Monday, August 27, 2012

What To Do in the Virgin Islands - Cooper Island, BVI

Since today is a cloudy and grey day, I thought I would post about a trip we made two weeks ago.

We all heard the story of how great Cooper Island and the resort there, Cooper Island Beach Club was and was on our bucket list. We were waiting for a calm day of which there hasn't been too many this Summer, which is a mixed blessing, nice to have breezes to keep things cool, but for boating makes for a rough day. We also had a deadline for when Shannon started her real Monday through Friday job.

That day came on a Thursday before Shannon started work on that Monday! Seas were forecast to be 1-2 feet. We are going, Cooper Island or Bust!

Out of the Compass Point Marina was surprisingly calm, Pillsbury Sound between St Thomas and St John which is usually rough, was good and through the north side of St John was a like a lake, glass!

We pulled into Sopher's Hole, Tortola, BVI within 30 minutes of leaving. This is where we cleared customs.

Cleared customs without a hitch, now on Cooper Island!

Seas were pretty calm, 1-2 feet and 24 MPH was no problem. On our way there, I saw Salt Island and remembered there was a wreck there, the RMS Rhone. So we motored over there, hooked up to a mooring ball. We were surrounded by all these dive charters, apparently it is one of the most frequented dive spots in the Virgin Islands. A little back ground on the Rhone:

The RMS Rhone was a royal mail steam packet ship that transported cargo between England, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. She was one of the first iron hulled ships, powered by both sail and steam. It sank in a hurricane when it hit a rock in 1867, killing 123 passengers and crew, with 23 surviving. It is in about 25 - 60 feet of water.

We donned our snorkel gear and watched all the divers below us. The wreck is pretty cool, saw the large propeller.

Now off to Cooper Island, 10 minutes away. There is a large, single finger dock there, but it had day charter boats docked, so we took a mooring ball off the beach.

Time for a little snorkel around the boat. It was some of the clearest water I have seen this close to a resort.

We waited until about 1:30 when all the day charters left to swim in for some lunch!

We essentially had the place to ourselves. The staff was amazing, all from the British Empire, English, South African, New Zealand. It was a refreshing change! Jacques our waiter was from S. Africa.

I had the humus wrap and Shannon had the Tuna. It was most excellent!

I tend to judge the quality of the beach resorts by the cleanliness of their bathrooms, and I must say, this bathroom was nicer than the one in our own house!

Time to head back to the boat, but first a stop at the table in the water to finish my pain killer!
It is getting late in the day, so we shove off and head back to St Thomas, going past the North side of Peter Island and Norman Island and the south side of St John. Let's not forget to stop at Salt Pond on St John for happy hour?

Cooper Island does have bungalow rooms and serves three meals a day. You can visit their website at:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tropical Storm Isaac - Update!

These meteorologists are just like the media, sensationalists. This storm was an utter joke, and they still have us under a tropical storm warning for heavy rains this afternoon. Anyone one with a brain can see on the satellite the storm’s back end is falling apart over Barbados. The only real voice was the meteorologist Rob Carolen on the Country Radio Station, 93.5 out of St Croix (and after doing some research and always wondering why the staff meteorologists on that station had Massachusetts's accents, they are an independent meteorologist company out of Nashua, NH were I went to college for 2 years, LOL, and he said on Tuesday morning there was no real concern for this storm and that it was going to flop as it went by us. This morning when he was being interviewed, he was like, see told ya so!

Adding to the sensationalism, our marina is still closed until Saturday or Sunday to see what happens with Joyce, which is not coming anywhere near us, which Rob Carolen also said this morning. Cry wolf too many times, you are going to have another New Orleans, where no one believes these forecasts. 35 MPH winds? One of the reasons we left N. Nevada was every day there were winds of 30+ MPH. As I am writing this, here comes a passing shower with a peak gust of 30 MPH.

Oh well, it was good emergency practice run, next time, I will listen to Rob Carolen and look at all the information myself and make a real judgement call.

Update at 7:00 PM AST  - Still no rain today, where is this Tropical Storm? We still have a Tropical Storm Warning in place, I guess for the winds? Right now peak gust is 12 MPH with avg of 7 MPH. This storm never materialized and let's hope it doesn't? After thinking today, this used to be same sensationalism when I lived in NJ, CO, ID, NV when there was a snow storm, 24 inches and the next day there would be 4 inches. I am a hoarder by nature after living for 8 years in N. NV and the nearest store was 45 mins away. So, in the future, I am going to forget the stress and roll with it. For those who know me and my sarcasm, I hope you are getting a laugh.

7:10 PM AST - Rain shower coming through, checked rain guage since the storm started, 1/2 inch, heck we get those all the time with a passing shower?

In parting, here is the forecast for Reno, NV, better issue a Tropical Storm Warning?

Tonight: Clear. Haze and areas of smoke. Lows 53 to 63. West winds 10 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph in the evening becoming light.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

First Tropical Storm - Isaac

When we discussed moving to the Virgin Islands a few years ago with friends or family, many asked if we got hurricanes here. Well, yes, and August and September are the two most high risk months. We would always reply with it sure beats a wild fire (which we were accustomed to in Nevada, Idaho and Colorado, all places I lived since 1989) or a tornado. Why you ask? You get several days notice the storm is coming. I grew up in NJ and we had the occasional hurricane come through, but all I can remember was heavy rain and winds, we were 70 miles from the ocean.

As we speak, I have had several days notice now. We first heard of this storm last Friday. Shannon had a trip booked to her native Canada, to Jasper to visit her parents, brothers and 101 year old grandmother at her parents horse back riding business in the national park there. We went to the Chili cook off last Sunday with some friends and Shannon had some anxiety about leaving Monday with the "notice" of a storm a coming. I told her not to worry, the dogs and I will be fine! She left Monday morning.

Tuesday night we get an email from the marina manager that they were closing the marina on Tuesday morning at 10 AM. You see, by this time, we were under a tropical storm watch.

So what does the marina closing mean? We have a boat at Compass Point Marina and one of the reasons we have a slip there is that it is in a hurricane hole and you don't have to move it. But that doesn't mean there is no prep to be done. What they do is move all the boats 6 feet off the docks. We then have hurricane lines that are attached to the pylons and then the pylons are roped criss cross creating a big web. Then they chain of the entrance to keep the Goony Boats out, there are many sailboats moored in the bay and by the looks of some, they aren't going to move on their own with a motor.

So off I go to the Marina at noon to meet a friend's boat manager to give me a hand since I didn't have my first mate, Shannon. Besides an annoying cough that developed that morning, we had it done in an hour.

Now back to the house, shower, change and off to the grocery store for some cold medicine (yes folks, I coming down with a head cold in the hottest part of Summer on the eve of a tropical storm). Of course I did get some other needed items, rum, beer, bread and a steak, yes my first steak since leaving the mainland back in April.

In the beer section, the entire middle row was pallets of water. Nope don't need that, have a reverse osmosis system. And the lines, well it was what I expected.

Groceries unpacked, now for a nice steak dinner because if we loose power for a while who knows when my next good meal will be. So here is my last supper, mind you, I am high on Sudafed now. Order a movie to rent on my IPad.

Restless night sleeping, keep waking up with all that I need to do the next day.

Wednesday morning, turn on the Weather Channel and they said that Isaac may turn into a hurricane, we have a hurricane watch, only 6%. Better get up and get going. Listened to the radio with my coffee and the local meteorologist is saying the storm will go south, top 35 MPH winds and heavy rains. Still, I better be safe than sorry?

Ok, checklist, generator and extension cords out, unlatch all the hurricane shutters so they can close easily. Bottle some more drinking water. Close up the apartment. Run to the gas station and get an extra 5 gallons of gas, remove the patio furniture and get the batteries out for the inverter (brought my RV solar panels down). I had my helper Bristol with me.

By noon I had it done. Lunch, leftover steak in tortilla with black beans grilled on the stove. Laundry, vacuum and dishes, hey I can't have a dirty house in a storm, right?

Around 3 PM, first band came through with winds at 20 MPH gusting to 27 MPH. Then Sun back out and then windy, cloudy, sun, shower.

The latest on the storm is it has weakened now with two centers. Most of the storm will be late tonight and in the morning.

All I can do I guess is take some Sudafed and a glass of red wine and maybe sleep better tonight. I will let you know how it turns out. One of our friends is having a Hurricane Party, but I don't think they would want me spreading my germs?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What To Do In St Thomas When You Are a Bored Local?

You do tourist things!

So a few Sundays ago, Shannon and I were bored, and decided to go on a local road trip to some tourist attractions.

We have never been to Mountain Top when it is open. When we were here in January 2010 we went up there to find the place had burned down! Well like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Mountain Top is open again.

A few myths about Mountain Top. First, the elevation according to the Mountain Top website is 2100 feet, all other sources say the elevation is 1480 feet. Second, Mountain Top is NOT the highest peak in St Thomas, that honor goes to Signal Mountain at 1486 feet. Believe it or not, Signal Mountain and Mountain Top are taller than the highest point in 8 states!

Mountain Top is a large gift shop with a large bar serving up banana daiquiris and a observation deck. To be honest here, we always have friends looking to shop for trinkets to take home and the selection to has not been great.  In the future, we are just going to take them here as the selection was huge!  The banana daiquiris were tasty, but really not worth $9 (the cost of a bottle of banana rum at any grocery store). The views, well how can you complain about this?

It was very slow as it was near closing and no cruise ships in town, so we had the deck to ourselves. We even got a chance to meet the owner and his son. Nice men, the owner is an immigrant from Israel and has been living in St Thomas for 20+ years. His son said he about had a heart attack with the rebuild, but life is good again now they are open.

On to our next stop. Drake's Seat.

We driven by this place, but have never stopped here. So with cooler in had of cold beer we stopped to take in the views of the world famous, Megan's Bay. Then I noticed why they call it Drake's Seat, there is a bench on the other side of the parking area. We took a seat in Drake's Seat and had a beer. The view was great, but even more fun was people watching with the cars going by, they really don't notice you, so made for some good laughs.

Here is a tid bit of history about this spot:

It is named Drake’s Seat after the British privateer Sir Francis Drake, who was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I. He used just this spot to spy on enemy ships of the Spanish Fleet passing through Drake’s Passage, where the Atlantic Ocean joins the Caribbean Sea. In 1568 while delivering the victims in his ship a Spanish fleet took him by surprise. He was captured and eventually escaped only due to his outstanding ability to swim. From then on he devoted his life to working against the Spanish Empire who considered him a pirate and an outlaw. To England he was simply a sailor and a privateer.

What to do now?  We are hungry. Latitude 18 restaurant on the water in Red Hook for dinner as they are having Trinidad food!

Latitude 18 is a great outdoor restaurant, that sometimes has live music. The best part is being able to sit right on the water. To get here, go east out of Red Hook. About a half mile there is a yellow fruit/bar stand on the left, the road goes to the right, stay straight up the hill (this is the road to the Ritz Carlton). At the stop sign on the steep hill, make a left, then make your next left down a little hill and some speed bumps. The road then goes up a hill with one half finished. The road splits again, stay left and take the terribly bumpy road until the road ends, you are at Latitude 18!

We had for Trinidad food, some fried bread, potato like cakes with indian dipping sauces and a calla loo soup which was like creamed spinach. Pretty good stuff.

So it was a fun Sunday to be a tourist!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What To Do in the Virgin Islands - Jost Van Dyke, BVI Foxy's

What to do in the Virgin Islands when you cannot get your real estate broker license as there is no exam available thanks to the USVI government? Well you get on your boat and go over to Jost Van Dyke, BVI with just your wife on a Friday. You see Shannon starts a new job on Monday, so we have been trying to get in some trips with just the two of us to explore places that the rest of the "crowd" doesn't seem to want to go to.

We are used to going over to Jost Van Dyke with friends here and it is usually the same routine, drop off at the customs dock in Great Harbor and then off to White Bay and Soggy Dollar Bar.

On this trip we decided to dock up at a bar in Great Harbor called Foxy's (  From the dock, Shannon walked down the white sand road to customs while I went and checked out the bar.

I got us two nice drinks that had the house rum, Foxy's Firewater. Shannon got back and we enjoyed two drinks while talking to our friendly bartender.

On our way to the gift shop, there was the owner of Foxy's, his name is Foxy and a legend in the area.

He was quite the character and looking good for being 73 years old, maybe the mystique of JVD? Regardless, he has a black lab that hangs out at the restaurant.

We asked him about the dog and if it was a Labrador. Foxy tells us this is no Lab, it is an Island Dog. What do you mean Foxy, this dog is definitely a Lab, he says, "nope Island Dog, do you want to know why?"
Of course I want to know and here was his response, there are 5 things that make this an Island Dog and not a lab:

1. He is black.
2. He lays around doing nothing all day.
3. He is always looking for a handout.
4. He doesn't know who his father is.
5. He doesn't know how many kids he has.

We got a kick out of that being Lab lovers!

He told us another joke, one that you would only understand if you lived on St Thomas.

What a nice way though to start your day off, and from now on when we go over to JVD on our boat, no more customs dock, it will be Foxy's dock for a drink to start the day!

The next place we were going to go to was Ivan's Stress Free Bar in White Bay. So we motored on over there and got up to shore where the bar was, problem, it looked like it was closed for the slow off season? There were no people around either, guess it would have been stress free? We decided to save that one when we can tell if they are open and headed over to Soggy Dollar Bar for some painkillers instead!  After another lovely afternoon, we decided since we have our local boaters card now, no reason to head back at 4 to go to US customs, so we stayed until 6PM. Wow, we pretty much had this place to ourselves execpt for a few sailboats that were anchoring there for the night. The place just cleared out at 4:30 PM.  Another note to self, stay here later! We just can't think of any real negatives when it comes to a day at JVD?

Up next: What to do in St Thomas when you are bored and a trip to the Rhone and Cooper Island, BVI.