Saturday, December 10, 2016

Good-bye BVI's, Leeward Islands Here We Come

Parting shots of Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Independence Day Parade in Roadtown, Tortola. The celebration lasts a week with each town on the island celebrating in its own way.
Charlie with a parade participant.
This sign especially comical for today because the town is packed.......
.....and the music on every float is deafening!
The venue for all the evening performances of musicians.
Yes indeed, the world was watching our elections. 
Fancy car. 
Yes, the road is steep....
.....Great view though.
 We did not try this rum, yet! We may have another opportunity in a few months when we visit the Island of St Vincent.
Flammable rum indeed.
 Nanny Cay Marina, Tortola We docked at this marina spending several days here because, they had the ability to off load our old engine and load on our new engine using a crane. We however still had to muscle it out of the hold, through the main salon, up the steps, and out the companionway into the cockpit so the crane could lift it. Then reverse the order to bring in the new engine and install it.  Here a few pictures from around the marina.
 Boat storage at Nanny Cay Marina. There must be a thousand boats here playing dominoes. This is just one area of the storage lots.
 What a tangled web of rigging should a hurricane visit.
 The Underside View - jack stands as far as the eye can see.
 Construction area at Nanny Cay Marina. Dredging the reef area to build more condos
This devastating construction is frowned upon by the locals; claiming Nanny Cay Marina does not care about the reef or them.
 To build more condos such as these. The construction zone is just beyond the house at the end of this canal.
 The catamaran (white with a black stripe) is at the fuel dock just right of the red roofed building. This bridge is where I stood to take the picture of the condos.
 Parting shots of the BVI's
Next morning we arrived at Sombrero, an island west of Tortola and north of Anguilla. 
It is home to a now defunct guano factory, though a shortage of guano does not seem to be the cause of the factory's demise.
Time to explore and see if this would be a fine dive site for the owners.
 Just a few of the hundreds of birds here
 The dinghy landing. The ladder does not slide so you must have long arms to pull yourself up. If you are short it would require a fair amount of wriggling and throwing a leg up. All of this from a bouncing dinghy. There was no place to secure the dinghy away from the sharp rock once we were up, so we passed on climbing the ladder. 
 The water today is clear and inviting. 
 Five Brown-footed Boobies - Can you spot them?
We opted not to stay in Sombrero as there is no safe anchorage. Next stop south is Anguilla.
 Leeward Islands - History of the islands is a mix of Native tribe versus Native tribe, Natives versus European, European versus European, USA versus European, Slavery, Indentured Servants and all versions of uprisings and revolutions, as well as Mother Earth's revolutions of hurricanes. One also cannot fail to mention that island history is full of famous pirates and all manner of tales wrapped up in the various players. This is also true of the Windward Islands which are further south. The outcome of this sometimes peaceful, but oft times violent history, is a melding of a large variety of nationalities which bring with them a mix of cultures, an enormous array of food choices and a collection of fascinating personalities. We are looking forward to exploring.
The Island of Anguilla  The Island was home to the Ciboney, followed by the Arawaks and then came the Caribs. Columbus arrived in 1493 met by the Caribs. The Caribs called the island, Malliouhana. The Spaniards named it Anguilla, the eel, because of the islands shape. Anguilla Road Bay Harbor - the only bay on Anguilla that has free anchorage. All other bays are either closed to anchoring or you must pay for a mooring ball. 
 Sunset view of the same point pictured above
Anguilla has 33 beaches and is also reported to have good diving. However, the diving is controlled; meaning you must go with a dive guide on their dive boat. We asked if we could hire a dive guide to come out on our boat and the answer was, no. Night diving is not allowed either. For our owners the diving restrictions make this island unattractive, as they want to dive from their own boat and they do most of their underwater photography on night dives.
View of town in Road Bay Harbor - the island has several restaurants ranging from barefoot beach casual to chic and expensive.
Charlie brought up a treasure to show me; a conch shell that had a guest inhabitant. The little octopus shot out of that shell faster than a blink.
 Man-oh-man can they move! 
We quickly returned him with his shell, safe and sound to his underwater hiding spot.
 We set sail from Anguilla heading for St Bart's. We made it to St Maarten, the Dutch side, anchoring in Simson Baai for a nights sleep before heading out the following morning.   The Island of St. Bart's (St Barthelemy or St Barth's) When Columbus arrived in 1493 he found Caribs who came to the island to fish, but not to settle, as the island had no fresh water. Caribs named the island, Ouanalao, which means bird sanctuary. When the Spaninsh were awarded the entire New World in 1494 by the Pope, Spain deemed St Bart's worthless and left it for France and Britain to fight over. In a long and convoluted history the island has been occupied by the French and the Swedes. France eventually purchased St Bart's from Sweden in 1878.   The harbor and town of Gustavia  
Gustavia is now a bustling hub of mega yachts, high end shopping - similar to Worth Ave in Palm Beach - and chic restaurants. 
 Looking out from the anchorage towards the rock formations and reef that are reported to be nice for snorkeling.
Les Gros Ilets on the left, and Le Pain De Sucre on the right.
 Rain is coming
 View taken from the town of Gustavia looking out towards the anchorage. 
 We rented a Mini Cooper and went exploring.
 This cemetery is a resting place for many children that have been lost to hurricanes, cholera and diptheria.
  Views looking out from a peak on St Bart's
 Driving back down from the summit we spotted.....
 ....a turtle waddling along the narrow sidewalk.
 He/she was not happy about sitting for a photo shoot and headed into the bushes at a rapid pace!
 Back to Gustavia to find a dinner spot.  We are on a French island at an Italian restaurant. Eggplant Parmigiana and Lasagne are the specials this evening. One of each please.
The waitress in her most gracious English, asked us if we wanted water with or without gas? We learned that that is how they refer to water that is sparkling or, not sparkling.
 A good wine and water "without gas" as we await dinner. 
 Exploring the south side of St Bart's for snorkeling sites
 This turned out to be a very nice dive spot. However to be sheltered we anchored close to the rocks.
A bay on the southwest tip of St Bart's. The pictures do not do the geology justice. The layers of rock and the resulting formations are spectacular. The point in this bay looks like a stack of disheveled books.
The layers here are perched on the sides of the cliff 
 Also very arid here
 Two more photos of outcroppings along the coast
Ile Fourchue - an island north of St Bart's and a popular anchorage with a beach and hiking.
The catamaran on the beach has seen better times. 
 Back to St Bart's for the night. We are anchored in Columbier Bay
 The catamaran in the distance is us.
 Time for a hike 
 Again you can see it is very arid and hot. Sun visor and linen shirt help keep me cool.
 Charlie found the sargasso, the stinky stuff; and yes it has plastic pollution caught up in it.
 No palm trees here.
 The other end of the bay
The following two islands, St Eustatius and Saba were visited while we had owners on board. When we are working we do not have much time for exploring or photography. However, we managed to get a smattering of pictures. 
Island of St Eustatius - otherwise known as Statia
Dutch Zeelanders colonized Statia in 1636. The Dutch worked hard at creating trade business and within a century Statia became know as the Golden Rock due to its storehouses full of treasures. Statia was a neutral port and in remaining such, they traded with all  nations, much to the frustration of the quibbling nations. Statia acted as gun-runner during the American Revolution.
All came to an end beginning on November 16, 1776 when Statia's Governor Johannes De Graff saluted Captain Isaiah Robinson of the Andrew Doria.  De Graf thinking he was returning a salute to a merchant ship was actually saluting an American naval vessel under a rebel captain. This act inadvertently placed Statia as the first sovereign power to recognize the newest nation, the United States of America. The British enraged by the gun-running and now further aggravated by the salute, declared war on Holland in 1780. In 1781 the Brits seized the island, impounded over 150 merchant ships, destroyed the harbor, sacked the town, plundered the entire island, including personal goods and fortunes and deported residents. Statia never fully recovered.
The prominent geologic figure here is, The Quill, a crater of a 1900ft extinct volcano. 
 A walk down the beach road on the island of St Eustatius
Which came first the tree or the building?
 Fuel tanker in the distance
 The Old Gin House a hotel across the road from the beach.
 On the left - Fuel dock and tanker in the far distance near the point. We are seated at a restaurant looking north up the west coast of the island.
More geology - north face
 St Eustatius is now the fuel hub for the Caribbean. The island houses several gigantic fuel storage tanks; as large as any storage tank you would find at fuel depot in the States. Big tankers come in to off load fuel into the storage tanks and smaller vessels come in to load on fuel to take to the surrounding islands. 
The vessel - pictured below- is on the rocks. Fortunately it was carrying cargo and not fuel; not fortunate for the ones awaiting their cargo however. We watched the rescue progress over the course of the three days we were here. The shipping company brought in a salvage company from Tortola, BVI. The same company we hired while in Tortola, to lift an engine off the boat and load on the new engine. All the cargo containers were removed and then the process of floating the ship off the rocks began. 
 The Island of Saba Saba is a five square mile island on an extinct volcano, Mt Scenery, rising to over 3000 feet. It is believed the Arawaks inhabitated Saba and it is unknown whether the Caribs were ever here. In the 1640's Dutch colonists from Statia began to settle on Saba. In order to defend their island the colonists placed timbers on the hillside that were used to restrain piles of boulders and rocks. When attackers charged up the hill the timbers were removed allowing the boulders to roll down. This was called the - Rolling Stone Defense - I kid you not!    The struggle for control of Saba passed between Holland, France, Britain and Spain finally ending under Dutch control in 1816.   Saba became a marine park in 1987 and may still be the only self-supporting marine park in the world. Because the island is steep-to it appears inhospitable, but is ruggedly beautiful. Again anchoring is restricted and one must dive with a dive operator. Hiking and taxi service is available for land based sight seeing.   The main port on the west side of the island.
   Leaving Saba, we set sail for St Maarten. Time for the owners to fly home.
                    We dropped the owners off at the dock in Simson Baai to catch their taxi to the airport. We then headed into the lagoon under the draw bridge on the Dutch side. 
We are heading into the lagoon to Island Water World Marina to dock the boat while we are on vacation. The lagoon is protected from most storms so we hope the boat will be fine while we are away. As an extra precaution, we hired a boat sitter to keep watch until we return.
Friends and family ask us with a certain amount of incredulous-ness in their query; "You are going on vacation?! Aren't you already on vacation?!
Well....yes and no. True we have a great job, but with that comes 24/7 responsibility. The owners give us a paid vacation every year of which we are most grateful. Usually we go to the States to see our family, however this year we have three weeks vacation, which allows us a bit more time to see other places.
To find out where we went - you will have to read the next post. Insert the Jeopardy theme song here.