oinciana frames this vista of Road Harbor in Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands from in front of the Treasure Island Hotel. I arrived here the day before we sailed so I could sit in on the charter company's (Foot Loose's) briefing early the next morning. Screened from the wind by the high ridge that makes up the island of Tortola, Road Harbor was incredibly hot and humid, so walking up the hill with luggage from where the cab dropped us off was exhausting. So exhausting that I had second thoughts about having taken pity on the young boy working as porter. He was as thin as nothing and as I watched him struggle to pick up this huge bag I thought his lanky arms would crack and splinter. The bag belonged to another guest who was on the last leg of a desultory summer of traveling which ranged as far as Spain. A black amorphous thing with no wheels, the monster was easily large enough to hold daily changes of outfits for the whole summer as well as daily souvineers. I am a married man; I should have realized how heavy it would be; after all, it belonged to a girl, and the girl was sixteen.
Ever gallant though, and being also the father of sons, I could not stand by and watch the skeletal porter, a young teenager with no chest and no muscles, risk injury to himself by trying to hump that bag to the rooms, so I said, "Here, you carry my bag and I'll carry that one." I took the first flight of stairs up from reception bravely with the bag on my shoulder. The porter carried my bag easily -- I had only packed a few bathing suits and t-shirts -- and the world traveler managed her make-up kit and handbag.
At the top of the steps I was happy to put the bag down, as I was now dripping in the oppressive heat, and breathing with full chest expansion, a condition which takes me twenty minutes to achieve in the exercise room at the Y. Nevertheless, I was pleased with myself that I had managed the bag without putting myself into a condition of respiratory distress. I smiled confidently at the young man as I declared, "OK, just show me where her room is." He thanked me graciously and with a big, bright toothy smile he led me to another path of limestone steps that ascended into the trees. "Just up there," he said and disappeared into the poinciana. There were two more flights after that.
The girl's mother obviuosly thought I was about to have a heart attack when she saw me. She gave me water as soon as I put the bag down in the room and insisted that I stay in the air conditioning until I recovered, which I gladly did even though I knew I was in no danger. After a while I went out and looked down at Road Harbor from the heights I had labored to climb. The poinciana and bougainvillea here are the same scarlet red that Winslow Homer used on his tour of the Bahamas, though I really can't tell exactly what kind of flower Homer was painting in the picture on the left; perhaps a very leggy poinsettia. Whatever it is, it's a red that's a completely different shade from the bougainvillea one sees in southern California.
he TiMalou is a 44 foot Bennetau sloop with roller furling for both the jib and mainsail. Below decks it has 4 cabins, two heads, a frig and freezer, a propane oven and range, vhf radio, cd player, dining table and bankettes for 6 (or 8 with a tight squeeze) and a powerful diesel engine. On deck at the binnacle were a depth finder, compass, knot meter, engine tachometer and binoculars. On the stern rail was a charcoal grill, which we set up a little later. That's our skipper securing the emergency beacon to the stern rail and Mike walking toward us. We were taking care of the many little chores that needed to be done while we waited for the rest of our adventurers, who were coming on a later plane. When they arrived at about 2:30, we cast off immediately.
f the eight sunsets I saw, a few were special, like this one. Night really does fall quickly in the tropics. We stayed up on deck a few times when it wasn't raining to watch the stars, count meteorites and look at the Milky Way (if we didn't fall asleep). Because of the almost total lack of light pollution in the little bays and coves where we anchored or moored, the display was spectacular. We weren't as lucky with the "green flash." That's a very faint optical phenomenon which is difficult to see and photograph. At the instant the sun slips beneath the horizon a very short green "flash" is sometimes visible where the sun had been, depending on the thermal (refractive) characteristics of the air between the setting sun and the viewer. But, so as not to disappoint anyone, here's a list of sites with photos of real green flashes.
his rock formation is called the Indians. It's part of a reef that extends out from Pelican Island. We moored here and snorkeled and SCUBAed. Five to fifteen feet below the surface are many rocks, much colorful coral and many fish. I snorkeled through a huge school of bait fish that gracefully made a path for me as I swam through. I also watched as large predatory fish below me swam through the school trying to catch breakfast. It was like swimming inside an immense acquarium.
haron, Judy and Paul relax here under the bimini after a satisfying snorkeling session and before the SCUBA divers return. They usually crowded us out of the cockpit while they wrestled their heavy airtanks into the lazarettes. (Lazarettes are the storage compartments under the bench seats.) Mixing snorkelers and SCUBA people on the same boat is not a good idea. They get in each other's way, have different objectives and operate in different timeframes. Nevertheless, being mature, civilized adults, we all cooperated patiently and made it work.
n spite of the trade winds it was a very hot morning when we visited The Baths on Virgin Gorda. It's an amazing place that looks like it was constructed for Disney World. It's all natural though, the huge granite boulders tumbled one on top of another being what's left after volcanic lava-flows eroded away over millions of years. We took the dinghy in from our mooring to a beautiful sandy beach and walked over, between and under the boulders. Judy is posed on the rock like the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, which Kathleen and I visited in July when I got this photo. I didn't notice it then but doesn't the rock in the picture on the right look an awful lot like the head of a tyrannosaurus rex?...or maybe a giant turtle?
e spent a whole afternoon at the Cooper Island Beach Resort, a really beautiful place. That's Judy behind the snorkel and mask, not the mom from the Black Lagoon. The t-shirt is from her daughter's college, CalTech-San Luis Obispo.
spit, to a sailor or a cartographer, is a long, narrow shoal extending from the mainland. I have a vague recollection that it is, especially, a shoal at low tide which, as the tide rises, becomes an island. Unfortunately, I could not verify that in Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged...
Sandy Spit is such a shoal-island, just south of Green Cay (pronounced "KEY"), which is a larger island just east of a still larger island, Little Jost Van Dyke, which in turn is east of an even larger island, Jost Van Dyke. Sandy Spit is so small that one can stroll around its edge in about five minutes. The small palm tree on the left end of the island and the large palm tree on the right end are the same trees you will see in the pictures below. If I had known that this picture would be so interesting (at least to me) when I took it, I would have scrambled up to the bow with the camera so that the furled jib would not have been in the picture. I guess I was being a little over-cautious, afraid of pitching off the deck with the camera, so I just stood up in the cockpit and snapped this.
e packed a lunch and some drinks to bring with us to the island. We should have also brought an umbrella as shade on Sandy Spit is very hard to find. Even reclining on the small palm tree was not quite perfectly comfortable because of the sun. We should have tried lying in the shade beneath it.
I had to stand in two feet of water to get the large palm tree framed the way I wanted it. I had Homer in mind again, who painted the very tall tree on the right in Nassau.
ur companion boat was Great Expectations, another Benetou, but 7 feet longer at 51 feet. It's very difficult to get a picture of a boat that you happen to be standing on, so if you want to know what our boat, the Ti Malou, looked like under sail, just look at Great Expectations here and subtract seven feet.
The reason I look like the trusty fisherman from Gorton's here is that I hadn't yet figured out the lacing on my new hat. Turns out one must relace it for windy days so that the lace comes down from inside the hat instead of from outside as you see here. (I guess the instruction booklet for this hat got lost in the store. Otherwise, a very good hat.) The things you have to know when you go sailing.
ur last night aboard we med-moored in Little Harbor on the quiet end of Peter Island in the lee of the high ridge there. It was a very quiet and protected little spot but it was also very hot and humid because being in the lee means that we were also "protected" from the cooling trade winds. I was making a round of planter's punch in the cabin when I saw that everyone had their backs to this beautiful sunset. I asked Paul to take my camera and get a few shots before we missed it completely. Later that night it rained quite a bit, with thunder and lightening. The next morning was clear and we did a straight run under power across the Sir Francis Drake Channel back to Road Harbor and the trip back to "civilization".