British Virgin Islands Escapade

JB and I agreed that taking a more substantial test run in Ahimsa would serve both of us well. And although in the opposite direction of our foremost destination (Florida – for boat rehabilitation and family bonding), we resolved on heading to the British Virgin Islands. For these few weeks JB would fulfill his obligation to the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands by working remotely, not without trouble, and I would find myself enjoying the pleasantries of island life. St. Thomas leaves one wanting in the scope of Caribbean experiences, and I was glad to be gone for a bit. Our plan is to be back in Florida by mid-May and spend a few months there.

I spent much of March in the company of friends. The first friend I made in college and eventual roommate, Allie came to visit us aboard at the beginning of March. Her trip was much too short, and I hope she will consider coming again (wink wink). I then flew home for my oldest and absolute sweetest friend’s wedding. Congratulations again to my dearest Nikki and her new hubby, Shane. The month was rounded out with Amanda, another college soul sister, spending 5 days aboard. Her arrival signaled the beginning of our journey from St. Thomas.

Enjoying St.John with Allie
The beautiful Mr. & Mrs. Sullivan and their bridal party
Amanda joined us for the beginning of our BVI journey


With light winds, we motor-sailed to St. John and spent the first night in Maho bay – a place JB favors for its resemblance to Jurassic Park. Then on to Virgin Gorda, probably most famous for “The Baths”—one of the grandest beach-side rock formations in the world. Formations I’m sure John Muir, even without his ideal mountain landscape, would have been most inspired by. These rocks are what persuaded JB and me to visit the British Virgin Islands, in hopes of reintroducing ourselves to climbing.

JB and I at church – The Baths cathedral room

The first order of business was to get JB a Wi-Fi connection to aid in communication with the office. For $160 JB purchased 5 GB of data All social media-ing on my end was to be had only with the ulcer-inducing, painstakingly slow, free Wi-Fi at Leverick Bay, the Bay we were anchored in. I was taken back to the years of my youth: in my head I could hear the dial tone of AOL loading as I attempted to scroll my Instagram feed, and other than a few post attempts, I forwent outside communication for sanity’s sake. Plus, there was much more interesting business to tend to…the birds, the fish, the coral, the water (which I can actually enjoy now), the sky, the clouds, the stars, the rocks, the goats, the chickens, our new sailing dinghy…..

JB really enjoys his new toy
Amanda, braver than I, went out on her own and this happened a couple times

Each morning in Virgin Gorda we were awakened by the prancing goats roaming the nearby remote beach. Sipping my morning coffee and enjoying the sunrise from the trampoline was my routine, while JB started his court work. He would continue his work while I took practice on a nearby dock. Deciding when to practice was an art in itself, finding the couple hours between the morning bugs and the high risen sun. But when perfected, the results are magic: the sound of ocean waves beneath and birds above, all internal vibrations radiating out and all external waves permeating in to combine in the center of bliss.  After practice, when weather and winds permitted, we would pack some PB&Js, our climbing gear and hop in the dinghy for a 30 minute ride to The Baths, where we could climb among the boulders.

But really…magic hour

Virgin Gorda bouldering is beautiful for all the obvious reasons: well-weathered stone that doesn’t wreck your hands, soft sand or water landings, and amazing scenery. On the other hand, the tropical weather can get quite hot, much of the climbing is undeveloped and difficult to access by dinghy, and a never-ending parade of tourists are constantly marching past (I’ve never had the crash pad confused for a massage table until climbing in The Baths). To be sure, it wasn’t our favorite spot ever – it’s nothing like Squamish – but we enjoyed puttering around from boulder to boulder, playing on problems that we couldn’t believe weren’t in the guide, and when we were done the ocean was there to cool us off.

JB climbing beach side at Little Trunk Bay

Two weeks were passed in this manner before we made a last minute decision to head to Anegada. All I needed for convincing was to be shown a picture of Flamingos and read about the bird sanctuary that makes up much of the island. After one failed attempt to head north, due to seas a little bit higher than I felt comfortable with, we made it to Anegada. It is quite different than all of the other virgin islands, it is void of mountains, just a flat sliver of land surrounded by a rather large barrier reef. As we sailed in we were welcomed by dolphins and local lobster fisherman collecting the bounty of their traps to sell to the few island restaurants (and I hope keep a few for themselves).

salt pond sandpipers

Due to the mile(s?) of barrier reef extending from its shore, Anegada is a lobster haven, they lodge themselves in this particularly windy coral – making traps the most efficient way to catch them. In his few efforts lobstering, JB only caught two – a mother to be (see below) and another which was barely large enough to keep, so both got to live another day. Bringing to the surface such a large, ancient creature, as the mother in the picture below, is quite a wonderful experience – to know that creature has lived so long, prowling the ocean floors. Apparently, lobsters do not die of old age, only of being consumed by predators. How inspiring – ancient in its form but perfected in survival.  Although lobster-less, and covered in fire coral burns, he proclaimed this was the most fun lobstering he had in a long time. For there was no guarantee of spotting one in the coral maze, and even less a chance of harvesting them once spotted. Apparently these lobster are much more hostile and weary of losing their lives than others – good for them. JB enjoys working for his food, he cherishes the concept of taking only what you can eat, and prefers for his dinner to have a fighting chance of survival. As a vegan, I am much more inclined to “approve” of this killing method. In comparison to the mass slaughter conveyor belts that most Americans get their meat from. If most people had to kill, or even watch the killing of the cow as it is performed on an industrial scale, I believe that many more would second guess consuming the cow on their dinner plates. (I also believe that calling cow “beef” desensitizes us to where that beef comes from, we think that it comes from the magical market, not a valuable life.)

Lobster mama, hidden in a hole too small for her was an easy catch (& release)

JB had lobstering to entertain him, while I enjoyed some bird-watching. We walked our dinghy into the shallows so that we could access the nearby Flamingo viewing deck.

walking our dinghy into the shallow bay to see Flamingos 

With my binoculars and zoom camera, we could barely make out the mass of stark pink creatures which look exactly like the plastic replicas that adorn the lawns of many Floridians. We decided to come back in a couple days, with hopes they were closer. But alas, in a couple days, they were nowhere to be seen. So we took off our shoes and waded through the salt pond, at times sinking up to our knees in mud. All the while I was preoccupied with thoughts of flesh eating bacteria entering my open wounds from the poorly circulated salt water. Along the way we saw gulls, sandpipers, turnstones, yellowlegs, ospreys, herons, and terns. Eventually we saw the flamingos and we approached as silently as one can when sloughing though clay-like mud. They are funny creatures, and I won’t bore you with details of our watching them.

Ready for bird watching, with camera and binoculars in tow
Flamingos, real or fake?

Given the precariousness of reef everywhere in Anegada, there is a well-marked channel for boats and a suggested mooring field. We usually choose to save money and anchor. So we anchored in the back of the field, with about as good of holding as we could hope for. The winds blew at a brisk 20 knots and Ahimsa rocked gracefully knowing she wouldn’t end up on the rocks. We were quite enjoying the anchorage setting, much like the Florida Keys but prettier. However, since we were confined to anchor right where all the charter boats were, it was also very loud. Charter boats tend to play loud music, I mean it is a wonderful vacation for them, but I think I heard this Bamboo Man song 10 times in two hours and almost lost my mind. I hate noise. I hate it. I enjoy a good late night dance party in the cockpit to some Frank Sinatra or Van Morrison but I hope no one else hears my music. I found it impossible to sleep – which usually happens before 9pm, and the nearby restaurants blasting music until 11pm caused our hulls to vibrate. I wasn’t inclined to spend many more nights in this party territory.

Sunset from our Anchorage in Anegada, BVI

So we spent the last couple days of our BVI trip in Virgin Gorda, where we met Michael Beans—a pirate performer at the Leverick Bay Resort. We were selling our 5hp outboard and he was picking it up for his friend. We got to talking about what our plans/hopes/dreams are, and Mr. Beans let us know that he started performing these pirate comedy/musical shows, which are a huge hit, to raise money for his foundation. The Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti funds a school on the small island of Île Á Vache right off the southern coast of Haiti. We were quite inspired and concluded that money we get from coffee sales will be donated to the Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti. We are planning to stop by and check out the school once we leave Florida. Check out his website!

The Michael Beans Pirate show @ Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda, BVI

We spent our last night in the BVI in the company of fellow 38’ Leopard owners, Mike and Deni, a couple which had Cape Coral, FL as their home port (all boats have the name and origin painted on the boat). JB made friends with them in St. Thomas, while I was home in Florida and we just happened to see them in the BVI. It was truly wonderful to make friends and converse with someone outside your own hull. Living aboard together, you spend A LOT of time together, so it was pleasant to share company.

We spent another night in Maho Bay since both our engines broke within 12 hours of each other. After cursing the previous owner a couple times JB fixed them both, he is seriously the best. We are back in St. Thomas and ready to head out to the Spanish Virgin Islands in the morning, a couple islands off the coast of Puerto Rico. Culebra will be our first stop, which is only an 18 NM trip and will spend a couple more days enjoying ourselves and birding before a couple other island stops along with mainland PR. I will post once there and have anything interesting to share.


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