Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Birthday to Remember

Windbird left her mooring ball in Trellis Bay bright and early on April 14th. We motored through the Camanoe Passage and then put up the sails and enjoyed a quick broad reach down to Cane Garden Bay, arriving just after 9am. During the sail I called around to a couple different car rental agencies and found a 4x4 with a small company that could pick us up in Cane Garden Bay; they arrived around 10am and brought us to West End where we picked up the Suzuki Vitara. From there we headed to Road Town, marveling at all the devastation along the way. In Road Town we did some reprovisioning and other chores, then headed back to Nanny Cay to pick up the fuel diaphragm for the dinghy outboard. We also had a really delicious lunch of West Indian Roti at Nanny Cay’s dockside restaurant, Genaker Cafe. Afterwards we picked up a few things at Nanny Cay’s Budget Marine store, then engaged in a lengthy wild goose chase for an unusually long and skinny clevis pin for one of our mainsail mast track cars (I ended up substituting a cotter pin until I can get the clevis pin from a Doyle sailmaker). By the time we got back to the boat, it was already almost time to head back across the mountain to Road Town to pick up our friend Andy and his girlfriend Ann from the ferry dock.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog how our friends Andy and Lance, before we knew them, purchased a Bristol 29.9 in Bayfield WI and sailed it through the Great Lakes, down the Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Tom Bigby Rivers, across the Gulf of Mexico, through the Bahamas, and down the thorny path to the Virgin Islands. When Andy and I first flew together at Compass Airlines, we bonded over sailing stories and I subsequently invited him and Lance to bring their boat, S/V Yolo, from Puerto Rico to the BVI for the 2013 Interline Regatta (along with Chris Warrington, who had by then bought into Yolo along with Mark Tunucci). The guys sold Yolo in 2014 – after being dismasted near Culebra – but the four partners have since bought into a Moorings charter boat. Both Lance and Andy sailed on Windbird last year, from Charleston to Fernandina Beach, FL.

Andy and Ann were originally planning to spend their entire vacation helping a friend rebuild his place on Vieques, but upon learning I’d be spending my birthday in Jost van Dyke, and that we’d be joined by Lance and Mark (and later Chris) on a Moorings 48’ Beneteau, they decided to detour to the BVI for the first few days of their vacation. On the 14th they flew from Minneapolis to Atlanta to St. Thomas and then took the fast ferry to Road Town’s temporary ferry terminal at the cruise ship dock, where we met them in the middle of a fierce downpour. We quickly retreated to the Pusser’s Pub (undergoing repairs after losing its second story in Irma, but still open) for a quick bite and the trip’s first Painkillers. After returning to Cane Garden Bay we walked along the road and back via the beachfront, marveling at how much had changed since Irma. Quito’s Gazebo, at which Andy and I spent several late nights during Interline, is completely gone (but being rebuilt). The friendly folks at Myett’s rasta bar lost their second story. Many of the sloping palms that graced the beach are gone, and a great many formerly invisible homes can be spotted on hillsides stripped of much of their vegetation. The Callwood distillery, once heavily shaded in a thick copse of trees, is now starkly visible from the main road. We went back to Windbird for happy hour, a spectacular sunset over St. Thomas, and dinner and conversation long into the night. It’s always pretty special to have good friends join us on Windbird.

On Sunday we had a lazy morning but then got going around 11am; we wanted to explore the island of Tortola while Dawn and I had the 4x4. This ended up involving quite a few stops at beach bars (starting with the fantastic Stoutt’s Lookout Bar far above Cane Garden Bay) and an awesome lunch at a lively roadside joint straight out of Puerto Rico right down to the spirited dominos game (with heavy betting) in the corner. I got to practice my Spanish for the first time in a few weeks. We eventually worked our way to
Trellis Bay to inspect the remaining beached sailboats, then took Ridge Road in search of a viewpoint to watch the sunset. We found the perfect spot, in a ruined ridgetop home that must have been pretty spectacular before the storm. Once it was dark we headed back down to Road Town, to check into Lance and Mark’s boat at The Moorings’ base and do some provisioning for them at the RiteWay. They’d originally been planning to arrive Sunday afternoon but the Minnesota weather had other plans with a springtime Snowmageddon that cancelled a bunch of flights and left them scrambling for open seats out of MSP. They eventually found a way out to Boston and then down to San Juan, where they were stuck for the night. They’d arrive to Tortola the next day on Cape Air; we were provisioning to help get them out of the Moorings base ASAP. Andy and Ann stayed on the charter boat (S/V Jada) overnight so Andy could do the boat briefing in the morning and have it ready to go.

On Monday Dawn and I returned the 4x4 to West End and got a ride back to Cane Garden, then sailed over to Jost van Dyke. Our friends Erin and Kara on S/V Vela were already on a mooring ball in Great Harbour when we arrived (having sailed over from St. John and already cleared BVI customs). We poked around looking for a place to anchor but the few good spots were already taken, so we too took a ball. In the afternoon we and Vela took our dinghies and bashed our way over to Sandy Cay. The interior, formerly crossed by nature trails, was impassable due to deadfall from the storm, but we had a nice time playing beach bocce ball and catching up with Erin and Kara, who we’d last seen in SamanĂ¡, DR. When we returned, we were delighted to see that Dane, Mak and Isla on S/V Sea Otter had also arrived from St. John. Knowing that Isla would probably be staying up late on my birthday, they opted to have a quiet night on their boat, while Kara and Erin came over to Windbird for homemade grilled pizzas and drinks. S/V Jada, meanwhile, had been delayed at the Moorings base for maintenance, and ended up spending the night next door in Little Harbour (JVD).

Tuesday, April 17th, my 37th birthday, dawned clear and bright. Dawn made my favorite breakfast, Mexican Breakfast Tacos, complete with her homemade corn tortillas. Then Kara and Erin joined us and Piper for a spirited hike/climb to the very top of Jost, at just over 1100’ above sea level. After return and a quick lunch, we took the dinghies over to White Bay where S/V Jada had just anchored with Lance, Andy, Ann, Mark, and Jim Corbo (a last-miute guest I knew from the Interline Regatta) onboard. After a preliminary beer or two we proceeded to shore where the Soggy Dollar Bar was already doing brisk business in Painkillers. The bar area survived Irma but the rest of the building and surrounding trees did not, and it looked so incredibly different. At least they recently replanted some palm trees; in a few years the Soggy Dollar should have lush surroundings again. It’ll never be quite the same again, though, which probably goes for all of the BVI. There will always be Before and After.

Very soon after we got to Soggy Dollar, S/V Rondo (Mike, Sarah, and kids Mikey and Kaitlyn) pulled in, and then the biggest surprise: S/V Pura Vida (Hayward, Ainsley, Heyward Jr and Katie Grace), who we first met in Georgetown SC nearly a year ago, bashed their way upwind all the way from Culebrita in one day to make my party! Dane, Mack and Isla arrived from Sea Otter. In addition, there were two boats in attendance we hadn’t met yet but had heard a lot about as they’d
been with a lot of our friends from Georgetown onward: S/V Savannah and S/V Carpe Ventum. In all we had eight boats and 24 people (and one piperdog) in attendance! It was a pretty good bash, and I was really touched that so many of our cruising friends made the effort to make it to Jost for my birthday.

As the afternoon waned we made our way back to Great Harbour (with us onboard Jada, dragging our dinghy behind). I briefly stopped in at Foxy’s to let them know our party had grown considerably (I’d made a reservation for 16) and they said it was no problem. We all went ashore at 6:30 and enjoyed a nice dinner with good conversation (though I have to admit Foxy's food is rather lackluster for the price). Afterward I invited everyone over to Windbird, and though not everyone came we actually had 16 in the cockpit at one time! That’s a new record for us. It was a nice end to a pretty
fantastic birthday that I’ll remember for a very long time. And now that so many of our friends on the Thorny Path had caught up with us, and with S/V Jada looking to buddy boat, my birthday bash marked the start of the last, more social phase of this year’s BVI cruise.

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