As mentioned previously, we did go spend a couple weeks in the Virgin Islands. Since we opted for the cheaper flight option, we ended up flying into St. Thomas USVI. It wasn't terrible, but we're both in agreement that if/when we ever fly back to the BVI's, we'd definitely pass on St. Thomas. Not a super friendly place and while we where in town one day there where 3 massive cruise ships in port. All in all not what we're looking for on a trip to the islands.
Once we took the ferry over to Tortola ($40 per person each way) and figured in "tips" and taxi's, it would have been cheaper to fly straight to Tortola and miss the mob scene in St. Thomas, which is the route we'd take if we where going down again for a charter. Once in Tortola the pace slowed a good deal, people got more friendly and we where able to unwind a bit. We did some great diving, despite some hesitation to dive the most popular spot in the BVI's (the wreck the Rhone) because we thought it would be too crowded. It ended up being a great site and we thoroughly enjoyed the day. We also enjoyed hanging at the various bars around Nanny Cay (pronounced Key) and chatting with the locals and some cruisers who where finishing up there season in the BVIs and prepping the boat for an off season on the hard while they returned to the real world to pay the bills (keeping a boat on Tortola ain't cheap). We spent a good deal of time wandering the dock and drooling over boats. Even convinced a broker to show us a CS 36 Merlin. It was a great boat for the price and would have been a good boat to learn on, but we both felt it was too early to commit at that point.
We also spent a good bit of time checking out the island. We actually rented a little car for about $30 and circumnavigated the island by car. With a stop in Trellis Bay (Beef Island) for a couple of fish sandwiches and an afternoon of windsurfing lessons. Unfortunately, there wasn't much of a breeze so we didn't make a ton of progress but I think we're both ready for a rematch. That night we stopped off at my personal favorite restaurant/bar on the island (so far) called the Bananakeet. The wings where great and the frozen bananakeet (drinks) where amazing, so where the dark and stormy's but this place is all about the views. Suffice it to say they drive up there was pretty darn exciting with some ridiculously steep roads and many switchbacks but it was well worth the trip. Many thanks to the cruising couple we met at the bar, Larry and Shery Halle of s/v Reprieve, who recommended we check the place out.
After several days of relaxing, it was time to get serious and head over to Rob Swain sailing for the 6 day liveaboard class that prompted the trip. We met our instructor Rory Greenan. Rory grew up sailing around the Irish coast and moved to the BVIs to get away from the terrible economy, I'm sure the 80 degree sunny weather, 80 degree crystal clear water, and constant 15-25 knot trade winds don't hurt either. Anyway, Kara and I refer to this portion of the trip as sailing bootcamp. We where on a 39ft Beneteau (Pretty Girl) for the entire trip and where lucky enough that we where the only two students. We found Rory to be extremely knowledgeable and a good teacher. I can still hear him now..."the boat shouldn't be turning....still turning...why is the boat turning?" We both really enjoyed the experience and managed to complete our bareboat charter certifications at the end of the trip, which was great. The experience taught us several things, for me the highlights are.
- We really need to get out of the lake and into the ocean to start building relevant experience. We both love our place on the lake and the Catalina has been great for learning the basics but the ocean on a MUCH bigger boat is a different animal. I mean that in a good way but there really is nothing like it...we need a boat!
- We don't do well in a V-berth. Since Kara and I are both tall, wedging ourselves into a v-berth where our feet and legs are right up against each other and we're constantly kicking each other throughout the night...was not a great combo.
- Lack of AC at night wasn't as big of an issue as I was afraid it would be. The breeze through the hatches/ports really helped. The Beneteau we where on could have used better venitlation in the forward cabin though, something to be aware of when boat shopping!
- Cooking on a boat wasn't really all that different than cooking at home, though cleanup was a bit more challenging.
- Stern/cockpit showering beats the crap out of trying to shower in a hot boat.
- Liveaboard sailing lessons are not a vacation. Don't get me wrong, it was fun, we learned a lot and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. That being said, it was work and we spent more time studying and practicing tasks than kicking back and enjoying cocktails in the cockpit.
- What happens at the Willy-T stays at the Willy-T.
- Going back to the real world from sailing for a week, is tough.
So anyway, we're back in the real world now and have been looking for boats. I'll do my best to detail this in my next post.