Bye Bye Windwards and Leewards

Today we depart for Bermuda!

So here’s the wrap up for this part of the planet:

After escaping the magnetic hold of Grenada and the Grenadines we absorbed ourselves in adventure and a check list of what we want to do before we say goodbye to this part of the world.  Three seasons down here means we’ve had time to visit almost every island.

Our bucket list included some hairy climbs,

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a gorgeous botanical garden,

a fantastic tropical forest waterfall,

snorkeling and diving on wrecks and reefs, thrilling races on a friends 55 foot Gunboat catamaran,

doing some really fun charters,

and having some of our favorite sailing friends visit.

Most folks bareboat charter in the BVI’s as the islands are close together and practically anyone can manage to get around with very little experience.  All the islands and groups are magical with their own unique character.

We’ve found the further you venture south the more you can experience the local culture and see how each island differs in language and customs.

There are English, Dutch, French, and independent islands, each with it’s own charms.

Local fruits and veggies stands, meat and fish markets, and local artwork gives you a good idea of what they grow, catch, eat and make. And yes, this is an eggplant, island style.

 

So if you feel the pull of trying something different after cruising the BVI’s, head south.

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You will not be disappointed!

But if you’ve never been to the BVI’s, it is truly a paradise for cruising.  The views are spectacular because unlike other islands, these overlap and no matter which direction you look, the views will take your breath away.

 

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For years I’ve felt like the BVI’s were my home away from home. In fact, there was a moment I thought about moving here.  Now I call it my home away from home away from home.

 

When 2 category 5 hurricanes hit the VI’s within 2 weeks, I could not stop thinking about the islands, the people, and the reefs.

So here’s the deal. The islands were hit.

Hard.

In fact we struggled with the idea of visiting the North Sound where the Bitter End Yacht Club was.  We opted out.  Too many well loved places were destroyed.  The Fat Virgin, Saba Rock, Biras Creek, YCCS, and BEYC.  We saw so many yachts destroyed, houses with blue tarps for roofs, buildings and houses you could see straight through.  Heading to USVI’s, St John customs we were reminded again of the devastation when we saw the building flattened.  It was a puzzle to figure out where to go to check in.  Red Hook on St Thomas now has a small customs office for cruisers.

Here’s what we’ve learned on our 3 week visit.

The Baths is still wondrously beautiful.  The building at the top has reopened for meals. Currently there is no wait or fight for mooring balls.  We loved that aspect.

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The palm trees lining most beaches are gone,  but they are replanting and the greenery is coming back!

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This is from years ago on Sandy Cay which I nicknamed Annie’s Isle.  I now call Sandy Spit Eric’s Pit.  LOL

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The Dogs were still great to snorkel on. The Rhone has broken up a bit more but was teaming with life and coral.

We did not stop at Coopers Island but heard the restaurant has reopened.  Trellis Bay was a wreck. Boats all over the beach.  But a few places to eat with lovely smiling faces serving. Cheap and yummy food.  The Indians where you normally have to wait for someone to leave only had 3 boats at a time including ours.  The coral and fish are still there.  Looking over to Normans was shocking.  Very few boats when normally you see a sea of masts.  We heard a new Willy T’s has been delivered and the Pirate Bight is open on Norman. Peter Island is closed and renovating.  It was hard to recognize where we spent part of our honeymoon.  Destroyed.

This is on St John, an old sugar mill up high on the hillside off Waterlemon Bay.

Sopers Hole, a complete disaster.  We saw it through Binos.  Jost Van Dyke, Foxy’s is alive and well but so quiet compared to a year ago.  Sandy Isle (Annie’s Isle) and Sandy Spit (newly named Eric’s Pit) still beautiful although the trees on Annie’s are shorter and thinned out.  No palms left but the locals have cleared paths and it’s still stunningly beautiful.  The difference is there is now a beach on the backside and with large pieces of coral scattered everywhere.  People make beach art with driftwood, coral, shells, and sea fans.

 

 

St Thomas is recovering pretty well but many people have left.  They lost boats or houses or businesses or a combo of any of those.  The yacht club claims 1/3 of the members are gone.

The bottom line is Irma and Maria destroyed a lot of land and water bases but most people remain strong.  Whether we were on Dominica or the VI’s when we asked questions, people were willing to share. Even customs officers. Living through something so powerful changed their lives.  Many are nervous of the season to come. The rebuilding is not over.  It is a huge reality check of where they live.  Like everything, life is a balance.

As for El Gato, we will do our best to stay as far away from storms as possible and keep an eye on the weather with our Predict Wind App.

We depart for Bermuda tomorrow and can be followed by looking at our tracker at:

http://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/ElGato.

Looks like we will be motoring for a few days but I’ll take that over too much wind any day.

When we get to Bermuda Eric will hop on a plane to Newport,RI, then race back to me in the Newport Bermuda race with his friends.  I’ll enjoy a girls week while he’s gone.

After Bermuda we look forward to hitting the states in July, visiting kids and family and friends on the east coast.

Today is the day!

850 miles to go and we hope there are some fish waiting to feed us on the way!

 

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