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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 five miles.

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 it on?!

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 it around."

"Okay- so you're a sailor then. Put sailor down."

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 boat!

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.

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