Monday, March 19, 2012

St Thomas, St Johns (8 Tuff Miles) and The British Virgin Islands, February 2012

I am not sure any of what you are about to read is true, though the pictures may convince you otherwise!

Pictures and Video at the bottom

The flight over from Botswana to St Thomas was as pleasant as could be. It has been years since I have been able to hitch a ride on Margarite's Uncle's private jet. Though it seems any times I need a ride to any place near the Cayman Islands I get a free flight. I guess Margarite's Uncle is always looking for an excuses to go visit his cash.

Margarite and I got dropped off at the St Thomas airport and immediately headed over to Island Yachts, in Red Hook. We had a very exciting week planned and we wanted to get a jump on some of the preparation.

Much to my surprise after last years visit to St Johns, The Rock bought a 44 foot Island Packet sailboat, named Snowflake . Last week when The Rock and I were at the casino I mentioned my up coming trip to St Johns and he offered his boat.

Margarite and I had decided last year after my birthday trip to St Johns we would do the 8 Tuff Miles Race in 2012.  This is a race where you run from one end of the St Johns to the other. The peak of the island is about 1,000 feet, it is 5 miles up and 3 miles down, before I started the race I though it was 2.5 miles up, 3 miles across, and 2.5 miles down. After the race we planned to sail throughout the British Virgin Islands.

At the St Thomas airport we met Usain Bob and Marisol along with their adopted daughter Raisa. Raisa was born in Jamaica. Both her birth parents were killed by the Jamaican Drug Cartel. Though they did not admit to it, we think some how Usain Bob and Marisol were linked to the killing. When Raisa became an orphan at the age of 2, Usain Bob and Marisol were there to adopt her. They seemed like a very interesting family so we invited them along to sail with us. They quickly accepted.

The Quarrie family toured around Charlotte Amalie while Margarite and I checked the boat out. The boat was as pristine as expected. Skip the owner of the marina where The Rock keeps his boat, gave us a thorough education on the workings of the boat.

We met back up with the Quarrie's for dinner at a restaurant named Fish Tail, in Red Hook, St Thomas, what a great meal, but then again any meal would have been great sitting out side with the tropical breeze hanging out with great people (maybe great people).

Saturday morning Marisol took us via dingy to the ferry dock. We had to take the 6:00 am ferry from Red Hook to Cruz Bay, St Johns for the 8 Tuff Miles race. The Quarrie's would take a later ferry and meet up with us (at least we hoped they did).

The race had 1,100 entrants from 38 states and 3 countries. My goal was to run an average of 9 minute miles knowing some of my miles would be well over 10 minutes (up hill) and some should be close to 7 minutes (down hill).

The race started at 7:15 am we ran about a quarter mile from the National Park Visitor Center in Mongoose Junction along the edge of Cruz Bay to Center Line Road. So far so good nice and flat. I started in the middle of the pack, some 550 runners in front of me and 550 behind me. When I reached Center Line Road the course made a hard left and started climbing, and I mean climbing. Very rapidly people around me started walking, one women was breathing so hard I thought her lungs were going to explode. Not even a half mile into a 8 mile race and people were walking and dropping like flies. I felt great and wanted to run faster, but was slowed by the thick crowd of runners, it was just to dangerous to try to weave and pass other runners on such a steep hill.

I crossed my first mile marker at 9:59, one second ahead of plan, at this point I could of run faster, but I would later find out it was a good thing I did not. The first mile was steep, but it did have a quarter mile of flats. The second mile was all up hill, and I mean steep, my time for mile two was 10:04 slightly slower then I planned. On the ferry over from St Thomas a women runner that had run this race before told us, she thought this race was harder then a marathon, this concerned me a little bit. I was in no shape to run a marathon, so I was holding back.

Mile three as expected had some flats and slight down hills, my mile three time was 8:39. This gave me high expectations for the finish, only one more mile I would be half way done and headed for the down hill portion of the race. Mile four ALL UP HILL VERY STEEP! My mile four time 10:28 my slowest mile so far, and as I crossed to start mile five I could not see any down hill only more up hill, what was going on.

About half way through mile five I hit some flat and down hill sections my mile five time was 9:05. I was very excited all down hill from here. NO!

Mile six started back up hill, with some slight down hills, my mile time for mile six was 9:29. I was not happy I had gas left in the tank but only had two miles to go. Could I make up this time, in that short a distance?

Mile seven ALL DOWN hill, very steep, I actually had to slow myself down as I was afraid I would go head over heels. My time 7:17. One mile to go.

As I started mile eight I felt great my quadriceps were burning from the harsh pounding they were taking, but it felt great. I was passing people left and right. All I kept thinking was I need to be under 1:12 total time and I will have an average pace of under nine minute miles for eight miles. I need a sub seven minutes mile. I let it go, I figured it was make my goal or die trying. Mile eight 6:39, I hit my goal by a few seconds.

There was one problem, as I approached the finish of mile eight Margarite was there she had already finished, and had run back for me, but there was no finish line. Margarite let me know the race was actually 8.33 miles. I had a third of a mile to go I was cooked, I had used everything I had to make sure I was under nine minute miles for the eight miles. With Margarite's urging I was able to continue at a much slower pace. The last third of a mile was at a pace of 7:27 I finished the race with a total time of 1 hour 13 minutes and an average pace of 8 minutes and 54 seconds. My average heart rate was 175 beats per minute with a max heart rate of 193. So in the 73 minutes of running my heart beat 12,775 times. I was very happy with my time and pacing. I was beat up, but nothing like a marathon, I knew I would not be hurting the next day. Could I have run faster? Yes, but the minute or two quicker time would not have been worth the extra stress on my body.

Margarite crushed the race in 63 minutes a full 10 minutes ahead of me.

After the race Margarite and I headed back to St Thomas via ferry. Once we reach the marina the dingy was exactly where the Quarrie family said they would leave. Boy I am glad we are a good judge of character.

Margarite and I sailed Snowflake back to St Johns and moored in Maho Bay. We were to meet up with the Quarrie's at Mongoose Junction for the awards ceremony we had a few hours to kill so we did some R & R, and swimming in Maho Bay.

At 3:00 we went ashore and hitched a ride to town.

The awards ceremony for the race was rather long, but worth it. Margarite not only won her age group by over 10 minutes, she was the 4th overall women and 38th overall all 1,100 runners male and female.

After the awards, Raisa filled us in on what her and her family did while we were doing the race and moving the boat. Here is what she had to say.

Today was a crazy day. During the race me and my parents, Marisol and Usain Bob, where getting ready for a longer day than we thought. It started off with a ferry boat ride that would make some people sick. Then we talked to a useless information guy. We decided to ask the park ranger instead. She helped a lot more. We decided to take a hike to the top of a hill.

The hike started off with nice mainly flat path that was nothing compared to what was still to come. We took a quick dip in the water on Honeymoon beach, then continued onto the Caneel Bay Resort for a nice lunch. After lunch we had to ask the security guard where we were supposed to continue through to. She explained that we were going to the top of the mountain. We were surprised that we were going all the way up there.

It was very, very steep. It was also longer than we had thought. It was hard tough cardio up and hurt your legs on the way down. But the view was breathtaking. The first one was amazing once you climbed up on the big boulders. You could see how beautiful the islands are from up there.

Then we went down for a little while then up again. We had a easier hike up to the top of the second peek. Once we got to the top it was worth every step. There was a platform that you could climb onto and see all of the American and British islands. It was like a map of land made just for you. I wanted to stay up there forever. It was breezy but still hot so we took a much needed rest while we enjoyed the view.

It was all down hill from there. But it was very rocky and I slipped a few times. Luckily no one got hurt. We had a nice walk down and a good hike.

From there we met Margarite and DUG in town for some fruit smoothies and the awards ceremony. Then a town bus ride with some weird people with very large heavy bags. Suspicious! After that it was washing up in the ocean and a delicious dinner.

Dinner was steak and vegetables back on the boat.

Sunday morning time for church, NOT. Raisa said NO WAY. Instead we did some snorkeling along the edge of Maho Bay. We saw all kind of sea life including a few Sting Rays and one Sea Turtle.

The plan for the day was clear British Customs in Great Harbor on Yost Van Dyke, have a drink at Foxy's and then find a nice quiet place to anchor. As we left Maho Bay a fast moving squall came upon us. Within seconds our visibility was down to just a few feet. Unbeknownst to me and of course the rest of the crew Margarite had sailed on one of the America's Cup teams many years back and this was nothing more then a small hiccup to her. She set a course of 360 degrees due North got us North of the Squall and then changed course to 70 degrees and we sailed right into Great Harbor picking up a morning buoy and dropping our sails in one smooth movement. Literally we could hear people on the boats around us break into applause, just amazed at Margarite's sailing ability and skill.

Customs was a bit of a story, since Margarite was the captain she had to check everybody in. What this meant was the Quarrie family had to turn their passports over to Margarite. Margarite saw that all three had Jamaican passports yet Usain Bob's had his place of birth as the United States, Marisol's place of birth was Honduras, and as expected Raisa was born in Jamaica. At this point Margarite decided it was best not to ask question until we had cleared customs. Once we woke both the custom agent and imagination agent from a deep sleep, clearing customs was a matter of paying some fees and getting our passports stamped.

After a nice refreshing drink at Foxy's we headed for Little Yost Van Dyke due west of Yost Van Dyke. We dropped anchor just off a small beach on the South West side of Little Yost Van Dyke.

Marisol and Usain Bob made us an awesome dinner, grilled chicken and broccoli pasta salad. We had no idea, but would find out later Marisol was a Master Chef for the drug cartel when she was an informant for the DEA

After dinner and once Raisa was asleep Margarite had the great idea of playing truth or dare. Her plan was find out the Quarrie's story without letting them know what we were up to.

The plan worked and here is the story. Usain Bob works for the DEA and 11 years ago he recruited Marisol as an confidential informant, when he was working undercover in Honduras. Marisol got more involved with the drug cartel then she really wanted to, Usain Bob got more involved with Marisol then he should have. Next thing they knew Marisol was pregnant with Raisa while running drugs from Honduras to the United States as a drug mule.

Usain Bob and Marisol decided the best thing to do was put Raisa up for adoption. Marisol's second cousin and her second cousin's husband who lived in Jamaica had been try to adopt. So this was the perfect solution they gave Raisa up for adoption to Marisol's second cousin.

Somehow the drug cartel found out that Marisol was a confidential informant. That is the reason Marisol's second cousin and her husband were murdered. The drug cartel was actually trying to kidnap Raisa to blackmail Usain Bob and Marisol.

Fortunately for Raisa she was at daycare and was never found by the cartel. This is when Marisol and Usain Bob adopted her. They felt it would be wrong to tell Raisa the whole story with all the trauma and drama she had been through. So the short story Raisa is actually with her biological parents.

In the morning I took the Quarrie's in the dingy to Green Cay which was about 2 miles from where we were anchored. After coaxing Raisa in to the water, the Quarrie's snorkeled back to the boat, while I headed back in the dingy.

This is what Raisa had to say about the snorkeling.

We snorkeled today and saw a lot of cool sea life. We saw lots of coral and seaweed. It was a long swim but easy with the current at our back. We saw these aqua colored fish with colorful fins. Unfortunately we did not see any sea turtles but we hope to soon.

Once the Quarrie's returned we explored the beach, where we found Walters Bar. This was once a hangout for Blackbeard and his gang of Merry Pirates.

After the beach we picked up anchor and headed due East, just South of Monkey Point and North of Tortola. We picked up a mooring at Marina Cay, again Margarite dazzled us with her sailing abilities, putting us right on top of the mooring for a very easy pickup.

Marina Cay was well protected from the weather, yet crowded with many armature sailors, we watched several sailboat dodge, weave, and bang into each other. After about an hour of this entertainment we decided to take the free ferry to Trellis Bay, which is due South of Marina Cay adjacent to the Tortola Airport.

Trellis Bay has a great food market with VERY reasonable prices, one might even call it a discount market. Along with the market is a famous art gallery called Aragorn, very exclusive and expensive kiln fired pottery. This was the first sign of the wealth the Quarrie's must have, as they had no issue spending thousands of dollars on some very simple ceramic tiles. (maybe they are expecting a large inheritance)

We took the ferry back along with 18 German tourist, it was very clear the ferry was severely overloaded, much to our surprised we did make it back to dock, safe and sound.

Dinner was a native Honduras meal of rice and beans, prepared by Marisol, another great meal.

Raisa is the contributing editor today.

This morning we got up early to get a head start to the Baths on Virgin Gorda. Once we got there we dinged to some dingy moorings and swam ashore. The water and waves there were very rough. But we all made it ashore alive. Even DUG.

We took a short walk to the caves and swam there for a little bit then continued hiking. Some times it got slippery and wet but it was fun even though it was not what I expected. At the end of the Baths there was another beach. Margarite and DUG decided that it was best that they swim back and get the dingy since the trails were very crowded.

We swam a little while we waited for them. Then swam out to meet them. Next we had lunch and started sailing for Cooper Island. It was an easy and relaxing sail.

Before we went ashore a delivery boat brought out ice cream and I sat in the hammock and ate my ice cream, reading my book, while watching the other boats in the bay, and people on the beach. I was living the Life Of DUG

Then we went ashore to the Cooper Island Beach Club.

Off of the beach on Cooper Island my parents and I snorkeled and saw lots of cool fish. We saw animals including a trumpet fish, a ray, a barracuda, and parrot fish. Then we all showered (very quickly since we had limited time with our shower tokens and dinner reservations) and met for dinner. It was very good. It was a good day (especially when the delivery people came around with ice cream ).

In the morning we headed to Salt Island, sailing the Virgin Islands is a lot more about making sure you get a mooring then it use to be. Twenty years ago which was the last time I sailed the Virgin Islands, there were very few people let alone boats. Today all the good anchorages are crowded by noon.

Our plan for the day was snorkel the wreck of the Rhone and then sail to Peter Island and anchor in Little Bay. In order not to have to fight the crowds we left Cooper Island at the crack of dawn and were one of the first boats at Salt Island ready to dive the Rhone.

What a great place to snorkel, great fish, sea turtles, and sting rays, as well as what is left of the Rhone.

After an hour of snorkeling we decided to sail over to Peter Island and hang out in Little Bay. Everything so far was going perfect, though that was about to change.

We arrived in Little Bay to find it full, luckily we realized several large catamarans were just leaving. I readied the anchor as there were no mornings in this bay. As I started to lower the anchor with the power windless, the anchor chain started dropping to the sea floor faster and faster. I took my foot off the power button, but nothing happened, the chain was gathering speed, I stepped on the up button and the only thing that happened was the winch motor whining away. 300 feet of chain overboard and nothing was stopping it, I finally used my hands and feet and stopped the chain. My guess is well over a thousand pounds of anchor and chain was sitting on the sea floor below us. I hooked up a snub line to keep more chain from dumping. After a quick call to The Rock's boat mechanic I realized we were on our own. I knew how hard it was going to be to raise all the chain and anchor so I only wanted to do it once. The decision needed to be made, do we stay where we are or move to a bay with a mooring? Margarite made the call and after about 30 minutes of Usain Bob, Marisol , and I, wrestled all the chain and anchor back on to the boat.

Margarite motored us over to Great Harbor where we could pick up a mooring ball. The day was still early, there were plenty of balls to choose from. I was still sweating from the workout of bringing up the anchor and chain. I have a feeling, what happened next, was Margarite wanting to show off her sailing skills, cool me off, while having some fun.

A mooring ball is anchored to the bottom of the sea floor by a very thick rope, attached to the mooring ball with a 10 foot line attached to a small float. The key is you pick up the float with the hook on the end of your boat poll and then tie it off to your forward cleat. We had done this several times so far on this trip and even once sailed rather then motored to pick up our mooring.

Everything was going as usually I was on the bow with the boat hook ready to pick up the float, the only thing different was Margarite had not asked Marisol to check and see if I needed any help. In hindsight this is what made me suspicious. As usual Margarite placed us in perfect position for me to pick up the float. Just as I hooked the float with the boat poll, Margarite gave the sail a little jib and all of a sudden the bow of the boat split the morning ball and float, me with the boat poll and float on the starboard side and the mooring ball on the port side with the boat still moving forward. As the boat continued forward, the boat poll was being pulled further down into the water, my choice was let go of the boat poll and possible lose it overboard, or hold on to it and possible lose me overboard. I chose the latter, the next thing I knew I was in the water fully clothed including my hat and sun glasses. All I could hear as the boat sailed by was Margarite, Marisol, and Raisa laughing in unison. I am fairly sure I heard Usain Bob who was not laughing, say "That was not very nice!"

I was quickly rescued by a bystander on another boat that had been watching the whole event unfold. I could tell he was trying to control his laughter. By the time he arrived we saw Marisol getting into our dingy and she came to retrieve me.

Once I was back on board, we tried again, with great success, in fact it was picture perfect. The afternoon was some cleaning of the boat which included the in-adverted washing of Usain Bob and Marisol bed sheets. As well as snorkeling and swimming in Great Harbor.

Here is Raisa describing the Snorkeling

During the snorkeling I saw a Manta Ray. It was very big especially it's stinger which was probably five feet long. We were very close so we just let him pass by without bothering him. Also this morning we saw a hawks-bill turtle by the rock.

After the snorkeling I noticed Marisol go ashore and bury a package on the Island. Shortly after that I saw Usain Bob email out the following. I have a thought that they may have sabotaged the windless to make it impossible for us to anchor in Little Bay and force us into Great Harbor so they could hide their treasure.

Email: Usain Bob

Your first clue is an island with harbors big and small A 70s Brit rock star's name will guide you there as well

While you will never lose when rolling an eleven You'll be better in this case wishing for a seven

Head toward the letters perched upon a hill Then look left to a rock to get closer to your thrill

Just behind that stone and near the lid of a drum not steel Your treasure will finally be revealed

The bag you will see Comes from a brand that's Aussie

Inside is a treat Something nutritious to eat

Plus reminders of a nearby land And the travels of a familiar man

For dinner Marisol and Usain Bob made a great vegetarian dinner. After dinner Raisa entertained us with a great Irish dance. We found out Raisa is a world renowned Irish Step Dancer.

We got another early start, we are heading to the Indians a great snorkel and dive spot between Norman Island and St Johns. There are only 10 mooring balls at the Indians and with our windless out of commission we needed to pick up a mooring ball. From afar the Indians named after the resemblance of an Indian with a full headdress looked huge. As we approach them they are not as over whelming as first thought. Once we were tied to our mooring ball we snorkeled around the Indians. Margarite had one scare, she was in charge of Usain Bob. It ends up Usain Bob a great DEA agent and fantastic word smith, but not a very strong swimmer. Margaret who competed in the 1980 summer Olympics in swimming said she would keep an eye on Usain Bob. About half way through the snorkel adventure Margarite lost contact with Usain Bob. Panic set in, she quickly boarded a catamaran that was moored close by, from that vantage point she could see Usain Bob had returned to our boat. All was good. The fish and coral were just great and Usain Bob was safe.

After our snorkel adventure we headed to The Bight on Norman Island. We were early enough that we got a great mooring right off the dock. Once settled in we had brittle. You might say what is brittle? When the Quarrie's have breakfast food at lunch time they call it brittle. Do not ask me why. We had pancakes, eggs, and bacon for lunch or as the Quarrie's call it brittle.

Then we spent the next few hours just hanging around reading and trading war stories.

The Quarrie's went ashore to do some reconnaissance, I think they had some type of connection to make on the beach. Later when they returned another dingy dropped something in the water and very quickly and quietly the Quarries picked it up. When we asked what they picked up, they said they bought Raisa a paddle ball set and Raisa lost the paddle. I guess they thought we were buying tea in china.

We then went and dinged over to Treasure Point, where we snorkeled in several caves, carved by the power of the water. Everybody swam back to the boat (about 2 miles) while I took the dingy. Again lots of fish and coral.

Once back on the boat we cleaned ourselves up and went ashore to Pirates Bar and had a few drinks (a few to many) and some nice appetizers. From there I was off to sleep and everybody else had dinner.

Today is our last day of sailing, we are heading back to the United States Virgin Islands (U.S.V.I.), technically we must clear customs before we step on land in the U.S.V.I. We decided to live large and visit Leinster Bay and the Annenberg Historic Sugar Mill. The mill was an unbelievable place, if it was not for the cheap labor (slave labor) growing sugar cane in St Johns would not have been profitable.

After the tour of the sugar mill we did some snorkeling around a small island in the middle of Leinster Bay. We saw many star fish in this area along with many other tropical salt water fish.

After snorkeling we moored up in Lind Point, and dinged over to customs in Cruz Bay. This was very interesting, as before Margarite had to clear everybody through customs, this time the Quarrie's gave us three different passports, with different names then what they gave us to clear customs in the British Virgin Islands. We decided to not even ask. Once through customs we had a great lunch at Banana Deck, then a smoothie at Our Market, then back to the boat. This was our last night so Margarite and I cleaned up a bit and packed, while the Quarrie's went to hang on the beach in Caneel bay. We also moved from our mooring at Lind Point closer to Caneel bay.

Marisol and Usain Bob made us a great tuna noodle casserole for dinner. We really lucked out meeting a chef and having her join us on this trip. Not only a chef, but one that is married to a chef's assistant.

In the morning we motored back to St Thomas, cleaned the boat for The Rock, took showers and headed off to Charlotte Amalie for lunch. We ate at Glady's, nice local food.

From there it was a commercial flight back to Botswana.




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great trip....loved the commentary...and the pictures...Thanks for sharing...Gigi and Pops