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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Yacht Week British Virgin Islands - Part One

It's only 4 months late but I hope my Yacht Week British Virgin Islands blog is as entertaining and informative to read as it would've been fresh off the boat (pun intended).  For those who don't know, last July, I spent one amazing week exploring the Adriatic on board a 41ft monohull sailboat named Kala with three of my best friends in the world.  We ate, drank and clubbed our way through South Croatia with The Yacht Week.  Almost a year later I'm still wearing my wristband.  So, it seemed natural that I'd return from that trip only to immediate book a boat for New Year's Eve in the British Virgin Islands.  And here's Part One of how it went... 

Sunday,  December 29, 2013

We arrived via ferry from St Thomas in Tortola eager to register, meet up with our skipper, and board the boat.  Below is a map along with a written out itinerary of where the week would take us (each represents where we were docked at night).  This post covers Dec 29 - Jan 1, 2014.  Note, that for the British Virgin Islands route there is the NYE route and the March route which are not the same since for NYE they want to ensure you are on Jost Van Dyke for NYE since it's famous for that.

December 29 - Board boat / Night in Road Town, Tortola
December 30 -  Jost Van Dyke (by way of Sandy Split)
December 31 - Jost Van Dyke
January 1 - Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda
January 2 - Anegada (Bathes at Virgin Gorda before leaving)
January 3 - Bitter End, Virgin Gorda
January 4 - Norman Island (by way of snorkeling at the Indian Caves)
January 5 - Return to Road Town, Tortola (flew back)


This time around we'd organized a full crew of 8 people (including our skipper) on board a brand new beautiful 47ft sailboat.  It was SO much nicer and when split between all of us cheaper than the last trip!  Same number of cabins but the interior of the boat was much larger.  As usual, we'd made a specialty flag for the adventure!

 
 
 

Aboard the boat this time?

The Wounded Soldier, Bruce
Mochila
Cookie
WGW
Shamena
EB1
EB2

And they would prove to be the best crew one could have.  We spent the first night docked in Road Town, Tortola, partying on the boat.  We attempted to attend the club event that Yacht Week hosted but it was so shitty we left and came back for "family time" which would eventually come to mean "randoms off the boat this party's for the crew."  It was great bonding time for those that hadn't met before.



Monday,  December 30, 2013

We began the sail to Jost Van Dyke via Sandy Split where some of us swam in to party on the beach for a few hours.  I'd forced everyone to purchase a unicorn onesie when they signed up for the boat so some of the ponies emerged on our first day.  Great for lounging on the boat - extra cushioning and shielding from the wind.  Turns out BVI is a MUCH rougher sail than Croatia which was like motoring on a pond.  We will clearly be SAILING this week!
 

It was fairly late when we arrived at Jost Van Dyke so we had to anchor at the far end of the island in Diamond Cay instead in White Bay which is more towards the middle of the island by Soggy Dollar Bar.  Looking back I highly recommend passing up Sandy Split and just heading straight to JVD to you get a spot in White Bay.  It would've made life a lot easier and cheaper in the long run... but I skip ahead.


 
 

This first night was spent making besties with the crews on the boats around us.  I spent my time trying different stick on mustaches with Mustache Matt.  Shamena decided that she wanted a late night dip in the ocean and yelled to the guys, "SHAAAALLLL WE GO FOR A SWIM???"  This result in two of the guys picking her up to throw her into the ocean only to make a gross miscalculation leaving Shamena to bounce her way down the side of the boat finishing with a final painful "splash."  That one act would lead to a MASSIVE bruise that stretched the entire length of her leg and an infamous calling card that would occur throughout the BVIs as multiple times we'd be greeted at bars with "Shaaaalll we go for a swim?"

After saving Shamena from a watery grave, we headed inland on our terrible dinghy to Foxy's Diamond Cay bar (the original famous Foxy's is inland; this is more of an outpost) which is little more than a shack on the beach - I loved it.  One of the boats created custom "Heaven on Earth" stamps (the name of their boat) that were politely condensed down to "HOE."  I immediately confiscated one and by the end of the night anyone attending that party was lucky if they managed to escape back to their boat unscathed.  The skipper for their boat tried to wrangle the stamp from me only to lose to my superior wrestling skills.. unfortunately I lost the tip of a finger in the battle. Ouch.

 

This time around I really just used my iPhone for taking photos which was probably a very stupid idea but I couldn't be bothered packing 4248902832 cameras this trip.  At some point I started to run low and asked the bartender if they could just my phone... his response? "I don't have a charger I just have electricity."  WELL THAT ISN'T HELPFUL.
 
The night ended with a girl following us back to the boat and promptly being dubbed "Mayo" after her drunken expedition of our fridge resulted in her dipping potato chips straight into a jar of mayonnaise.  Champ.

Tuesday,  December 31, 2013

Today would prove to be one of the best day's of my life.  New Year Eve on Jost Van Dyke, particularly the party at Foxy's is known throughout the world as one of the best places to ring in the new year.  And we would be there.  But first, we'd spend the afternoon at Soggy Dollar Bar, situated right on the beach.

And this is where I returned back to the preference to anchor in the bay near Soggy Dollar because from our outpost we had to take a VERY long, fairly expensive taxi ride halfway around the island.  At least the views were beautiful (sit on the left hand side of the taxi) and the taxis are more like open-air trucks so we could enjoy the fresh air.  The best part?  Bastille's "Pompeii" came on and our whole crew broke out into song including our special rendition of the chorus, "I'm gonna be an octopus about this!"  Needless to say we were in rare form on arrival.


Soggy Dollar Bar was my favorite place on the trip famously known for their deadly tropical drink, The Painkiller.  A couple of those and you'll be "white girl wasted" dancing your way down the beach.  They also had a buffet that for $20 you got your choice of "burger" and assorted side dishes.  Within two seconds of me walking out with my plate, Wounded Soldier Bruce tackled me sending my hamburger straight into the sand.  AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

 

She reimbursed my $15 but I decided that I'd rather drowned my burger sorrows in $15 worth of Painkillers.  I spent the rest of the afternoon waist-deep in the beautiful blue ocean enjoying the people watching.  It was at this point that I realized how different BVI Yacht Week is from Croatia, even after only three days:
  1. It's less exclusive - you don't need a wristband so it's not just Yacht Week everywhere you go.  The parties aren't Yacht Week people only so you get to mix with an array of people from little kids to old retired sailors all enjoying the sun and fun together.  It's a really nice feeling.
  2. It's less diverse - Croatia had a much more international feel; BVI is much more American (neither being better or worse than the other... just different)
  3. It's less "fancy" - Not that yachting is ever fancy but Croatia the events at night were very "clubby" versus BVI which is much more laidback, beach bars.
As the sun started to head back towards the ocean, we gathered up the crew and came back across the islands to prepare for the New Year's Eve party at Foxy's.  Again sort of annoying that we had to come all the way back to our side of the island when Foxy's is right near Soggy Dollar.  But we all knew we needed a little time on the boat if we were going to make it past midnight.

Some people decided to wear their special NYE outfits but WGW and I decided it was time for the unicorn onesies to emerge from the boat and meet the public.  Within about five minutes of wearing them on the boat we made the executive decision to cut off the arms.  Phew that's better!

Another long taxi ride back to Foxy's.  Bruce was wearing sunglasses that were shaped like "2014." It took us a second to realize the "1" had to be wide enough for her to see out of so it looked like a "0" hence why people kept saying "Happy 2004!"  Silly.

Foxy's was a madhouse!  There were people of all ages and types partying together which was really cool.  Made for some epic people watching!  Unfortunately, I'd gotten it into my head that I didn't need shoes because it would be a beach party but instead it's a sandy bottom bar inland.  It took a massive dad who just happened to be paying attention to keep me from stepping straight down until a broken bottle barefoot.  This sent me on a quest to find shoes...

 

Fifteen minutes later I managed to find and adopt a lone white flipflop amongst the rubble on the ground.  50% safer!  I spent the next few hours losing track of my friends so I decided to start painting people's faces (since obviously I'd brought face paint).  I finished up one attendee only to have a 40-year-old woman walk up and eagerly ask for a palm tree on her cheek.  When I finished, she slipped me a $20 and thanked me.  Confused, I pointed out that I didn't work there! I was just doing it for fun!  She started laughing and I told her I'd buy us beers with the money.  That's what I mean.  Everyone there was SO cool.  This also gave me the bright idea to paint another flip flop on so that I'd have two!

 

After awhile and a couple beers I was getting annoyed with my one real flip flop so I decided to discard it... only to have one of my friends appear 20 minutes later holding the flip flop to give back to me!  Miraculous?  I responded by tossing it to the side again only to have a DIFFERENT friend appear with it.  Okay, this isn't funny.  So I CHUCKED the thing towards the ocean as far as I could.  That should do it.

Our crew managed to find each other through the hullaballoo just in time to ring in the New Year together (Shamena had spent the last hour holding on to my tail to keep track of me).  I had to have Bruce takes photos because my fingers were so destroyed from accidents that I couldn't manage.


Turns out even my tail couldn't keep track of Shamena for long... as the rest of us stood waiting for a cab I turned only to find her... GONE.  You know what wasn't gone?  Part of my crew went to buy final beers for the ride and low and behold guess who comes along with them?  THE DAMN FLIP FLOP.  They thought this was hilarious.  I sank a beer in annoyance.

What felt like five hours later we finally managed to push our way into the back of one of the taxis and get back to the boat...


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The next day we spent the better part of the morning sailing to Spanish Town on the island of Virgin Gorda on some very rough seas.  Mochila definitely wasn't feeling so hot and EB2 ran into the marina when we arrived.  And THAT's what you get boat insurance!  We were extremely excited because they had....wait for it... SHOWERS AND GROCERIES!!!!

 
 

We tried to grab food but after two hours we still hadn't even put in our order so we decided to buy food and EB1 made steak and mashed potatoes on the boat grill.  Glad we did that anyway!  He is a GREAT chef! We enjoyed our dinner to a beautiful sunset probably brought on by the terrible stormy weather we'd had all day.


That night everyone seemed a little tuckered out from NYE but Mochila was back in action after spending the last couple days with a questionable stomach.  So she and I dawned Indian headdresses and wandered on to one of the other boats that was having a glowstick party.  We boarded the boat and introduced ourselves only for one of the crew to ask me if I was from New York and if I had a friend named Ryan.  Ryan had originally planned on coming on Yacht Week after we'd already filled our boat so I'd put him in touch with another crew that had a spot.  Then in the end he wasn't able to go but they'd already bought a US flag, made him a T-shirt and a special wristband.  It was so sweet!  I asked them for the wristband to take back to the States.  They were so much fun.

Mochila and I wandered from there to the sponsored party of the night which was really really fun.  We got lots of compliments on our headdresses.


And here ends Part One of the debauchery.  Check back soon for Part Two!!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Stopover in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

As promised!  Our Puerto Rico Christmas gave way to three lovely days in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, giving us a few more hours to tan and relax before a week of crazy yachting.

Thursday,  December 26, 2013

We packed up our things at the Seraton and made our way to the airport where we had a liiiiittle trouble finding our plane.  Turns out that's because it was a tiny puddle jumper!  We also gained another member of our Yacht Week crew... the remaining girl. 

The flight to St Thomas was a little scary for one of our crew members but boy were the views amazing! 


When we landed in St Thomas it was a $10/person ride to Rhoda's Guest House, the hostel where we'd be staying for this portion of the trip.  Rhoda's House is owned by Eric and Abby and is absolutely adorable and clean although slightly out of the way to most places.  But for the value it can't be beat!  Four of us shared one of the private rooms with our own bathroom and the fifth stayed in the bunk bed room with a shared bath (she signed on later).  Eric and Abby were also amazing.  Eric will regale you with hilarious stories if you ask...

 

The weather in St Thomas put Puerto Rico to shame so we were eager to get to a beach.  Eric kindly offered to take us to Magen's Beach which was pretty far from the hostel and avoided us having to find a pricey cab or taking two different safaris to get there. Safaris are open air trucks that fit about 15-20 people in the back (like a bus) that run on a prescribed route (like a bus) and cost $1-2 per person.  You just pull the little rope to activate the buzzer and they pull over and let you off.


I can definitely see why Magen's Beach is the most famous beach in St Thomas.  It is beautiful!!  Part of the reason is that it's very shallow for quite aways out so you can walk around and look down at the fish.  It also has easy access to drinks.  Only annoyance is it's a pain to get to and $4 per person entry fee.  On our way back to town we had to take a taxi who tried to extort us for $10 per person ($50?!??!) but I talked them down to.... $9?

We took the taxi into to Red Hook since we'd heard that's where all the action takes place (bars, restaurants, etc).  A rasta at Magen's had told me to get fish tacos at Fish Tails so Mochila and I deviated from the rest of the group for smoked tuna and Mahi Mahi tacos.  The smoked tuna app was DELICIOUS - slightly salty and perfect on chips.  The tacos were good too although nothing out of the ordinary.  You could tell they were fresh.  And the mudslides washed it all down nicely.  I'd definitely recommend this as a good place to chill at the bar and have some apps.


Our afternoon then devolved at SeƱor Frogs down the street (apparently we have to check them off in each country we visit on this trip) where we made besties with the heavily moustached bartender, ordered drinks in penis-shaped palm trees and fashioned our own balloon hats which were pretty sorry looking.  At one point, Shamena (she loves to sing outloud but never knows the lyrics so we told her to just mouth Sha-me-nah over and over again) decided she was done with the game of Jenga and just back-handed the tower across the bar.   We made our exit after that.


Only to hit up the infamous Duffy's Love Shack!  Shamena's brother had recommended this dive as the best bar in St Thomas so we had to check it out.  The fun thing about this bar is that each of the crazy drinks comes in certain glasses/mugs.  So, for example, if you order a "Cry Baby" it comes in a plastic baby bottle.  The "Booty Call" came in a pirate cup.  I ordered both.

 

Around the time that I'd finished both drinks, and had them refilled, I'd given my balloon hat to an eight year old boy and was doing "hand-made" limbo to Vamos de la Playa. Easily one of my finest moments.  Since we were still going strong straight from the beach the "magic mochila" was with us and made another ratchet dance appearance. The night ended with the grumpy cat bartender trying to cheat us by making us pay for a bunch of drinks we didn't order.  And I knew I was right because we didn't have the matching cups to go with the drinks he said we'd ordered.  Nice try dumba--  When I tried to reason with him he just said to forget it and wouldn't let me pay at all.  FINE.

The cab home was $7 a person for those who don't want to get ripped off.  That's how much it should be for Red Hook back to Rhoda's (Tillett Gardens is where you say you want to go).


Friday,  December 27, 2013

In the morning, we walked down the street to get supplies from Kmart and then took the $1 safari to Sapphire Beach. We managed to pass it and end up at Red Hook again (oops) so we had to walk back to the beach (safaris only go one way).

On arrival at the beach, I made the most amazing discovery... a BBQ truck called Off the Grid that sells all you can eat BBQ for $15.  Um yes please.  And if you order a beer you get a coozie!!!  SOLD!  You can also pay normal prices and takeaway down to the beach too since the unlimited is only if you stay up by the truck and we wanted beach time (safari drops you at the top of a hill where the truck is and then you have to walk down quite aways to the beach).


Sapphire Beach was beautiful as well although a little more windy than Magen's and smaller beach front.  You can rent beach lounge chairs for $7 each.  We had a lovely day and then came back to shower before heading back to Red Hook for dinner at LTD Pizza.

LTD is in a hip little spot overlooking the harbor and their LTD Deluxe pizza (sausage, pepperoni and peppers) was insanely good.  Be warned that it will seem like a huge wait (there were eight of us) but it took no time at all so I recommend giving it a little time before you bail because the pizza and the atmosphere is worth it.


After dinner we wandered around looking for a new bar to go to since we were basically banned from Duffy's after not paying the bill and so we ended up at Molly Malone's.  No offense to Irish bars (afterall I'm Irish) but they just don't hold any interest for me.  There was a live band with a crazy man playing harmonica but he could hold our interest for only so long so we went looking for a new spot.

We ended up at Fatty's which is in the same parking lot as Duffy's (yes Duffy's is a bar smack in the middle of a parking lot).  Turns out it's also heaven and filled with all the locals including probably the hottest chef I've ever seen.  Shamena and I took turns trying to catch glimpses of him in the kitchen.  This place was just as divey as Duffy's but without the tourist BS.

 

The bartender self-proclaimed himself as "Big Pappa" and Shamena got into a dance off with some dude to the sound "Jump on it; ride it"  He eventually started dancing so dirty that she turned red and conceded the dance off.

We made friends with some of the locals who suggested we continue on to Caribbean Saloon across the street where I got sucked into playing the naked matching game and trivia.

One of the guys was wearing an interesting bracelet that I'd seen on a few people so I asked him about it (reference image below).  He said that the bracelet let's other people know if you are in a relationship or not.  If the hook faces your hand you are single; if it faces your elbow you are taken.  This obviously prompted him to point out his was facing his hand...at which point I made excuses to find my friends.

 

It was getting pretty late and someone managed to flag down a massive car to take us back.  Late night in St Thomas locals will just drive around in their own cars and if you are going in the same direction you can throw them a couple bucks to take you on their way.  I wouldn't do it by myself at night but in a group you are safe... island culture still embraces hitchhikers... for a price obviously.

I managed to ask one of the guys from our hostel for a bite of his pizza.  I was later told I folded the entire slice into one bite and ate it.  He was not pleased.  Upon arrival back at the hostel someone got a wild hair to make pancakes which was appreciated by the whole group and a perfect way to end a great day.


Saturday,  December 28, 2013

Next morning I woke up feeling sick but figured I could just as easily feel sick at the beach so we took a safari to Red Hook in search of Secret Harbor Beach since the crappy map made it look like it was right at the edge of town.

Turns out you have to....
  • Pass through the whole town of Red Hook
  • Pass the high school 
  • Turn left at the yellow shack
  • Go up the hill on the left
  • First right you see a little sign for Secret Harbor
  • You walk for ages down the hill through a residential neighborhood to the beach
The crew kept asking me "ARE WE THERE YET???" which I obviously had no idea SINCE I'D NEVER BEEN THERE so I finally yelled "THEN TAKE A F-ING CAB!" This just made them all start laughing at me... sigh.  But in the end it was worth it because the beach was so secluded and amazing. 


I'd brought Winston, my traveling Flabongo with me, and the hostel boys showed up so we spent the day in the water taking Winstons and playing water tennis.  I took a pit-stop at the restaurant on the water and ordered buffalo wings which were spicy and sweet and perfect.  I highly recommend them!!  Soon we had to leave because the two remaining people in our Yacht Week crew had arrived at the hostel and we'd all planned to have a big family dinner for our last night in St Thomas.

Within seconds of meeting up with the final crew members at the hostel, it was clear that Yacht Week had started even though we weren't there yet.  We made an amazing dinner of burgers, sausage, salad, and dark and stormy drinks before, you guessed it, heading out to Red Hook where we convinced all the guys to order us drinks at Duffy's so Grumpy Cat Bartender wouldn't see us and we could party there.

All-in-all a great part two to our two week vacation.  I love St Thomas and would return here in a heartbeat.

Inside Jokes from the Night:
"Are u sshing me?"
JAMAICA
Aquarius
Something something cup



Sunday,  December 29, 2013

Our last day we packed and returned to Sapphire Beach for some final BBQ and sun before heading on the ferry to Tortola for the next chapter...YACHT WEEK BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS