Tuesday August 22, 2006

Tuesday August 22

Tuesday was our big day. On the last trip, we’d gone off island to Tortola on my birthday. I got to ride around all day with an ear-to-ear You Know What eating grin because I was in the BVI. If St John is the sundae, heading to the BVI put the proverbial cherry on top. I got to swim around in Cane Garden Bay, visit Road Town, eat at Pusser’s and see Tortola. It was a lot of fun. However, we way overspent for the day and wanted to maybe rein things in for this trip.

When I set out finding a day trip, I had 2 things to consider. One was the St Thomas cruise ship schedule. On certain day, especially during the winter, like 47 cruise ships are anchored across the way on St Thomas. A good number of the people on board haul booty over to St John because it’s better than St Thomas. In fact, in January of 2000, that’s how JewelrySlut and I first got to St John. So, I looked up all the cruise ships that would be in the Eastern Caribbean for the week of August 20 and found that Tuesday was the busiest day. This proves that I am a loser. I could have waited until the sites post the ship schedules for the month like a normal human, but then I would not have known in January. I have no idea why this matters to us anyway. All we do is sit by the house, swim, drink and belch during the hours between 10 and 4. Jesus himself could be on St John and we wouldn’t know. As long as the “tourists” don’t come knocking on our door, we’re fine. But, it seemed like a good day to get away.

The other consideration dealt with destination and price. I wanted to take a boat somewhere but didn’t want to blow our wad. I could very easily have chartered a nice sailboat, hired Captain Ron and have taken us wherever the hell I wanted, but $800 seemed a bit steep. So, I poked around the myriad of sites out there in search of a good destination and boat. Jost Van Dyke kept coming up in my searches. It’s one of the smaller BVIs and has some really cool and funky bars. My life, as I had decided, would not be complete until I got to Foxy’s and the Soggy Dollar Bar. JVD it was. At about the same time, I found Limnos. They run charter trips from the USVI over to the BVIs and, as luck would have it, they go to JVD and are relatively cheap. For $110 per person, you get the boat, snorkel gear, breakfast, lunch and an open bar. Seemed cool to me. However, it was August and they were not running the JVD trips. So, we had to “settle” and go to Virgin Gorda. JewelrySlut and I had been there before, but it was a brief trip and we’d wanted to get back. MerlotMan and ChurchBomber had not been and liked the idea. There was a throw-in stop at some place called Norman Island at the end of the day and that seemed nice enough. I called them up in early August and booked us to go.

Alarms went off in the house at 7:00. We had to be in town for an 8:30 boat. ChurchBomber was not happy at all, but I promised her that she never again had to be awake before 10 for the rest of the week. We got up, mumbled through breakfast and headed down to town. I dropped the crew off at the dock, parked the car across town and hoofed it back just as the Limnos V arrived. Well, since I’m a believer in the expression “You get what you pay for”, the boat’s appearance did not surprise me. I knew we’d selected an inexpensive trip. We had an inexpensive boat. But, I also knew that there was a small group heading out. We’d be OK.

The boat was a battered motor catamaran with an enclosed center cabin/room. It had benches on the sides behind the captain’s seat and a center bank of cabinets. The cabinets were the food table, bar, sink and beer cooler. The back deck was open and had benches along the rails. There was a fully-open upstairs deck. The boat held 70 people and we had maybe 20 on board. I shuddered at the thought of 70 people packed on to the boat. Crowded sardines, I believe, was the analogy I made in my head. The 4 if us took to the back deck and started in on our paperwork. We need to fill out customs forms and hand over our passports so they could get us cleared into the BVI.

We got underway at about 8:30 and headed around to the North shore of St John. Breakfast was served (muffins) and there was plenty of juice…or rum for those interested parties (I was not yet interested). I was giddy as hell as we pulled out of town and got under way. We had a long ride to Virgin Gorda and I’d get to see some of my favorite places on Earth along the way. We passed the North Shore beaches and I rattled them off like a dork and took pictures. (For those keeping score, they’re: Solomon, Honeymoon, Caneel, Hawksnest, Trunk, Cinnamon, Maho and Francis). Off to the left, Jost Van Dyke came into view. I was in heaven. The ride was a bit rough, but not enough to make anyone seasick. The back deck had some shade so it was a very pleasant ride. We veered to the left a little bit and Tortola came into view. We passed the West End and took off across its North shore. After a few minutes, we were across from Cane Garden Bay. Captain Solomon announced where we were and added that Jimmy wrote Cheeseburger in Paradise there (At Stanley’s Welcome Bar I’ll add). JewelrySlut looked at me and just said “You could not be happier right now, could you?” What gave my feelings away? The goose bumps, the Ron Burgandy-esque erection, or the familiar You-Know-What eating grin? We pressed on, passing Guana Island (it has a cool rock outcropping that looks like an Iguana head), Beef Island (home of Tortola’s airport) and then VG came into view. We entered the Sir Francis Drake Channel and headed over. The Virgin Gorda Yacht Club in Spanish Town came into view and we slowed down for docking. The ride had been a lot of fun. The weather was great and the folks on board seemed cool.

Virgin Gorda is pretty much a 1-trick island. It has the Baths. The Baths are a collection of huge granite boulders that sit near the shoreline. They’ve formed a series of caves, passageways and cool formations. Other than that, VG has the yacht club and some small hotels. It’s a quiet island without a lot of activity and I NEED to spend some time there. It also seems that I NEED to become very wealthy so I can do all this. But that’s another story. We were herded over to taxis and headed out to The Baths. At this point, the adventure took on a little bit of regimented organization. I was a little concerned, but went along for the ride anyway. The cab ride was uneventful. JewelrySlut and I had been hoping it would be hilly. When we’d visited back in 2000, we went across the island and had our bus/cab nearly start sliding backwards down a hill. I was looking forward to seeing ChurchBomber’s reaction were that to happen.

We arrived at the Top of the Baths. The views from the restaurant at the top of the hill are stunning. I lack the ability to describe it, but to look at the pictures I took and see for yourself. To get to the beach, you have to hike down a path. ChurchBomber was not happy about having to do any hiking; she’d been given a “no-hiking” guarantee from me back in Atlanta. Looks like I’d broken it. The path isn’t that bad. You scramble down a hill for a little over ¼ mile and arrive down at the beach. The beach is smooth and sandy but has these huge boulders scattered all around it. It’s quite cool. The initial beach has a little bar and another pathway to Devil’s Bay. Devil’s Bay is the fun part of The Baths. It’s a secluded beach accessible by either boat or regimented adventure. The group was mustered for the hike over. ChurchBomber has a thing about caves and stayed behind at the beach. JewelrySlut and I grabbed the underwater camera and one set of snorkel gear and headed out. The trip to Devil’s Bay is a controlled adventure. You walk through the caves and crawl through the nooks and crannies. You climb up rocks, over plankways and up and down ladders. It’s a fun walk and the boat’s crew, Candy and Wayne, were telling us about the formations along the way. You pop out of the caves and arrive at Devil’s Bay.

The water was calm, the sun was out and the water looked nice. JewelrySlut and I bounded into the water and swam out to the rocks. Back in 2000, I’d done all the swimming (because I’m a jerk like that sometimes (but am really trying to share more and more as I pretend to mature)) and JewelrySlut had not had a good chance to see the sights. We had a great time sharing the gear and swimming in and out of the rocks and the little caves.

Keeping in mind that this was regimented adventure, after like 45 minutes, we had to head back. We all hiked back to the main beach. We met up with ChurchBomber who had been sitting at the beach nursing a beer. We hiked back up the hill to the Top of the Baths. The restaurant there has a pool that paying customers can use. Wanting to wash the salt off, I bought us 4 beers and became one. $14.50 and 4 Caribs later, I was able to swim. Ahhhh…fresh water. I had a quick dip, drank my beer, and ran to do some shopping. We grabbed a few shirts and were herded back to the taxis. We bounced back to Spanish Town and had about 4 minutes to shop. We ran into another shop and I procured a Dive BVI shirt and hat. We hustled over to the boat for lunch and the trip to Norman Island. Our regimented adventure had become a little too regimented for me, but who was I complain?

Lunch was simple; sandwiches and salads, but it was good. We were starved and the rolls for the sandwiches were really good. JewelrySlut ate a sandwich that looked likely to topple over at any moment. It was nothing fancy, but it was good. The rum started flowing on all decks and everyone was having a good time. We cast off and headed towards Norman Island. We went back into the Sir Francis Drake Channel and passed between Tortola and VG. We passed several of the smaller BVIs and got to see some cool sights. I’m convinced that, one day, we’re going to charter a boat for a week and sail these islands. The seas are calm and the wind blows hard. The sailing is supposed to be unbelievable. You can only access a lot of the beaches and coves from a boat. One day we’ll get there. Once again, I assured the group of this and I got the usual eye-rolling that accompanies my grandiose plans for adventure.

We arrived at Norman Island and the boat just stopped. I knew we would be snorkeling, but my day had suddenly just gotten a lot better. I asked Candy “We going overboard?” She told me we were and I was thrilled. I love hopping off a boat at a snorkel site. I’ve only done it twice before (in Bermuda both times) and was really excited. We geared up and hopped overboard.

Sweet Mary in the morning. The water was teeming with fish. We knew MerlotMan was OK in his life vest and felt good about exploring the area. Norman Island’s snorkeling is known for the caves. There are 3 little caves you can swim into and explore. JewelrySlut and I took off towards the reef and the first cave. It was unbelievable. Every color of the rainbow was visible right below the surface. I don’t have the words to describe it other than to say that it was amazing. Hands down, the best snorkel site I’d ever seen. We swam into the 1st cave. It was dark and the water was considerably cooler. We swam out and ran into Norman, the resident barracuda. He’s quite large and has a serious overbite. Cave 2 was cool, but Cave 3 took the prize. It gets shallow near the mouth and then opens back up once you’re inside. Within about 30 feet, you’re in total darkness. It was a very cool experience. The tide was flowing in and out of the cave, the water was cool and you could see why pirates had stashed tons of loot in these caves. JewelrySlut and I paddled about for a while more and started swimming back to the boat. We noticed that it was us and Candy left in the water. The rest of the crew and passengers were all waiting for us. So be it. Norman had come over to the boat and was hanging out under the propeller. Lots of teeth. As we got ready to hop back on board, a turtle swam by. That was very cool. There are supposed to be a lot of turtles in the area and we hadn’t seen any on STJ on this trip or the last one. We were very excited.

We washed off and motored back around to the North shore of St John. The rum came out and we all started having a good time. The ride back was great. Smooth seas again and we just had a lot of fun. The trip to Norman Island had been the highlight of the day. It was worth the $110 all by itself. It was nice to go to The Baths, but the snorkeling was just amazing. I could have spent a week there exploring the reef and caves. Plus, we’d have been able to go to the Willie T. The Willie T, as I’ve learned, is a pirate ship that some entrepreneur converted into a bar. Liquor flows and you can dive off the stern into the water. From what I’ve seen, clothing is strictly optional there. Maybe I should stay away. Nobody needs to see that.

We got back to Cruz Bay, cleared customs and trudged to…you guessed it…JJ’s. Our waitress saw us coming and had our Caribs waiting. I ran to grab some more rum and we relaxed at our favorite spot and told snorkeling stories,

We made our way to the jeep, drove up to the house and then really started the party. What happened to me over the ensuing 3 hours is a little hazy. I recall floating in the pool at sunset. I remember showering. Somewhere, I must have drunk way too much rum. Did you know that Cruzan Raspberry goes down like Kool-Aid? I know it does because I drank nearly a bottle of it. I managed to cut up some leftovers and cheese for dinner. How I managed to do that and maintain all 10 fingers is a mystery. I had to basically aim for the middle of the 3 hands and cut. I think I ate but I don’t really remember. All I knew was that at 7:30 I announced that I was going to bed. The last thing I wanted was a hangover the following day and I figured 13 hours of sleep was a good preemptive strike. I stumbled to our bedroom and promptly passed out.

I can’t say what else happened that night. It had been a very full, fun-filled day. There was still adventure ahead of us in the coming days, but I hoped it would be the less regimented kind.

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