, we had one of the best meals we’ve ever had at a restaurant called Scaramouche. This is an extraordinary restaurant owned by a man from Italy named Roberto and his wife Chiara. Please see my review in Food Section.
On Saturday, it was time to return Tennessee Waltz. We got up very early and decided to snorkel The Indians one last time. The kids took turns jumping off of the bow, climbing the ladder, and doing it ll over again. So fun! We got back to the charter company in time for the 12:00 noon check-in. Thankfully, the boat was in perfect condition. The Reilly and Cook families headed to the airport for their trip home. Tim and I returned to St. Thomas for a few days to chill. It was an excellent vacation, with memories I’ll cherish forever.
Note#1: There are campgrounds in the United States Virgin Islands.
Water Island – a 7 minute ferry ride from St Thomas will bring you to the Virgin Islands Campground. It is an eco-sensitive resort with self-contained cottages.
St John –
Cinnamon Bay Campground – located inside Virgin Islands National Park. 40 rustic cottages, steps from the beach, platform tents and bare sites are available.
Maho Bay Campground – has 114 eco- tents on Maho Bay.
Concordia Eco-Resort – Concordia Eco-Resort offers two distinct types of accommodations – Eco-Tents that are wood framed, soft-sided structures. Units are available for the guest who prefers a more traditional room experience.
Ridge to Reef Farm – Agro-Eco Farm at the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute – the Virgin Islands’ only certified Organic and Green Globe destination – a sprawling 200-acre conservation forest farm with comfortable guest cabanas.
Mount Victory Camp – Handcrafted Bungalows on a homestead in St. Croix’s West End Rainforest. The handcrafted bungalows are made from local tropical hardwoods. This is “camping” at its most comfortable with handmade teak beds with linens, efficiency kitchens, and hot showers in a clean tiled bath house.
NOTE #2 – When we arrived in Tortola, I met two lovely young women, one from St. Croix, and one from St. Thomas. I told them I would mention them in my blog, because they have a great cause. Grace King is the founder of A.N.A.T.H.A. and Ywamle Sheridan is the Director of Operations. ANATHA is a non-profit organization, whose mission is to provide training, guidance, mentorship, and counsel to a adolescents facing the challenges of recovering from domestic abuse, substance abuse, as well as overcoming behavioral health conditions. They seek to empower, enhance, and educate to create honorable citizens in the USVI. Their website is www.anatha.org. Please support them if you are able.