January 20, 2003
Hey There Sailor: Exploring Virgin Gorda
Curt and I had an uneventful overnight sail
from St. Maarten to the Virgin Islands. We arrived yesterday
in the late afternoon and made our way into the North Sound
of Virgin Gorda where we dropped our hook in front of a brightly
painted cluster of buildings known as Leverick Bay. I wanted
to check out the famed Bitter End Yacht Club, but neither
of us had the energy to deal with the crowds of charter boats
and tourists. We needed solitude and a good night's sleep
so tomorrow we could be productive and clear-in.
So Curt and I began deliberating on how
to go about clearing into customs here. We wanted to sail
to Anegada tomorrow morning, but there isn't a port of entry
there, so we knew we needed to do that here on Virgin Gorda
before we left. We discussed taking the boat down to Spanish
Town, but clearing-in was the only reason we'd be visiting
that anchorage, so I got the bright idea that we should walk
from the north end of the island to the south side, where
customs was and then maybe cab it back. Afterall, it was only
Yes, it was only five miles- but it sure
seemed like a lot more considering we had to walk up the steep
peak in the blazing tropical heat before we transcended down
upon Spanish Town on the other side. And let me tell you-
WAKE UP CALL! My feet are not used to wearing shoes anymore.
The little piggy of my right foot got a hefty blister to prove
it. But it was worthwhile nonetheless, since we were afforded
some splendid sweeping views of the archipelago of the Virgin
Islands and we had plenty of time to absorb the more authentic
side of Virgin Gorda while we walked along the roadside. Not
to mention that our waistlines seemed to've expanded considerably
over the holidays and could really use the workout. And to
think we didn't even have turkey and the trimmings to blame
We arrived in Spanish Town and practically
crawled panting into the air conditioned customs office. We
found the agents to be noticeably warmer towards us than other
British islands we'd been to "down-island" and considered
perhaps it was because they'd grown accustomed to dealing
with the charter boat crowd. As a matter of fact, when I handed
the immigration agent our paperwork, he read it over and passed
it back through the slot in the glass window. "Your occupation
please. It's blank."
"That's right." We don't work."
"No, what do you do back home?"
"We're unemployed. We don't have jobs."
"Yes, but what do you do?"
"Well, we live on our boat and sail
"Okay- so you're a sailor then. Put
I just got the biggest kick out that. I
laughed and laughed. A sailor. Me? I've never considered myself
a "sailor." Cruiser maybe- but sailor? The rest
of the afternoon Curt kept addressing me as Sailor (and he
got a laugh from me every time).
What a wake up call the rest of Spanish
Town was to us. For one thing, there were people on sailboats
here that were wearing lots of white and navy blue, and Sperry
deck shoes as opposed to flip-flops. Women had their hair
coiffed and were wearing gold jewelry. These were not the
types of yachties we'd seen since we left the states. No epoxy
on their shorts, no calluses on their crackling hands. For
goodness sake- some of them looked like they had even ironed
their clothes! I had forgotten about the sailing set ala Sir
Francis Yacht Club back in San Francisco. I've replaced my
sailing stereotypes with the yachties we've met down the chain
of Caribbean islands from Saint Martin to Venezuela. I thought
of Don and his "just yank that puppy out and plug it
with a broomstick," solution to our engine troubles.
I didn't think that would fly with this sailing set.
After a joyous tour of the local market,
Buck's, we headed off with cold steaks and fresh vegetables
in hand to find a taxi home. I thought the guy pitching us
the cab was trying to pull a scam when he said it was twenty
bucks to go five miles back to North Sound. But then a second
driver quoted us the same price and, too tired to walk the
two hours back, we acquiesced. In Venezuela, we paid the equivalent
of about $5US Dollars for four of us to go to the other side
of the relatively enormous island. I couldn't help spending
the ride back calculating what we could have gotten in Venezuela
for our cab fare here: a night in a lovely posada (with a
belly busting dinner and breakfast included), a decadent lobster
dinner in a fine harborside restaurant, ten cute new shirts
from the Gap. Made note to self: check on the bus system in
BVIs. I asked the driver how much a beer was in a bar here
(common cruiser scale of relativity- it's called "beeronomy").
He said $3-4 dollars. I told him we just came from Venezuela
where we paid .21 cents at happy hour. He peered at me warily
in the rearview mirror as if I were about to try to talk him
down on the fare.
It only got worse when we arrived back at
the dinghy dock at Leverick Bay. We had a bag of rubbish we
wanted to toss in their dumpster. A sign was posted on the
side directing us to the fuel dock to pay the $2 dollar fee.
On my way down the dock to pay, I paused at a day charter
boat. I'm sorry, but I just HAD to check out the fees. "Spice"
charges $90 per person for a full day, $60 per person for
a half day, and $40 per person for a sunset cruise. That would
go a long way towards paying their trash fee I suppose. It
reminded me of Sean's story about how he decided to take charter
guests aboard Force Five to help build up their cruising kitty-
but then that's a whole other story altogether now isn't it?
Suffice it to say he wasn't going to get much for our little
Back on the boat, we had a scrumptious meal
in our own quiet solitude at the back of the anchorage (drinking
a delicious bottle of our $4 dollar French wine from Saint
Martin). We looked around the bay to find perhaps two other
cruising boats- the other thirty or so looked to be bareboat
charters. I wondered what they'd think when they retired to
live out their dreams and cruise the Caribbean waters whose
prices they'd happily helped to inflate.