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Interlude at Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

The Picton Castle sailed in and anchored under sail at Jost Van Dyke, in the British Virgin Islands, after a short two-day passage. We had been in the Saints just south of Guadeloupe. And a small rendezvous with Carriacou Sloop Genesis off Nevis. Jost (as we call it, pronounced Yost, although lately we are hearing it said Just) is a small island only three miles long, just north of the bigger island of Tortola. Maybe 350 people live here. It is a port of entry. The island industry is making sure visiting yachties sailors have a good time under the palm trees with sand in their toes. Swimming, snorkeling, sailing, diving, calypso, reggae and country western music, plenty cold rum drinks for the grown-ups. A few small goats for the ‘boy’ to chase. This works out for the Picton Castle crew at the tail end of our voyage around the world. But first, we must clear in.

While all hands are furling sail (followed by a swim call) Tammy, Dirk and I head into shore to clear in. Lots of bare-boat cruising yachts in line to clear in also. Happy sunburned faces. Tilley hats and sunscreen. The BVI Customs & Immigration staff all very gracious, courteous and professional, and soon all papers were done. As we left the air-conditioned office and stepped on to the shade of the second-floor verandah with a fresh trade wind blowing, some folks on sailing holidays waiting their turn at clearing-in asked us about the big ship in the harbour (us) and where were we headed next. Told them, Bermuda. They were astonished that we might be sailing so far. Smiles came to our faces. We think we are almost home with only 830 nautical miles to get to Bermuda and another 700 to Lunenburg. These folks thought this was “far”. It’s all in the perspective. We radioed the ship to let them know to take the Q-flag down and off watches could come ashore (the Q-flag stands for quarantine, so it is raised before we enter a port to signal we have not yet cleared Customs and Immigration and is lowered once we have).

One of the best things to do around Jost Van Dyke is to sail small boats. Clear water, nice winds, small seas, blue skies, nice reefs and sandy beaches to sail to, all close by. We have two fine vintage wooden boats just for this purpose. Soon both the longboat and dory Sea Never Dry got launched and anchored off Foxy’s Tamarind Bar at the head of the bay. Over the next three days all who wanted to got to sail all around.

Foxy’s? Simply the most famous and original barefoot beach bar in the Caribbean. Established in 1968 by Philliciano (Foxy) Callwood. To meet Foxy is to meet the Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and Paul McCartney of Caribbean Calypso and then some. Making up riotous songs seemingly on the spot, full of social and political satire and fun. Foxy is also a great leader in historical and cultural preservation in the Caribbean. So much so that Foxy was made an MBE by Queen Elizabeth a few years ago. The Fox is an international hero. Nice article in Soundings magazine on Foxy by Jeffrey Bolster not long ago. Married to Tessa since 1971, it was great to see them again. But I get ahead of myself. Much else to think about.

What else to do at Jost Van Dyke? Well, great snorkeling here and there, any number of classic and very relaxed reggae beach bars/snack shops and restaurants serving great Caribbean foods. In addition to Foxy’s with its beachside hammocks in the shade, there are Cool Breezes, Corsairs, Rudy’s and a couple of others. And usually some good place to dance at night. And it is so Caribbean blue beautiful around here. All day long, all night long. And the lovely trade winds blowing almost all the time. Part of the charm is the creamy sandy road through the village of Great Harbour. Feels good on the toes.

We sent the fore top gallant yard down for some close inspections and overhaul. Mate Erin brought it down, the gang overhauled it and up it went the next day ready for plenty more service. And then a swim call. Not bad a swim call after a day on watch at anchor.

As most might know, Hurricane Irma swept through the BVI in 2017. Did some pretty serious damage to most of these islands. Thinned out the bare-boat fleet some. A few called that part a “cleansing”. And also the islands to the east like Anguilla, St Martin, St Bart, Barbuda and Dominica and so on. And then to the west. Puerto Rico, Dominican Rebuplic, Haiti all got hammered hard. Here at JVD seemed like it sort of sand blasted the place. Most big trees down. Some buildings all gone, some showing remnant foundations, Some only needing new roofs. The hills are speckled with white/graying stalks of dead trees. Seems that this kill-off of flora was from wind velocity and a high salt water content going higher that it had for ages. It is dry season now anyway so the hills looked pretty parched. In a month or two some rains should green things up a bit.

But one small positive of all these dead trees is that we were told by Foxy to cut any of this wood we wanted for boat building. As we are always on the lookout for crooks to make knees and breasthooks out of, Dirk took a gang of young stalwarts (Kimba, James, Dustin, Johnny, David, and Gabe) into the bush near the shore, scared off some lizards and cut away for a couple of hours. Foxy and Tess had a big old mahogany tree come down and that got cut up too. Hot work, maybe they had a cold beer at Foxy’s after. Not Johnny, he had a Ting. Ting is a refreshing grapefruit soda.

BVI is our last time shop for groceries too. Donald took brother Jon and Katie and got on the ferry to West End, Tortola and headed for the market. Don’t need much, but fresh stuff on a sea passage is always welcome. Dawson, Tammy and I got some shore time in. Dawson was literally in small boy heaven, if a small boy likes to swim in turquoise waters and find a conch and see pretty fish swimming around an old tree trunk in bay.

It always comes to time to sail. That’s the nature of a voyage, isn’t it?  Decks get put away. Boats get hoisted. Sea Never Dry up on deckhouse, the longboat in its davits, loose sail. Last goodbyes ashore on a quiet balmy day at Jost Van Dyke and we hove up and sailed away downwind south of the island, past White Bay with its brilliant beach and packed with day visitors from St Thomas reliving their glory days of spring breaks a long time ago. Loud and fun in the sun at White Bay, and a whole different world than cool serene Great Harbour, the last of the West Indies in the Virgin Islands for us. From West End Point, Jost Van Dyke, the course for Bermuda is North.

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