Virgin Islands: April 5-15, 2012

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

Full Moon Celebration

On April 5 we departed Francis Bay and moved over to the British Virgin Islands. We stopped first at West End, Tortola, AKA Soper's Hole, where we checked in to customs and immigration.   As usual, Soper's Hole was a mad-house, but we finally got a mooring (being vacated by another cruiser who had used it temporarily to check in as well).  Customs/Immigration was busy and slow -- my advice to cruisers would be to consider checking in/out at Jost Van Dyke instead.

Then we motored to Trellis Bay, up in the extreme NE corner of Tortola, where we picked up one of the few remaining available mooring balls in the crowded cove.  $25 a night, which doesn't compare favorably to the $7.50 it costs us on the US side (although that is admittedly reduced from the "normal" $15 fee by virtue of my possession of a Senior US Park Pass.)  By mid-morning the next day all of the moorings were taken, but the boats just kept coming, the numbers swelled by Easter vacationers and the full-moon celebration scheduled for that evening (Good Friday).  We sat in our cockpit and watched the boats thread through the too-closely-spaced moorings in their vain search for a free ball.  Some eventually departed, but a surprising number ended up just dropping anchor in among the the moored boats -- a recipe for disaster if the winds had shifted.  Fortunately, they did not, so there were no scrapes and bumps that we know of. 

Panorama showing the crowded mooring field at Trellis Bay

Barb went in and did some walking about, and took these pictures of the scene west of the beach:

Airport at Trellis Bay

She later grabbed me by the neck and dragged me in to the shore so that we could reconnoiter before the evening festivities.

One of the fire spheres on the beach

Fire balls and pyramid and man in the water -- here at low tide

That evening we went in to shore early in order to be assured a spot at the dock for our dinghy, and to be assured of a table on the beach at the restaurant that serves food at these monthly celebrations.  The buffet was good and ample, but not inexpensive.  There was a DJ who began playing music at about sun-down.  And then later one of the "fire spheres" was lit.  Then, another fire sphere.  Then, a live band, and then four (and sometimes five) Jumbies appeared and "danced" to the music.  Then the two spheres in the water were lit, as was the "man" with outstretched hands.  By this time the crowd was massive.   We left shortly after getting pictures of the lighting of the fires in the water, but the band played on for many more hours, and the Jumbies were still prancing when we left.  (They must have been exhausted.)

Loaded and ready to fire

One of the band members

Another band member

Lighting the pyramid

Lighting the fire man

Fire man lit

Jumbie "dancing" with a spectator

Balancing on one leg

Dancing w/ a small child

We were joined at our table by three nice couples from Minnesota on a bareboat charter.  Here is Barb taking (many) photos of their group with their (many) cameras.

On Saturday, Apr. 7, we moved from Trellis Bay back down Tortola a bit and entered Village Cay Marina in Road Harbour, where we had reserved a slip so that we could equalize our house battery bank.  Good thing for that reservation, because as we departed Trellis I noticed that the alternator was not working.  Last time that happened, it was a simple 10-amp fuse.  This time the problem was more serious, since the "charging" light was lit on the external regulator even though the alternator wasn't charging.  When I got to Village Cay I swapped the alternator out with the spare.  Had intended on taking the "bad" one in to Cay Electronics, listed in our guide as a Balmar dealer, but learned that a better choice was Al's Marine.  John (Livin' the Dream) helped the last time I swapped out the alternator, but this time I was able to do the job by myself, with minimal help from Barb. But by the time we got the bad one off, it was too late to do anything with it on Saturday.  Monday was a holiday.   Early Tuesday morning Barb called Al's just to see if they were open, and then asked if they could repair an alternator.   Yes, they could, and when she asked for directions, they said that they could come and get it!  They had it repaired by 12:30 and then delivered it back to the Village Cay.  What service.  $130 for what the invoice described as "repair down field coil and replace brushes" or "brush-illegible".

While we were at Village Cay, Jim and Amanda (Catsy) and Paul and Ginette (Nutmeg) arrived.  They each are now working as captain/crew on respective large catamarans, and had been on a joint charter for a large group.  We have known them since our early days in the Caribbean, and it was great to see them again.  Paul and Ginette had us over for a lovely dinner -- it is easy to see why their charters are so popular -- and Jim and Amanda also joined us for a while for drinks.  It was Jim who suggested using Al's Marine instead of Cay Electronics, and that certainly turned out to be good advice.



Paul, Ginette, Jim, Amanda and YT

Duty Free Fuel

We didn't go far when we left Village Cay.  Just across the Road Harbour bay is Delta Petroleum, where duty-free fuel can be obtained after one has checked out of the British Virgin Islands.  So while we were waiting for the alternator to be repaired and delivered back to us, Barb trotted off to customs and got us checked out.  We then idled in front of Delta until a large catamaran was done, and moved in for some diesel, our first since Union Island in early July, 2011.   We took on 595 gallons at a cost of $3.95 per gallon.

St. Thomas Doctoring

Since Barb had an appointment with a dermatologist on Wednesday, April 11, and I had one on Friday, Apr. 13 with my St. Thomas doctor to get the results of earlier tests, we then moved on back to Charlotte Amalie, a location close enough to the doctor offices to permit access by foot.  Barb had a few more spots frozen on her nose on Wed. and after a long wait on Fri. I finally saw my harried doctor.  All of my blood tests were negative, including the most-accurate of the Lyme Disease tests.  The barium marshmallow swallow test looked normal; the endoscopy revealed a hiatal hernia (but not severe) and a healthy upper GI tract.  Biopsies taken during the endoscopy returned normal.  In short, there were no new answers as to why I was suddenly struck in early 2011 with generalized joint pain, and no especially bad news about my acid reflux.  Two additional blood tests were taken at the suggestion of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.  The success of the local doctor's attempt to get me in to see a rheumatologist at Mayo apparently hinges on the results.

Stormy Days

Weather forecasts made it clear that some nasty weather was headed our way, so after getting back from the doctor we hurriedly packed up and motored back to Francis Bay, where we knew we could secure to a sound mooring in a spot with minimal fetch.  Joined Ann and John (Livin' the Dream) for Friday night prime rib at the Maho Bay Camp restaurant.  Saturday afternoon the wind started picking up.  By evening we were experiencing some rain and gusts approaching 40 knots.  Today (Sunday) the wind has been slowly receding and the skies are mostly blue.  Still a windy day, but nothing like last night.  Nice to have a snug place in which to tuck.