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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gesa writes.....

Gesa wrote an email to a few of our friends, we thought we'd share it with all our readers....

We have been in the British Virgin Islands for almost two weeks, and our time here, sadly, is coming to an end. We plan to head to the Caves on Norman Island for some of the best snorkeling in the area, before heading to Jost Van Dyke for the weekend and then clearing out. Monday we shall do the rather short journey to St John in the US Virgin Islands, where we will stay for two days before finding St Thomas Harbour and Charlotte Amalie, where we will collect crew, provision, and where the kids and I will fly to Detroit on Friday the 23rd.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay here, and look forward to introducing much of it to Corinne and family and hopefully Sean, Char and co. There is also still so much to explore, so we are looking forward to the return at the end of the year.

We have taken so many amazing photos here, it is hard not to, so I thought I would give you a little tour of one of our favourite islands: Marina Cay. Do look it up on the internet because its history is fascinating, and I am sure you will find even more photos. But in brief, a newlywed couple, Robb and Rodie White, left their life of luxury in Georgia in 1937 and came to the then impoverished BVIs (things have changed). They purchased Diddledoe Island, which they renamed Marina Cay (pronounced 'key'), and slowly, and painfully, "battled bureaucracy, weather, and innumerable open boat round-trips to Road Town (Tortola) to schlepp everything from water, cement, food and tools to the cay." Their result was a coral and stone home at the top of the 8 acre site. It is still there today, and is now a reading room and book exchange. The island has a crescent shaped reef on its south side called Turtle Reef. It makes for an impressive aerial photograph. Robb and Rodie left years ago, and it has changed hands many times. Since the 90's it is run by Pusser's Co., the local rum people who run a series of bars, restaurants and shops around the islands. They are also famous for their 'Painkiller', a mean rum punch. By the way, Robb was a writer. His most successful book was, "Our Virgin Island", their story. It was made into a movie in 1958, "Virgin Island" with Sydney Poitier and John Cassavetes. I am determined to find it. I expect the movie will be easier than the book!

On first arrival, both Nick and I could not understand what the fuss was about. Yes, the island and reef looked beautiful, but behind us was a huge construction site, and ahead of us, the control tower and runway on Beef Island. All changed when we 'parked' our dinghy and stepped ashore. The island's shore is just littered with coral; beautiful bougainvilleas (however you spell it) line all the paths; once you climb the small hill you get an amazing view out on to Sir Francis Drake Channel; Pusser's & co. have tastefully taken over with cute building works for their shop and restaurant/bar; as night falls, fantastic blue fairy lights climb the trees and line the paths; the staff were super friendly; the convenience of a cheap laundry superb; the sea life,/tide pool full of interesting creatures. The island can accommodate 16 guests (I think) and none bat an eye when we share their space.

We stayed two nights. The first with new friends from Windbelle. After a year's cruising, they were on their last night in the Caribbean, and we were honoured to be able to enjoy a final drink with them at the restaurant (Tallulah and Issie got on wonderfully. T was the birthday girl at Savannah Bay where we had a pirate party.)

We then went off to Great Dog Island with Iceni for some more superb snorkeling, before both boats returned to Marina Cay for another night. By then the crew of Windbelle had handed their boat over to a paid skipper, who would return her across the Atlantic to the UK, while they hopped a plane to Orlando for a week's holiday at Walt Disney Resort. The crew of Iceni and Ty Dewi, stepped ashore, and we all enjoyed a walking tour of the island (didn't take long), followed by a drink (another famous 'Painkiller'),while the kids played on the beach (a mix of sand and coral). I was annoyed to leave before nightfall, when I could enjoy the fairy lights. So, I arranged 'me time', by offering to do the laundry ashore. I thought I might catch up on my book, but too many friendly people to chat to! By the time the dry cycle came around, I headed back down to the restaurant/bar, and ordered one of their special coffees, opened my book, but found myself rather distracted by the conversations at the bar from the people waiting for their tables. Entertaining to say the least. A mix between the local staff, to the tourists (from Americans to a nice Dutch couple - the difference is incredible), to a pilot working out of Beef Island that runs an island hopping service. He now lives in the islands, but still sticks out like a sore thumb!! I thoroughly enjoyed my time, and had only hoped that the kids would be asleep by the time I returned...if only!!!

In any case, we all enjoyed our stay, but then wandered off to the smaller islands on the opposite side of Sir Francis Drake Channel. There we found some incredible, calm, quiet anchorages (no services or amenities), with nothing but blue water, reefs, and quiet seashore. When night fell we had a beautiful blanket of stars above us, the lights across the channel from Tortola, and giant tarpon swimming beneath our keel. Magical!
Now, that has taken far too long to write and I must finish now., to eat breakfast, post this email, pull up anchor and sail to Norman Island. What a busy schedule!!!


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