We stayed a week in the BVIs. Our objective was, do nothing. Chillax. Enjoy life. Mission accomplished!
We arrived in the morning of the 28th of March and anchored outside of Spanish Town where we could do the entrance formalities. That did not go very well. Pierrick came back swearing and infuriated about some extremely rude and slovenly boarder guards. He asked about getting a permit to visit The Baths, which is supposed to be a protected area, and was brushed off. As we really wanted to see this famous rock formation and we tend to be sticklers to the rule, I went back in the afternoon to get more info. The info I got is that the man who gives out the permits is only in that office in the morning (when Pierrick first passed by!). I would need to return the next morning between 9 and 10, or I can take a taxi, or I could walk to the top of the mountain of The Baths. Pulling information out of these people was like interrogating 9 year olds’. “Ok, so if I were to take a taxi, what do I tell the taxi driver? Where would he bring me?” “To the Parks & Recreation.” “So, there’s a Parks and Recreation office in The Baths, at the top of the Mountain?” “Yeah.” “OK, great! So I can go there, or come here tomorrow morning.” “Yeah.” “At what time is the man here tomorrow morning?” “After 9,” the woman said. “Before 10,” the man said. “OK, so, at what time should I come back tomorrow morning to be sure to see him?” The woman answered 9:30.
Later in the day we asked the man who came to collect the buoy fee how we could get a permit, just to be sure the immigration officers were being truthful. According to him, the permit wasn’t necessary. “Chance it. If they say something, buy it, if they don’t….” He finished his sentence by raising his shoulders, palms open towards the sky. We decided to follow his advice.
The next day we visited The Baths at around 10:00 when boat loads of tourists had already descended upon the site. We walked around. Pierrick scouted out some boulders, and then we swam back to our dinghy that we had attached to one of the buoys that delineates the swimming area, as is customary for this site. We decided to leave our paying buoy outside of Spanish Town and to anchor closer to The Baths so that we could make an early morning visit the next day, which we did, and it was wonderful. We were the first ones on site. Our feet were the first ones to mark the sand. We followed the small path − that we had missed the day before due to the crowds − that makes its way through the boulders. The sea rushes in through cracks between boulders, tinting the beige rocks of blue, purple and turquoise lines. Small ponds of turquoise salt water lay in some fissures. The path had us waddle through these shallow ponds and up and around boulders. The visit is short when there are no crowds.
The highlight of our stay in BVI was not so much this natural beauty as the quiet anchorage that we found in White Bay, at Peter Island. Reminiscent of Les Saintes (Guadeloupe), the place was quiet with but a few neighboring boats per day. The bay ends onto a small and private white sand beach that belongs to a hotel that towers above at the top of the cliff. Our internet connection was good so we could busy ourselves with our everyday activities, and at the end of the day, to cool off from the day’s heat, we would paddle the SUP to a small snorkeling spot and sea gaze. We saw a lion fish, which is ugly and impressively scary and not natural to this habitat. We called it in to the coast guard. Usually they’re meant to send in a team to destroy them. We saw loads of colorful fish, a stingray and many sea turtles. It was peaceful and beautiful. It was just right.
We planned our next stop, the Dominican Republic, with the hopes of visiting with my childhood friend Rosalie who lives there. To meet her husband we had a deadline, so after but a few days at Peter Island we made our way to the marina in Soper’s Hole to buy some food, fuel up and fill out our exit papers. I found the people in Soper’s Hole to be very friendly. You can buy postcards and stamps there, but there is no post box. A woman who works in a souvenir shop offered to drop mine off the next day in a post box in Road Harbour, the big town of Tortola Island. We got our wash done in a day, but when we got back to the boat I noticed that some items were missing. I returned the next morning while Pierrick was fueling up the boat and was recognized right away. The girl who did our wash handed me a bag with the items that had not yet finished drying when we passed by to pick up our clothes the day before. She was obviously relieved that we came to retrieve them. That and just having friendly conversations with the woman at the cash at the super market or the one at the marina’s reception. A friendly disposition can have such an effect on one’s impressions of a place and a people.
We departed from the BVIs on 4 April at around noon. We had heard of beautiful things about the US Virgin Islands, but getting a visa to visit St-John seemed unnecessarily tedious, so we passed right by and sailed along Puerto Rico’s Northern coast. We had Easterly winds ranging from 12 to 20 knots the whole time. Basically, the type of conditions we should have had during our Atlantic crossing! The first day was a bit rough as we were sailing diagonally from the waves, but the second day both the wind and the waves were behind us and pushed us along to our destination.
While sailing, we were visited by the American Coast Guard. A VHF warning had informed us that all stations were on the look out for something, but for the life of us, no mater how many times we listened to the broadcast, we could not make out what was amiss. Pierrick was sleeping and I had just listened to the message for the umpteenth time when I suddenly heard the sound of a motor frightfully close to the boat. I go out to see a helicopter looming down towards us. It circled our boat once. I went to get the binoculars to see what was written on its side. It circled us a second time. I did not wave. My reaction was to watch it fly off, which was the good one to have. Had I waved, they would have thought that we were in distress. I’ll admit, for a second when I didn’t know who they were, and even for a second when I did know, I was afraid of a machine gun plowing down our hulls. But there was none of that. Soon afterwards, a new message on the VHF announced that the American Coast Guard had found their vessel. Obviously, we were not it.
We arrived in Dominican Republic this morning. For the first time since we’ve been traveling, Pierrick turned off our AIS signal, even if this island is reputed to be safe, to avoid alerting anybody on the coast with a high power motored boat and bad intentions of our passage. We decided to stay in a marina to more easily rent a car and go off to visit this island and Rosalie. Apparently this marina has a gym. I am very excited about that!
More impressions on Dominican Republic in a later post.