British Virgin Islands / US Virgin Islands

Thursday, 11/ 21/96
Right now we’re in Nanny Cay Marina. We moved the boat over first thing Tuesday morning to get a slip at the dock.  We’ve already been here for three days and it’s truly amazing how time flies by. Once again, we spent the first couple of  them working to get the boat back in order after passage.  I guess that will be the case after the long ones.

Road signs

Cleaning and maintenance is just another aspect of the trip. Of course, we also have various electronic components on board that require constant attention to make this whole virtual trip possible.  In fact, this is now being drafted on good old reliable plain paper.  Our trusty laptop let us down a day out of Tortola. It appears to be some sort of disk problem, it won’t even boot up to Windows 95.  We’ve tried everything, to no avail. There are limited (very limited) resources on the island, so we sent it back to the States.  In the mean time, we are basically without communications. Our thanks to Thorpe and Annie at BVI Yacht Sales for letting us use their computer for a few minutes and download our Email.  Unfortunately, we will have to wait until we get ours back to respond to them all.  In the mean time, we’re going to enjoy all the virgin Islands has to offer.

Our first night we cleaned ourselves up, put the dinghy together and headed to shore for some dinner.  We chose Pussers Landing for our first taste of the tropics.  What a let down.  The wings and pizza were stone cold, my salad came without any dressing and the waitress was nowhere to be found. Soured by our dining experience, we resolved ourselves to eating on the boat the next evening.  I knew I could make a better meal myself.

To prove my point, I had to cook something good. It was Cajun pork loins on the grill with potatoes and broccoli.. The only setback was the grill.  It is worse than bad. It never stays lit for very long, making cooking a real challenge.  However, it was not an insurmountable problem. In fact, the meal was a triumph of culinary determination. And excellent too.

Aside from the good eats, we had our first dinner guest, Larry.  We had seen him slaving away all day on the boat next to us. So, Nick invites him over for dinner.  Upon hearing Nick’s invitation, my first reaction to him (Nick) was, why did you do that, we may not have enough food. His response to me was, “don’t worry about it, we have more than enough”.  I should know better than to argue with Nick about food.  As it turns out, we had plenty of food and interesting conversation to boot.  Larry is one of those guys who’s done everything and has a ton of good stories to tell. He also seems to have the right idea on where to spend his time. He spends November through April in Tortola on his 50 foot Hatteras sport fisher. He lives on the boat, enjoys the weather and goes fishing whenever he wants. The other half of the year he lives in Wisconsin, runs his business and flies his seaplane to Canada where lands on remote lakes to do more fishing.  It’s a good thing he’s single, most men dream of doing that.

As a reciprocal gesture, Larry offered to feed us some fresh fish from his next trip out, if he were successful.  With six Penn reels and rods he’d have to have a pretty bad day not to come back with something. He also invited us out for a day of fishing, with the only stipulation being that we would have to help pay for the fuel. We must have all had visions of fresh Tuna, because  I think we all said “no problem” in unison. This must be what sushi withdrawal feels like. That was a good night.  Tomorrow we would be off to Virgin Gorda and the Bitter End.

Saturday, 11/23/96
We left Nanny Cay yesterday as planned.  I think the trip took all of about 2 ½ hours, although I couldn’t be absolutely sure because I really wasn’t paying attention.  To say it was a beautiful day would be an understatement.  We left the harbor’s breakwater, turned East and headed up Sir Francis Drake Channel. The wind was perfect, coming from the Northeast at about 20 knots. We set the main and the jib, found our heading and let Auto von Helm do the rest.

Bill came out of the cabin with a big smile on his face and the hammock under his arm. He set it up, jumped in and as he crossed his legs he cracked a beer.  Now that’s happiness!!! While Bill sipped his beer, Nick and I jockeyed for the best position to lie down in the cockpit. Meanwhile, Sergei was sitting on the bow thoughtfully taking in the beauty of the scenery. For a while after we settled down, the only thing I could think of was how utterly incredible this is. Sometimes when I feel like that, when something moves me I will consciously take that image and that feeling and tuck it in the back of my head to remember for another time. Those moments are so fleeting, they must be remembered.  The last time I did that was when Bill and I were diving in Palau in 1993. I remember sitting on the bow of a dive boat, plowing through turquoise water and weaving in and out of these mushroom-like rock islands.  I said to myself, this is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.  It still is.  Bill and I agreed later that we would return.  I don’t think either of us ever imagined that it will be on a sailboat. 

When I finally came back to earth, we were just rounding Mosquito Point and entering Gorda Sound.  We had the Bitter End in sight!  Motoring up the bay, we spotted a mooring ball and headed for home.  Once had the deck all tidied up, it was time to decompress.  First we would get wet and later we would head into shore for dinner and drinks.

BVI mountain view

Jumping off the side of the boat is nice, but nice isn’t fun.  Bill grabbed  the spinnaker halyard climbed up onto the bowsprit and gave a great push off. He didn’t swing out very far before he rapidly approached the side of the boat.  We did this all summer in Long Island Sound, so you knew to let go before an unpleasant encounter with the side of the boat.  Everyone seemed to get the hang of it except a friend of ours, Patrick. I wasn’t there, but I heard it was a spectacular collision as he bounced off the boat into the water. Needless to say, Bill released the line in time.

Sergei, observing the potential danger involved in performing  this Tarzan-like act, immediately suggested rigging the spinnaker pole of the mast.  AH-HA!! What a brilliant idea. And it worked like a champ too. 

After getting a thorough workout, a shower and a drink, I cooked another culinary delight. This time it was teriyaki-marinated grilled chicken and rice pilaf. It’s all in the grilling technique.  Not an easy feat when you’re grill-impaired.  It is, however the best way to top off a great day. 

Today we decided to lay low, each doing their own thing. Sergei as usual took the dinghy off exploring. Nick read his book and I think Bill was paying some bills. In any case, it was shaping up to be a quiet day when Nick decided he wanted to try and dive the Invisibles, a shallow site off of Necker Island.  It was within reach by the dinghy so although it was getting sort of  late, Bill and I decided to join him. It would be our first dive!  We piled all our gear into the dinghy, jumped in and proceeded to motor (slowly) over.  After searching in vain for an hour, we couldn’t find the mooring. Despondent, we all returned to OOB. But all was not lost, we got it together and went over to the restaurant at the Bitter End. The consensus was good food and good service.  We also paid a visit to the Saba Rock bar  Looked like a local decided to build a bar on some rocks in the shallows.  I sure it’s a hopping place during peak season, but it was dead.  The only people having fun werea couple off of a charter boat.  I bet they won’t feel too good in the morning.

Our mission for tomorrow, get back to Tortola. Reason:  full moon party at The Bomba Shack. Bomba is not as well known as Foxy, but he’s famous for his midnight parties.

Monday, 11/25/96
I now know why they have the party on a full moon. So that they can justify any strange behavior.   The great thing about the crowd was the incredible mix of people.  There were islanders, Americans, English, Germans, French, you name it, and they were there all mixing it up and having fun.

The not so fun part was getting up to meet Larry for a little deep sea fishing.  We all dragged ourselves out of bed, hopped in a cab from Soper’s Hole and shot over to Nanny Cay.   On the way over, the excitement began to kick in. We were gonna catch us some fish! It would have been a perfect day if it were not for the high winds. As we approached the boat, Larry greeted us with a not so enthusiastic “good morning”.  His tone of voice said it all.  He suggested that fishing would not be much fun due to the high winds. But all was not lost.  He had a successful day fishing yesterday and managed to pull in a 50 lb. Yellowfin Tuna.  It would have been about 60 lb. had it not been for the shark bite out of it’s tail.  No matter, we would have fresh fish tonight! The only thing we needed now was to hightail it back to Soper’s Hole.

Though Bomba’s was definitely the highlight of our Sunday, it must be mentioned that we made a second attempt to go diving, this time on our way back from Virgin Gorda. Before we left Nanny Cay on Friday I went over to Blue Water Divers and asked a friend of Annie’s, Cathy where the good dive spots were.  She helped me out by giving me a location guide and marking the hot spots. I guess we should have gone right for the good ones. Our first stop was “The Dogs”, just West of Virgin Gorda.  We decided on George Dog, one of the largest of the four Dog Islands. We picked up a mooring, suited up and got in the water. Unfortunately, visibility was less than perfect. The Virgin Islands have been getting unusually large amounts of rain lately.  The result has been murky water due to all of the run off.  Still, I managed to snap off a few underwater shots. Unfazed by poor conditions we set off to our next sight.

We proceeded down Sir Francis Drake Channel and headed for Ginger Island. We would try “Alice in Wonderland”.  However, as we entered Ginger Island Passage we were snubbed again. There was a dive boat on that mooring. It was getting late so we decided to try “The Steps” on the other side of the inlet.  How bad could it be?  The answer was no better than The Dogs. Down but not out, we headed back to Sopers Hole.  Our friend, Jamie was arriving tomorrow.  Our first visitor from home!

Tuesday, 11/26/96
All I can say is wow!! Larry came over on Monday night and brought along some of the fruits of his labor…Tuna that is.  He cut it up into 5 enormous steaks, leaving one other large piece for sushi. Finally, some sushi!!  Granted, there wasn’t much in the way of variety, it didn’t really matter.  I did however, manage to find some of the nori paper and the little bamboo roller thing that they use to make maki rolls.

Spinnaker down Sir Francis Drake Passage

We had everything we needed, tuna, sticky rice, wasabi, ginger, soy sauce and even some hot sauce for the spicy tuna rolls. You can’t appreciate the little things like this until you experience being away from life as you know it.  Anyway, we had the sushi as our appetizer and grilled tuna steaks with rice and broccoli as the entrée.  It doesn’t get much better than that! 

One of the many things that I expected to happen on this journey around the world was how it would change us all in different ways.  It exists as an opportunity to do many things that you normally wouldn’t do. As someone who’s worked in “Corporate America” one thing that you probably wouldn’t do is shave your head. It was all right in high school and in fact I did it. Needless to say Mom was a little shocked when in the homecoming football game of my senior year I walked off the field with a MOHAWK haircut and a big grin (because we were winning).  That was then, this is now.

It’s been a month since my last cut and since I was not going to let it grow out, the time was right to trim it down.  I figured, why try and find a barber on some remote island. You never know, he might be moonlighting as the village witch doctor and make all my hair fall out. So I grabbed my razor and started buzzing away.  Once you start, there’s no turning back.  Within ten minutes my hair went from several inches to about a quarter of an inch.  The only problem was that I couldn’t reach every area thoroughly.  So, Nick would have to help me out. It’s really a no-brainer, hold it the right way and don’t press too hard or you’ll change the length setting.  Right!!  Well, Nick’s a big guy and guess what?  He grabbed the razor and had almost finished trimming when he yells “OH S--T”. Normally that wouldn’t bother me, except I was in somewhat of a compromising position. Then I heard the laughter from Jamie (who had arrived earlier) and Bill, but not Nick.  A really worried look on his face told me that I was in trouble. The only way to describe what I saw in the mirror was how the grass on a golf course looks after a good solid swing with a nine iron.  Nick had inadvertently reversed the direction of the razor and taken a three-inch divot out of the left side of my head.  At that point, there was only one thing left to do, shave it all off.  That was the end of my day, and my hair!

Wednesday, 11/27/96
Last night at The Jolly Roger restaurant, Lou the owner told us if we want to go to the happening place (bar that is) we need to go to Duffy’s Love Shack.  Only problem is that it’s on a different island, the island of St. Thomas. Having spent the better part of the last 10 days taking it easy, it was decided that we would check out the USVI’s.  We prepped the boat for passage, dropped the mooring ball and headed for the USVI’s, our first visit back to US soil. As we could see St. Thomas from Tortola it was a quick trip, only a couple of hours. By the way, thanks to Lou for letting us use his Internet connection!!

Thursday, 11/28/96
Thanksgiving Day! We decided to find a nice anchorage for our Thanksgiving meal. Thanks to Jamie (and his Mom for precooking it) we had a real turkey with all the fixings.  Ahhhh, just like Mom used to make.  We had so much food that we invited two people that we met at Duffy’s, Juan and Mickey.  We all stuffed ourselves and then of course took naps

Friday, 11/29/96
Time to move on again. The destination, the island of Jost van Dyke.  The mission, to find Foxy’s.  Aside from being a beautiful anchorage, Foxy’s is supposed to be the best place to spend New Years Eve, second only to Times Square.  At least that’s what they say.  Who are THEY?  And how can you even compare the two?

Turkey Day

Thanksgiving in the USVI’s

Anyway, as it turns out, the only good thing about Foxy’s was Foxy himself.  Cool guy. I guess you have to be there for New Years. Will head back to Tortola in the AM.

Wednesday, 12/2/96
Spent the last few days laying low.  Jamie was supposed to leave Sunday but arrived at the airport only to find out that the flight he rebooked for a later time never even existed.  Dat’s de islands, mon.  We joked with him about telling his boss that they couldn’t get the chickens off the runway. He didn’t think that would be too funny. He ended up leaving on Monday , on a real flight no less.

Yesterday we dove the wreck of the R.M.S Rhone, a mail steamer that went down in a hurricane about 100 years ago. Although it is spread out and the visibility was not great it was a good dive. Hopefully I took some good pictures with my fisheye lens. 

While Bill and Nick were in the water waiting for me to gear up Bill spotted this large Dolphin fish feeding on this enormous school of Minnows or Gobies. When he turned his attention back after looking at something else, the mahi mahi was about a foot from Bill’s mask, looking at him. Bill swears it winked at him.

While sailing back up Francis Drake Channel we decided to raise the Asymmetrical sail, as the wind was right on our Port quarter. Of course, as soon as we have it up the wind clocks around, making it impossible to maintain.  It just flopped around for a few minutes.  Oh well, it was a gorgeous sunset sail anyway. Back to Soper’s Hole.  Tomorrow we would provision and Friday we’re bound for St. Martin.

Friday, 12/6/96
We met up with Sergei again this morning.  He spent the last 10 days with friends on St. John watching them build a racing catamaran. He has a fascination with multi-hulled boats and this was right up his alley. We spent several hours with him while he went over the remainder of the Caribbean islands. Where to go, where not to go, what to see, etc.  He’s been sailing for a while and he’s been to most of the islands down here at one time or another. It’s a lot of insightful stuff and I hope we will be able to make use of the info.  Bill runs ashore and takes him off the crew list. We bid him adieu tell him that we hope he will join us again for the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific

We leave Soper’s hole around 11.00 and head out to Road Town where we would clear out and pick up our new barbecue grill! The other one was such a piece of garbage. If it was blowing any more than 5 knots at the dock the thing wouldn’t stay lit.  We couldn’t have a weak barbecue, you know what they say about men and their grills. We now have the Sherman tank of grills.  60 pounds of solid stainless grill with hefty welds and industrial gas fittings….arh, arh, arh!! (in the immortal sounds of Tim Allen).

The stop in Road Town took a little longer than planned so our planned stop at the Baths on Virgin Gorda would not be.  A real shame, as we hear that they are simply incredible.  Oh well, maybe next time. Instead we opt to stop at Coopers Island for a sunset dinner and then head out between Round Rock and Gorda toward St. Martin. And a perfect sunset it was. Big juicy burgers on our new pride and joy.  Just the right amount of spices, a nice hot flame and even dill pickles. I thought we’d died and gone to Heaven.

Alex Ercklentz 1996


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