In the 19th century when the Royal Navy plied these waters, they discovered that the age-old problem of scurvy aboard their ships could be avoided through the consumption of limes, readily available throughout the islands. This earned them the derogatory nickname “Limey” by their American adversaries, and it has stuck for the past two hundred years. While life aboard was invariably harsh and provided little respite, when the sailors went ashore they usually filled their time with gambling, rum, and women. The locals described this idle, laid back, unproductive behaviour as Limin’. It too has stood the test of time although the origins may be less well known.
When we arrived in the British Virgin Islands after a 13 hour night crossing, we made landfall at Virgin Gorda and promptly reunited with Britt and Sandy from Halcyon, who we had last seen on radar at 3 am in a storm off the Turks and Caicos in the spring. We dropped anchor and spent a week swimming, hiking, attending to some boat issues and overdosing on free internet (generously provided by Richard Branson).
After a week in Virgin Gorda, we had a beautiful sail over to Anegada which was advertised as a remote, out-of-the-way destination. Unfortunately, the Moorings fleet read the same advertisement and there were 70 plus charter boats crammed into a small harbour, all clamouring to drop $60 for a lobster dinner on the shore…not our speed. This is the first time we have encountered a significant number of charter boats and most of these people have limited experience with either their boats or the area. The classic situation is a 50-foot cat trying to pick up a mooring ball in a crowded field with the main half down, the jib flapping in the wind, and five guys drinking beer waving greetings to other boats in the anchorage (as their crews frantically run to get out fenders…).
Moma was fighting a cold and Alex had developed a severe allergic reaction to something, so we decided that we should start moving closer to civilization in case we needed medical attention. We did manage a quick stop at Jost van Dyke island along the way and Moma, Kathryn and I explored the “bubbling pools” which was a small basin fed by the incoming swells, causing the water to boil and receed.
We decided to drop anchor in Christmas Cove to explore St Thomas, and spent the next three weeks moving from Christmas Cove to Caneel Bay to Maho Bay, with excellent wifi coverage generously provided by various resorts on shore. When we cleared into US customs at Cruz Bay, I realized how much I had missed professional, polite and competent immigration and customs personnel; it really felt like we had returned to civilization.
One of the charms of Christmas Cove was Pizza Pi, a couple of industrious ladies who had converted an old boat into a floating pizza parlour, taking orders and producing interesting (roti pizza?) and tasty food. We also took advantage of the proximity to St Thomas to do some provisioning as well as take Alex to the doctor. Unfortunately, the provisioning was more successful than the medical care, and we are trying to work through this reaction ourselves, with excellent support from boats and family all around the Caribbean and North America who have emailed suggestions and advice.
Like any trip of this nature we meet, greet and then invariably say goodbye to some wonderful friends. At this time in our journey, many of the boats that need to head home turn North to get above the hurricane line by June, and we have said goodbye to three of our traveling companions in the last week. One of our favourite families is the Elias crew from Israel, who have demonstrated a perseverance and tenacity throughout their trip that is truly inspirational. They also introduced us to dominoes (..open your train to the public..), and Moma and I spent way too many late nights playing dominoes and drinking rum long after your mother had the sense to go to bed.
We rented a jeep for a day to tour St Thomas and Mommy and Moma puttered around Charlotte Amalie, the capital, while we went off and explored the island. The roads are narrow and stupidly steep in places but we took them all! I would ask you which way to turn and invariably you pointed to the steepest route. When I inquired why, Alex would promptly say, “Because…..we…..can…” and this has become a new family motto!
Moma left us after just over a month aboard Rafiki and we were all sad to see her go (yes, really Jecka!). Although the boat is comfortable and quite large, I am sure she got home, hugged the dishwasher, and left the water running when she brushed her teeth….because she can! It was a great month of painting, exploring, socializing and generally spending lots of time together. Hopefully, she will come back when we get to Central America.
We have some maintenance issues to sort out with the generator, and I had to pull apart two heads to replace the macerator pumps, not my favourite job! School continues with you both now reading Mark Twain which leads to lots of laughs as you read aloud, mimicking Ol’ Jim and his southern accent. We intend to start moving North towards Puerto Rico next week but we are in no burning hurry.
Having a reliable internet has been a real treat and everyone is taking advantage of either the newspaper, downloading books, ordering parts, texting friends or calling home. While the anonymity and dislocation of life on a boat has its certain charm, we have all become products of our environment and thoroughly enjoy the ability to stay connected. This, coupled with a reliable post office, has made the USVIs a perfect place to order parts and other mail order items.
While we are not doing any great crossings, monumental hikes, or grand parties, we are getting a few weeks of downtime without agenda, responsibility or plan, and of all the places we have visited, the Virgin Islands are a good place to do just that.