The Bitter End, Virgin Gorda and Nanny Cay, Tortola

Virgin Gorda (The Baths and The Bitter End)

We spent 5 nights on Virgin Gorda. The first night in, after sailing for seven nights straight, we STILL were unable to touch land! We were stuck onboard our boat because we could not clear customs in time. We were in “quarantine” which meant we had to hang a yellow flag. It also meant people weren’t supposed to talk to us until we were officially paid up and welcomed into the country. At least it was cheap—only about $9 for us to clear customs in the BVIs (compared to $320 in the Bahamas!). Which leads me to one funny side story…we had been waiting for our weather window in NC for a few days and when it was time to go, we had to GO. We left like we were new members of the witness protection program—I canceled my cellular plan after we left dock and started sailing, and we didn’t even go to the bank to get money. I guess I wasn’t thinking we would need American dollars out at sea, but with an unexpected stop in the Bahamas, I was clearly wrong. We attempted to clear customs and you have to have $320 in CASH. Our first question: “Is there an ATM around here?” Response: “No.” We sat there for a minute, and asked our kids: “Do you guys have any money?” Well, Ryan had a bunch of cash in his lockbox but he didn’t know where the key was. Dan and Ryan had to go back to the boat and break into Ryan’s lockbox to pay for customs. That was a great parenting moment! And the next day, we had to borrow Ari’s money for something because—still—no ATM. Yeah, yeah, they’re paid back now, but we felt like fugitives for a little bit…

Before we started out from Beaufort, NC, we had signed up with the “Salty Dawgs,” a group that leaves from Hampton, VA and surrounding areas to sail to Virgin Gorda. Even though we never were able to meet anyone from this group prior to departure, we knew we would get to place faces with HF radio transmissions of their boat names when we finally arrived. We did not know that folks from the group would be so nice and so helpful. Our dinghy had a fast leak—actually, our dinghy had a few large leaks. Initially, we didn’t want to try to duct tape it because we didn’t want to have extra difficulty patching it up properly. We woke up on Day 2 of arrival into the BVIs and realized just how bad our dinghy was and so on the scheduled VHF call in the morning with the Salty Dawgs, we asked if anyone had a patch kit we could borrow until we got cleared into the country and could go into town to replace it. Phil and Judy from Rum Runner offered up their patch kit for our use—and we had never even met them. Not only that, they brought the patch kit over to our boat, and upon learning of our situation, took Dan over to customs in their dinghy. That was incredibly nice of them. Our second night in, upon hearing of our dinghy woes, Paul and Gwen from Blue Skies agreed to pick us up at our anchored boat and transport us in for happy hour and dinner with the group. They did this without ever having met us, and also brought us home! The Salty Dawg sailors are an amazing group of people, and we had so much fun with them at happy hour and at the welcoming dinner a few nights later.

The next day, we decided to take Do Over to Spanish Town and to get good Internet so we could connect with family and research where we could purchase a new dinghy. We realized the dinghy was in rough shape, and since it is essentially the family car for the next two and a half years, we figured we needed one that was reliable. Anyway, after researching it, we decided we would purchase one in Nanny Cay, Tortola when we get there. Our motor is good (thanks to Dan’s dad who gave us his), but a new dinghy will probably cost about $3,800. Ah, the joys (and expenses) of cruising!

The next day, we took our boat over to a day mooring at The Baths, dinghied in to the dinghy line (duct tape can only do so much; Dan and I got a lot of exercise pumping up the dinghy), and swam to shore. It was actually a pretty tough swim because the seas were a bit rough, so I was glad we “strongly recommended” to Ryan that he wear a life jacket. My little heart was beating out of my chest by the time we made it through the surf to shore!

This is when the fun really started. Only Dan had been to The Baths previously, and for Ari, Ryan and me, it was a great new adventure. Interestingly, Ryan loved it so much, he proclaimed that it was absolutely the most fun place we have ever been to while traveling (with second place going to Universal Studios). That is a great endorsement from Ryan, especially since we’ve been traveling to fun and foreign places since he was a baby.

Here are a bunch of photos of The Baths:

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Tired boy with a head full of sand…

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On the way back through the Baths, Dan decided to make it even more fun for the kids by taking them “off the beaten path” through smaller crevices that they “discovered” as they went along (and that a lot of adults would never try to squeeze through). That added to Ryan’s enjoyment of the place—and Ariana was also impressed (as was I).

We finished our day with a drink at the bar and the arduous swim back to our dinghy. It was a nice day.

The next day we cleaned in the morning and relaxed at the Bitter End resort pool in the afternoon. We finished out the day with the Welcoming Dinner with the Salty Dawgs. There were about 90 people there, and most of them sailed down within the last week or two. It was a nice night.  Here we are on our way.  Never mess with a dressed up woman driving her dinghy…

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Here is an unclear photo of us helping to thank the organizers of the rally, who had not yet made it to the BVIs (a crew member put water in their fuel tank!).

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The next morning, this was our view from our anchored boat:

Goat

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After watching goats, the kids did school, and in the afternoon we kayaked to shore (we have two double, inflatable kayaks), and then hiked up through the hills to the Fat Virgin Restaurant. On our hike, there was a lot of cactus, troops of butterflies, and the most amazing caterpillars we had ever seen.

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At the Fat Virgin.  I tried Banana Catsup.  It wasn’t too bad!

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Between the kayaking and the hiking, we were pretty tired when we got back to the boat. I made some dinner with some freshly baked bread we picked up at the Bitter End Emporium, and we relaxed.

We have more errands and boat issues to figure out, but we are finally starting to relax a bit and have some fun. It is so wonderful…

Nanny Cay and Sea Cow Bay, Tortola

Well, we have been in Tortola since Tuesday, which makes it already 5 days. This is not the greatest place on earth because the water all around us is not very inviting for swimming and snorkeling. But, we had a few reasons for coming this way. First, Ariana is getting scuba certified here. It is a lot less money than the resorty Bitter End and the dive shop here is rated quite highly. So, we need to stay about a week for her to get it done.

Nanny Cay Beach Bar

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In addition, we met up with Bob and Lori on Barbara Jean who will also be doing the World ARC with us starting in St. Lucia in January. We had met them at the ARC seminar in Annapolis earlier this year so it was fun to see them again. For Thanksgiving dinner, we ended up joining Bob and Lori and the other Carib 1500 rally folks for a potluck right above the beach.   There was a turkey, a ham, chicken, and many other foods for dinner and it was really nice!

Everyone had to bring a dish or two to share and their own silverware and plates for dinner. After dinner, I asked Ryan to rinse the plates down in the water on the beach and he came back minus a fork and a knife. Darn! I only have so much silverware on our boat!  We may be eating everything with spoons by the time we hit Fiji.

After dinner, a handful of us went to Captain Mulligan’s to watch American football on the HUGE screen. Biggest screen I have ever seen. I got to see the Panthers beat the Cowboys and remain undefeated this season while drinking Painkillers. All in all, not a bad Thanksgiving.

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Today, Dan and I went on a steep walk before the kids were even up. There is this hill here that is so incredibly steep, it puts all others I have been on to shame. Coming down, I had to walk slanted backwards. Then we rallied the kids and took the dinghy over to Road Town here on Tortola. There was a European cruise ship in town that I didn’t think would be there (on the website, it showed no cruise ships in town here today). It wasn’t too badly inundated with tourists though. We just walked around for a few hours enjoying the side streets and checking everything out. We ended up having lunch there, doing some grocery shopping and heading back in the afternoon.

A mom and her babies…

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Ari has diving again tomorrow. On her first open water dive, not only did she see colorful, tropical fish, but she saw a Caribbean reef shark and three sea turtles! I was so excited for her, but Ari was less than enthralled. What?!! On my first certification dive in cold, coastal San Diego with a mucky dirt bottom, I saw dirt. And I was happy to see it. And this was after I accidentally grabbed my scuba instructor in his private parts getting over the surf. (Note: I was not happy I did THAT.) I also walked uphill to school both ways in two feet of snow with ill-fitting shoes when I was a kid…

Anyway, when I pointed out to Ariana how rare it is to see such cool things on a first dive and that I was shocked she wasn’t more excited, she said she was excited to see them but she was just tired. Teenager thing? I hope her enthusiasm for scuba grows. It is an incredible world down there!

Ariana is going to sail Optis with the local yacht club here in Tortola tomorrow afternoon too; she IS very excited to do that. So her social calendar includes diving (and testing) from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. followed by sailing from 3:30 to 6. My social calendar includes shuffling Ariana to her “sports.” I thought we were going to be getting away from that when we left the States! 😉 Hopefully, we can get Ryan to sail tomorrow too. So far, he says no. I am not sure why he doesn’t love it as much as his sister…