Monday, February 08, 2016

British Virgin Islands

St. Thomas is in the US Virgin Islands, and you don't really need to have a passport to visit there. The British Virgin Islands, right next door, are, in fact, in another country. We decided to take our passports, just in case, and actually did take a boat trip on the Breakaway!  The Breakaway is a good sized power boat, instead of a sail boat.
All the Virgin Islands are made of igneous rocks, lifted from the ocean floor, so we went past big cliffs everywhere. The route included the Baths at Virgin Gorda, Diamond Reef for snorkeling, Marina Cay for lunch, and Jost Van Dyke and the Soggy Dollar Bar. We left the resort just as the sun started to rise the meet the boat at 7 am.
Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands. I thought St. Thomas was mountainous, but we all cringed to see the roads going straight up and down here! I recall the name Tortola from stories about pirates, since Blackbeard and Captain Kidd were the first permanent residents on the island. You can still find a few old-fashioned sailing ships in the Road Town harbor, along with the sleek modern boats.

We snorkeled at Diamond Reef before lunch, and it had the most beautiful living corals I've ever seen. You know they are alive because they have bright colors. The white ones are dead. However, once again I had camera trouble, and had to buy one of the old film disposable underwater cameras from the captain. The developed photos won't be back for a week. Now I remember why I love digital photography.
Everyone said we should visit the Baths, although few seemed to know how it got that name. Some folks said it was where the slaves used to go to bathe, but actually "Bath" is short for "batholith," and are large bodies of intrusive igneous rock. Formed when magma cools and crystallizes beneath Earth's surface, batholiths have a coarse grained texture. So we hiked down to sea level and between these huge granite boulders. Several times you had to duck way down to get through at all.
One spot is known as the Cathedral. When the sun shines just right, it reflect off the blue water, onto the sides of the rocks, illuminating the green algae to look like cathedral windows. A cruise ship was in harbor  at the same time, and we didn't get the chance to really explore the Baths because of the crowds.
Over the eons, the waves carved strange shapes in some of the rocks, including this one that resembles a skull.
Marina Cay is a small island that is home to Pusser's Restaurant. Obviously, you can only get there by boat, but we ordered our lunch ahead, and they had no problem serving all 23 of us. For more than 300 years, from the earliest days of wooden ships and iron men, sailors of Great Britain's Royal Navy were issued a daily ration–or "tot"–of rum by the ship's "Purser" (corrupted by the sailors to Pusser's). Prior to 1740, the men's daily tot of Pusser's Rum was a pint a day, which they drank neat, that is without water! Before battle, they were issued a double 'tot', and always after victory for a job well done! From 1655 to the 19th century, Pusser's Rum was one of the few daily comforts afforded those early seamen of Britain's Navy as they fought around the globe to keep the Empire intact and its sea lanes open. Of course, the Navy no longer does this, but Pusser's Rum is still made from the same recipe.

Our last stop was Jost van Dyke island, home of the famous Soggy Dollar Bar. You anchor your boat just off the beach, and swim ashore for a Painkiller, which originated at this bar. They hang the wet dollars up to dry - thus the name. Actually, I'd had so many Painkillers already, that I just sat on the beach. Here's the recipe:
2-4 oz. of Pusser's Rum
4 oz. pineapple juice
1 oz. cream of coconut
1 oz. orange juice
Grated fresh nutmeg

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice add first four ingredients and stir. Pour into cocktail glasses and top with grated nutmeg.

As we returned to our home port along the north side of Tortola, we noticed that it seemed very sparsely populated. The waves coming from the Atlantic were much larger than those we'd seen in the morning when we were sheltered between the islands. In all, this was a wonderful trip, well worth the money.

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