Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Bitter End Yacht Club

The Bitter End Yacht Club main building

Chris, Steve, and Lynn strolling by the beach
If you’ve ever read a cruising magazine, you’ve heard of the Bitter End Yacht Club and Resort, supposedly THE place to go in Gorda Sound if you’re a cruiser.  Being contrary, and knowing that a place’s prices usually match the size of its reputation, Chris and I had no intention of going there, but Steve and Lynn invited us along with them to walk around the resort grounds.  I’m glad we went; the place is beautiful!  The landscaping is lush and colorful and very natural-feeling.  The lobby and restaurant were open buildings with lots of carved dark wood.  The resort is isolated – you can only get there by boat or on the ferry – in a lovely area of green hills and blue water.  They had lots to do: sailing hiking, swimming, a pool with a bar (of course!).  But you know, no one at the resort looked happy, neither staff nor guests.  We smiled and said hi to everyone we met in our stroll around the grounds, but I think only two people said hi back, and forget about smiling.  So being in paradise can’t make you happy if you don’t want to be.  And those prices – waaaay up there!

Gorgeous plumeria blooms

British Virgin Islands

The pastel waterfront at Soper's Hole

If possible, the BVIs were even prettier than the USVIs.  We checked in at Soper’s Hole, a colorful little town on the water in Tortola, then sailed and anchored our way up the chain.  One highlight was The Baths on the south end of Virgin Gorda.  The Baths are a jumble of house-sized granite boulders on and in the water.  There’s a trail that leads you under and over and through the boulders to a pretty little bay at the other end.  Along the way is a dim grotto with knee- to waist-deep water, some wooden stairs to get you over rough patches, and a thick rope to haul yourself up a steep and sandy boulder.  Fantastic!  We had moored a couple of small bays away and snorkeled over to The Baths over fields of similarly huge boulders – covered with corals and sponges and swarming with fish – that littered the sandy bottom.  This spot exceeded our expectations, which is always nice.  We saw numerous megayachts, both motor and sail.  They're beautiful, but too much luxury, don't you think?  I don't know about you, but I'd get too spoiled.  One drawback of the BVIs: it’s a HUGE area for charter sailboats.  At least the boats are labeled well so you can be wary.  It’s kind of like when you’re driving and you come upon a car with a “Student Driver” sign – you tend to avoid it.  Some people chartering boats know what they’re doing and are just fine.  Others….well, like I said, it pays to be wary.
This megayacht whizzed by us and out into the Atlantic
Sweet faces outside the market

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Beautiful Views

Sometimes the views here are just breathtaking.  This is a view from the Annaberg sugarmill ruins across The Narrows between the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.  I just love the colors.

St. John Wildlife

White-cheeked pintail ducks
We had some good terrestrial wildlife sightings on St. John: white-tailed deer, lizards, birds, and even mongoose (which were imported long ago to deal with the rats eating the sugar cane, but which since have been eating other things like bird eggs, turtle eggs, snakes…don’t get me going on the downfalls of importing one pest to take care of another).  Anyway, here are some of the critters.
Huge termite nest in tree

St. John, A Land And Sea Wonderland

Much of St. John, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is parkland, so we enjoyed our time there in the water and on land.  We anchored in Francis Bay, which has a lovely beach on which we, in company with our friends Steve and Lynn on Celebration, enjoyed a sunset happy hour.  We also explored the ruins of an old sugar mill, and hiked the Johnny Horn trail across the island.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We’re In The Islands, But Where Are The Virgins?

 St. Thomas was our first stop in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  We spent several days moored at Christmas Cove at the unpopulated Great St. James Island, snorkeling our little hearts out.  We then moved to the harbor at Charlotte Amalie.  Our friends, Carl and Carrie on Sanctuary, have been living and working here, so we met with them and Steve and Lynn on Celebration for a great dinner of make-your-own pizzas.  It was interesting – and a bit un-nerving, to watch the huge cruise ships come into and off of the docks, they seem to come so close to the anchored boats.  We now know where NOT to anchor in this harbor.  Although the waterfront is all duty-free shops, we’re not really shoppers, and it was more interesting to wander the back roads of downtown Charlotte Amalie and see all the old stone buildings, some colorfully painted, others left natural.  Of course, from the hills we had beautiful views over the town and the harbor.