Sunday, July 31, 2011


As with nearly every island in the Virgin Islands, Tortola has more than its fair share of stray dogs. While not as numerous as chickens, dogs are everywhere, and it's unusual to take a drive without seeing one.

Most island dogs are not really strays. They likely were procured by a family as a puppy, but not named or ever invited into the house. Left to run free, they can still usually rely on being fed by the family.

Still, I often see island dogs scavenging near dumpsters -- unsurprising, as there are probably good eats in there.

It's probably a good thing for me that they're so numerous. If there were only one or two that I saw all the time, they would probably be members of my family by now. But with so many, I've realized that I can't save them all.

HB might have a hard time convincing me not to adopt just one though, before we move back to the States.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dining Room Lake

Woke up this morning to about 2 inches of water in our hallway and on our dining room floor. Water is leaking at a fairly rapid rate from the bottom of the toilet, where it meets the floor. The water's been off to our apartment for about an hour to try to control the situation, but it keeps leaking. The plumber thinks a pipe under the toilet might have burst

If we get this solved, I'll be on later to post again.

For now, back to sweeping water out of the house.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Perhaps it's because I didn't grow up around the ocean, but I find the entire idea of currents quite confusing. I've been thinking about ocean currents lately because of seaweed. Unlike the Florida Keys, where the beaches and coastline are often lined with dead, dried seaweed, Tortola's shores remain primarily seaweed-free. Why are the Keys inundated with seaweed while the BVI is left barren?

Except that over the last three days, I've noticed this accumulation of seaweed along the coastal highway just past Pockwood Pond. For a stretch of maybe a mile, the coastline is clogged with seaweed. What changed in the ocean current to cause this sudden buildup? And why is it only in this particular spot, not all over Tortola?

It also seems that maybe this is a regular occurrence, as on Saturday, I noticed a passel of locals pulled over and harvesting the dried seaweed that had washed up on shore. I suppose that they too had just seen it while driving by, but it seemed as though many folks on Saturday were driving specifically to that spot for the seaweed harvest. Granted, I haven't seen anyone collecting since then.

I realize that there are many things that could contribute to this unusual seaweed event other than ocean currents. Maybe the ocean temperature is higher which is causing the seaweed to die and float to the surface. Maybe a passing storm tore a bunch of kelp from its tenuous roots, or there's been an invasion of sea urchins with the same result. But for now, since I don't understand them, I'm blaming the currents. I'm pretty sure they're at least responsible for this accretion only occurring on a two-mile stretch of coastline.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Trash Disposal

A stinky subject for today, it occurred to me that while I've written about most of the utilities on island, one thing I've never addressed is what happens to trash in the BVI.

Shortly after moving to Tortola last August, it became apparent to me that I needed to find out the trash truck schedule. Moving always seems to involve a lot of trash -- boxes and packing materials and all the things you realize you didn't need after all. After a week, we had accumulated enough trash that I set it outside, and vowed to be vigilant to find out when trash pick-up was. A week later, with stinking trash accumulating on our porch and no garbage truck in sight, I went to my best source for information of this sort, the neighbor girl.

I asked Michelle, "what day is trash day?". She stared at me blankly. I rephrased, "which day does the truck come to pick up the trash?" She took a beat, and then explained that the trash truck came on Sunday, but only to the dumpsters. It took me a minute to cotton on, but I finally realized that there was no residential trash pick-up in the BVI. To dispose of all the trash sitting on the porch, I would have to load it into my car and drive it to the closest dumpster. I'm glad I talked to Michelle -- the idea of having to carry my own trash would never have occurred to me otherwise, having never lived anywhere before that didn't offer curbside pick-up.

I'm accustomed to this aspect of BVIsland life now. What I'm still having trouble getting used to is that there is no recycling offered on the island. Tortola is small, only about 22 square miles. There is no space for a landfill, and as a result, all the trash gets incinerated. While the incineration does prevent the island from being overtaken with trash, it also affects the air quality in this otherwise fairly-pristine part of the world. I can't help but think that recycling would help reduce the amount of trash going to the incinerator, and therefore improve the quality of air on island.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Beach Ducks

By far one of the more exciting aspects of my trip to Jost van Dyke last Friday were the fellows below.

Beach Ducks! I've never seen a duck in the BVI before, and here these guys were, just hanging out on White Bay Beach. As HB and I browsed for a spot among the manchineels to put our stuff, we frightened these ducks out of the bush.

They ran around on the beach for a little while, before seeking cover back in the bush near a disused paddleboat.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Trellis Bay Kitchen

I have been wanting to write about Trellis Bay Kitchen for some time, and every time we eat there I think, "next time I'll bring the camera and write a post." And yet, I continually fail to bring the camera, probably because we often choose Trellis Bay on the spur of the moment.

Known throughout Tortola for their "Famous Awesome Sandwich", after three visits, I have yet to try anything else, because the sandwich is truly awesome. The sandwich comes without any sides, although you won't miss them, as the sandwich is more than enough to fill you up. With the best multi-grain bread I've ever had serving as palate, the sandwich has melted cheese, veg, and an option of six different types of fish, or ham and turkey. The flying fish has been rumored to be the best, but there's been a shortage of flying fish in the BVI for six months now, so HB and I have had to opt for snapper and smoked wahoo, both of which were great.

The location and vibe of Trellis Bay Kitchen offer encouragement of their own to visit. Located at the far end of Beef Island, you can't really go any father East on Tortola. The kitchen sits on Trellis Bay, and offers windsurfing equipment and lessons, along with a cybercafe. It's a great spot to spend a relaxed afternoon, enjoying the tastiest sandwich on the islands.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Deli France

Located across the street from Tico, in Wickham's Cay I, Déli France has become a serious food resource for me. While I've stopped in at Déli France many times in the past, usually to pick up some prosciutto or pancetta, only recently have I started visiting on a regular basis.

As the sign says, the deli functions as a bakery, charcuterie, and cheese shop, along with offering lunch sandwiches. The wide variety of European meats and cheeses often helps me complete my grocery shopping. The fresh croissants and pastries make a quick, inexpensive, and delicious breakfast option. Other European products, like Fage yogurt and Illy beverages are also available.

The French Bakery, as I call it, is open from 8am to 6pm Monday through Friday, and 9am to 1pm Saturday.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jost van Dyke

Last Friday, HB and I decided to get away for half a day to Jost van Dyke. It was our first visit to Jost van Dyke, which is is probably the best-known island in the BVI chain, and I don't know why we put it off for so long.

The ferry leaves from the West End Terminal, and this is definitely the slow boat. Although Great Harbour on Jost van Dyke is only about 4 miles from West End, the ferry ride takes about 25 minutes. At $25 per person round trip, though, it's fairly inexpensive.

The ferry terminal in Jost van Dyke is fairly picturesque, and there are good views of Great Harbour to be had. As we climbed in the taxi to White Bay, HB spotted a sea turtle swimming in the shallows near the dock.

Prior to leaving Tortola, we had done a bit of research on the best snorkel spots on JVD. While the consensus is that the very best spots can only be reached by boat, and that there is little good snorkeling from the beaches, we found one website that extolled the snorkeling virtues of the west side of White Bay, so that's where we headed.

Wow are we glad we found that website! Going out from the beach at the far west end of White Bay, we swam through enormous schools of fry before reaching the reef, which was vibrant and active. Plenty of reef fish, including blue tang, parrot fish of all kinds, and an occasional angel fish. The highlights for me were watching the underwater part of a pelican's dive, and the three amberjacks we saw hunting the schools. When HB first pointed them out to me, I thought they were small sharks, but closer inspection proved that they were just very large amberjacks.

It would be impossible to talk about White Bay without mentioning the Soggy Dollar Bar, a small portion of which is pictured above. The Soggy Dollar Bar is known for inventing the painkiller, and was formerly only accessible from the water. After trying the painkillers and hanging out for half an hour, we're resolved on spending plenty more time there in the future.

After snorkeling in White Bay, we headed back to Great Harbour to check out the barbecue at Foxy's, a very popular dinner option in the BVI on Fridays and Saturdays. Unfortunately, since it is low season here, the BBQ and live music at Foxy's weren't getting started until 7:30, but we still enjoyed their microbrews and relaxed ambiance, even spying a tarpon from the pier.

Our half-day on Jost Van Dyke concluded with the relaxing, slow ferry ride back to Tortola at 5:00pm. All in all, an excellent afternoon.

Monday, July 18, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about boats lately, and I've come to a conclusion. If you're going to move to a small island, it is probably best to get a boat. HB and I moved to Tortola without a boat. Before we moved, we discussed getting a boat, but decided it was probably impractically expensive for us. Nonetheless, I find myself wishing we had a boat.

I realize now that islanders use their boats in the same way folks from landlocked places like Colorado use their cars. They are sometimes a necessity for work, they are usually good for entertainment, and they help you get away. There are lots of parts of Tortola that simply can't be reached by car. The hills are too steep; the roads are in questionable condition. But nearly all the coves and beaches can be reached by boat.

Maybe not by this boat, a container ship anchored near Pockwood Pond, but by smaller boat. While a boat may not save you money over ferry fare, it would at least allow you to find your way from St. Thomas to Virgin Gorda, and maybe all the way to Anegada, on your own schedule.

I recently met a man who was making that trip in his 14' ocean kayak, checking out the myriad of islands in between along the way. I think a 14' ocean kayak might be a little small. Crossing the channel between St. John and Tortola, or Tortola and Virgin Gorda, could be a bit rough in something like that.

But a boat like this boat. I think that would be fine.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Despite all my writing about roadcows in the past, it is actually far more common for me to come around a corner and find a horse on my daily drives than cows. About half the time I have to brake for a horse, it is this white horse.

Although I originally dubbed him LB, in reference to Pioneer Woman's horse of the same color, I've finally settled on Rudy for his name. He is usually found in close proximity to Rudy's Bar, located at the meeting of Ridge Road and Cane Garden Bay Road East.

These shots should give you some idea of the immediacy of animals to my daily experience. They were taken from my car window, using an 18-55mm lens, and the horse nearly fills the frame.

What I failed to capture on film was the moment when his beautiful horsey head came through the window and snuffled the camera, wondering if perhaps it was tastier than the beautiful green grass he was eating.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Since moving to the BVI, I've become enamored with the full moon. Even with the bright lights of Road Town between the house and the harbour, the moon lights up the sky and the ocean. The moonlight here seems brighter somehow, and the effect of it reflecting off the water is haunting.

Maybe it's because I've never lived in a place where I could see the moonlight on the water before, but in the few days before and after the full moon, I can't stop staring.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Nikki

I love this boat in Carrot Bay. I don't think it ever moves, but from a passing glance, it looks perfectly seaworthy.

It might be a shame if someone did move it, though, as it looks so at home where it is, perfectly in line with the palm trees and sea wall.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tick Update

I'm a little hesitant to write about this, as I'm afraid that I will jinx myself, but I am happy to announce that Roscoe and Flash have been tick-free for nearly three weeks now. It was a long fight that consumed almost all of May and June for us, but at last, I don't have to check the dogs and the floors for ticks every night.

I feel like in our battle against the vampiric arachnids, we tried everything we could think of. We bombed the house with these foggers, not once but twice. They were definitely effective at getting rid of live ticks in the house, and the fog on the floor ensured that we only found dead ticks around for at least a week afterward.

We gave the dogs flea & tick medicine that I had purchase at Petco in October. We checked them at least once a day for ticks. Finally we decided we had to shave Roscoe, but although the shave and tick dip gave us a respite, we started finding ticks on him again after about ten days. There were definitely fewer ticks than there had been before the shave, but four or five ticks a day is still unacceptable. 

Frustrated, we started using Revolution, which is a Frontline-like flea and tick medicine the BVI Humane Society sells. Four days later, with no diminution in the ticks, I did some more internet research, and found that most professional bug-zappers in the States use a commercial version of Preventic spray to control tick infestations in and around homes. Conveniently, Preventic also makes a flea and tick collar, and also happens to be the only brand of collar that the BVI Humane Society sells.

So we put the Preventic collar on, with little hope that it would make any difference: after all, very little else up to this point had, the foggers being the main exception. I found one tick on Roscoe the next day ... and we haven't found a tick on him since. In fact, we've only seen three ticks in the house in the last three weeks, all on the floor, attributable I believe to eggs that may still be viable and hiding out in crevices.

For anyone anywhere dealing with a tick problem, while I would recommend the Hartz Home Foggers, for real tick prevention on your dog and in your home, the Preventic collars are the way to go.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Joe's Hill Sheep

As a counterpoint to last week's Bananakeet-adjacent goats, this week's creature feature is of the sheep that wander the top of Joe's Hill Road.

The Joe's Hill Sheep are a larger group than the groups of goats on island. There are about 20 or so members of this flock, compared to 8-10 members in each tribe of goats.

The sheep tend to stay clustered fairly close together, too. These lambs are woolier than I've ever seen any of the sheep on island. I have a feeling their owners shear them pretty regularly. Either that or they're naturally non-wooly.

I think the sheep have made an excellent choice in grazing grounds with views like this.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


In school, I always had difficulty understanding the concept of entropy. It didn't make sense to me that everything in the universe was conspiring together to reach a state of base inertia; that the whole world had a tendency to decay.

Now I believe I can attribute this roadblock in my scientific knowledge to the fact that I lived in Denver as a child. Had I grown up in the BVI, perhaps I would have cottoned on to entropy more readily, as the fight against it here is daily and unceasing.

There are two intertwined causes that seem to cause things to decay here more quickly than they did in Denver. The first is the weather, and the second is the lack of indoor climate control systems. I have never before lived in a house without some kind of climate control system, be it central heat, window a/c units, a swamp cooler, or a full HVAC system. Before moving to the BVI, I had no idea what happened inside a house when it wasn't maintained at a constant 72 degrees and 20% relative humidity.

I didn't know that shoes and passports could mold. Or the outside of refrigerators. Leaving the windows and doors open all the time allows much more dust and dirt to find its way in, and it accumulates on every surface. On particularly humid nights, HB and I climb into bed between damp sheets: I worry that we'll get pneumonia, although I know it's not particularly likely.

Of course, if the weather were constantly 72 degrees and 20% relative humidity, none of these things would occur. Instead, the tropical environment encourages decay, adds to the entropy in the natural system. The sun bakes the paint off buildings and cars; the rain falls so heavily it washes away roadways; the humidity in general causes everything to be subject to mold and mildew. The wind downs trees and power lines. The weather works to decay and destroy the buildings and flora and fauna alike.

So to Dr. Pinkerton, my 10th grade chemistry teacher, I can finally say I get it. Entropy. I understand.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I've written before about what a different experience rainbows are in the BVI from what I was used to in Colorado and Florida. I've longed to have pictures to illustrate how close and immediate rainbows seem here -- the way it looks like a tangible thing, that you can touch. My efforts at photos are usually frustrated by timing. When I happen to see a rainbow, I'm driving in an area where I can't find a place to stop and get a good photo.

Cleaning out the camera this morning, I ran across these beautiful pictures that HB took in October while I was in the US. I had no idea these photos existed until a few minutes ago, and even though they don't show a full rainbow, they perfectly illustrate what it is about rainbows here that is unique. You can see in the pictures the way the rainbow is clearly between Tortola and Salt Island. I'm so glad HB captured this rather magical aspect of the BVI.

Every rainbow I've ever seen on Tortola has been in the morning, but here, HB has managed to illustrate a BVI rarity: rainbow at sunset.

Monday, July 4, 2011


As a verb: to lime: to relax; to do nothing; to enjoy life.
More commonly used in its gerund form, as in: "whachoo doin? limin'?"
Also as a noun: lime, e.g. "I gon getta lime on".

10 months on Tortola and I have failed to write a blog post about this most important part of BVI culture. For most folks here, the counterpoint to working is limin', and it's the only thing on their to-do lists. Days off are for limin' and nothing else. Notably, the local entertainment magazine, detailing where the live music is, and what drink specials are running, is called the Limin' Times.

I imagine I haven't written a post about limin' before because I'm not very good at it. I need more things on my to-do list than "don't do anything". I can not do anything for about an hour, and then I want to know what I'm going to do next. Living in the BVI has improved my ability to do nothing for a while. I can go three hours sometimes just sitting around, slowly drinking a beer, watching the world. But this is a very small lime. A good lime should last at least half the day, and usually all day.

These folks are doing it right:

The best spots to lime are usually not official restaurants or establishments. Better to take a beer cooler and set up under a tree, near a crossroads. The shade will keep you and the beer cool, and the crossroads will keep a steady supply of friends and acquaintances coming by to help share and enhance your lime. Where a tree at a crossroads is unavailable, a gas station, or other highly-frequented business with available shade, makes a suitable alternative.

When you come to Tortola, don't be like me. Don't think, "what's next?" Just find some shade and some friends, and start limin'. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Weekly Creature Feature

So much of how I experience the BVI is through animals: roadcows, goats, stray dogs, lizards, insects. I've been refraining from constantly populating these pages with photos of all the animals I encounter, as I'm sure folks moving to Tortola have more pressing questions than what the goats on the hillside near Bananakeet look like.

Nonetheless, this is my blog, after all, and lately I find my attention absorbed by creatures. So for the time being, I am going to express my enthusiasm for Tortola's non-human inhabitants by having a weekly creature feature on Sundays.

This week, I'm featuring those self-same Bananakeet-adjacent goats, who I see nearly every day as I traverse the five switchbacks climbing out of Carrot Bay towards the Ridge Road.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Slow Commute

My apologies for the late post today.

I encountered a bit of weather that hindered my drive to work this morning, and arriving even as little as five minutes late threw off my schedule for the whole day so I am only now getting a post up.

A tropical wave has passed over Tortola in the last 24 hours, and though it seems to be done with us now, it deposited quite a bit of rain during that time, including the heaviest downfall of 2 inches in a little under 40 minutes starting around 8:30 this morning.

Perhaps the most bizarre effects of the tropical wave were some that I didn't get pictures of. Around 4:00pm yesterday, a microburst hit the north coast near Carrot Bay. A little mini-tropical storm, with wind gusts of 60 mph, formed over the area. Limbs came off trees and business' signs were broken. HB and I happened to be driving through the area at the time, and could see waterspouts starting to form about 100 meters from the shore in Carrot Bay.

It's sunny, now, though, and looks to remain so for the coming day or two, so hopefully I'll be able to get a post up at the more usual time tomorrow.

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