Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Light winds carried the Picton Castle NW from stunning lush Dominica on smooth blue seas the almost 300 miles towards the British Virgin Islands. This would be our last Caribbean island before setting off north bound for Bermuda and Nova Scotia. The watch did what we do on watches; steered, kept a good lookout, painted, made sails, looked after the generator, used the sextant, set and took in sail. After a couple days the outlines of the Virgin Islands emerged over the horizon ahead on another balmy light trade wind day. Like some many other Caribbean islands the Virgin Islands were discovered and named by Columbus.
We made landfall between Round Rock and Ginger Island with Clark at the helm, then sailed down Sir Francis Drake Channel, slipped through Soper’s Hole and West End before running out of wind just two miles from our anchorage at Jost van Dyke. The Virgins have been getting good rainfall so were greener than usual. Normally these islands are quite dry and scrubby, the original ‘desert islands’ of pirate legend, and no shortage of old school pirate activity around here. They had to fence their booty somewhere, no? And thus we have the origins of St Thomas’ Free Port status…
All anchored at Great Harbour with yards squared for furling sail and just looking nice; Bronwen, Rebecca, Meredith and I went into clear in at the customs & immigration building right at the head of the wharf. We take a gang in because often there a lot of landing cards to fill out, just like the ones you fill out on the airplane before landing on an international flight. Jost Van Dyke is joy to behold, perhaps anyone’s idea of a charming tropical paradise island. After getting dropped off we walk down the well maintained small wooden jetty, cross the narrow sandy beach road lined with palms and sea grape trees. Just up a few steps to our white stucco customs building. Inside there is a large map of the world we donated to them some years ago.
Clearing can take some time. I stepped outside and saw an old friend and shipmate walking towards the wharf; Captain Arthur M. Kimberly, my master and commander, known as “Skipper” when I was a young guy deckhand then mate in his fine wooden Danish Brigantine Romance in these very waters in the early 1970s. Some other Romance crew, when learning we would be coming to Jost, arranged to have a bit of a reunion for some old “mareneros” as he called us. And I thought our Picton Castle gang would benefit by meeting a true seaman, a master mariner who was of the “age of sail” himself. Should Capt Kimberly read this he will sputter and fume at this designation but it remains true nonetheless.
We also had to go down to Foxy’s to see Foxy and Tessa who have been welcoming mariners to this island with food and drink and calypso for decades. Foxy Callwood was recently awarded the MBE by the Queen and pinned by Princess Anne for his work at keeping Caribbean culture alive, or maybe just for being a cool guy. We call him Sir Fox now. Foxy is also at work heading up an initiative building a small sail training vessel for island youth to crew and learn and spread their wings in the Caribbean, a noble and worthy project. Look up the Jost Van Dyke Preservation Society and learn more. The vessel design was developed from local working craft lines, those of the swift inter-island sloops, but with all the best materials. She is pretty far along and only needs the last push to realize completion. From Foxy’s dock I could see that sails of the ship were furled and that the swing rope had been rigged, swim call announced. All in all, a good start to a visit to, as Skipper puts it, “Jost Van Foxy’s.”
One of the reasons for putting into JVD was that this was also Foxy’s Annual Wooden Boat Regatta this weekend. And our last such chance to sail our small boats or get to crew on other craft which is such a good learning experience and fun as well, most of the time anyway. As wooden yachts converged on Great Harbour for the races, our longboat and dory were launched and sailed actively all weekend. We pulled the dory up on the beach at night in by Foxy’s and anchored the longboat by Wendell’s. Nice just looking at them in such a pretty environment.
I think all hands had a good time at our last Caribbean island but those are their tales to tell, or not. Minds naturally are turning to home and the Big Question; “what’s next?” But not so bad to spend some time at Jost Van Foxy’s in the sweet Virgin Islands while we ponder the question too long…