Saturday, December 31, 2011


So you've decided to move to Tortola (or elsewhere in the Caribbean) and you've got all your ducks in a row. You've got a job, a place to live, you have your work permit in order and you're working on getting your medical certificate completed. But what are you going to do about your stuff? I mean, it's not like you were living in a vacuum before. I'm sure you have a bed and some couches, probably some kitchen equipment, books, movies, clothes ...

When it comes to stuff, you've pretty much got two choices: leave it or bring it. Since HB and I knew his employer had secured a furnished apartment, and we didn't know how long we would be staying in Tortola, we figured it would be more economical to choose the first option. We left most of our stuff in a storage unit, and moved with two suitcases each.

Many furnished apartments in the BVI will not have "soft goods" like sheets and towels, and often will not have dishes or silverware either, so if you are planning on leaving your stuff, you may want to inquire with the landlord of your furnished apartment exactly what is included.

On the other hand, perhaps you know you love the BVI, and that you will not be leaving for 5 or 10 years, so it is totally worth it to you to bring every last piece of your well-loved stuff. You obviously can't bring a couch on a plane, so it looks like you'll need to ship your things by boat.

Tropical Shipping is the leading freight consolidator for the Caribbean, although Lazarus Services is another option on most Islands. You'll need to have your items properly cased, and preferably already on pallets, and delivered to the consolidator's warehouse in Miami. This means if you live somewhere other than Miami, you'll probably also have to hire movers to get your stuff to Miami. You'll also need to have a complete list of all the items you are shipping and their approximate value so the consolidator can complete a bill of lading. Once in Miami, for about $5 per cubic foot plus lading and brokerage fees, the consolidator will load your stuff into a container, put it on one of their ships, and sail it down to Tortola.

When your stuff lands in Tortola, the consolidator will call you to let you know, so you can go to the port and pick it up. The consolidator will give you all the necessary paperwork (Arrival Notice, Bill of Lading and Shipper's Invoice -- the list of items you gave to the consolidator) for you to take to customs and get your stuff cleared, and pay duty on all the things you're importing. Yes, that's right. In addition to the shipping costs you just paid to your consolidator, you will also be paying customs 15-20% on the value of all your own stuff.

Good luck deciding how much stuff to bring!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Red Bug

HB called me on Christmas Eve morning to ask if I wanted lobster for dinner. His coworker's brother-in-law had been out fishing, and apparently had quite a fine catch. I was hesitant to assent, as I didn't really know if I could handle dispatching the lobster myself. When the brother-in-law offered to cook it and deliver it to HB at work, though, it looked like we were having lobster for Christmas Eve dinner.

It wasn't until we got home and fished the fellow out of his delivery bag that we fully appreciated how many days in a row we would probably having lobster for dinner.

But what a lot of delicious lobster rolls he made. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cistern Scents

We have been in our new digs over four months now. Among many things that I love in our new location, my favorite aspect of the new apartment is that we no longer have to fight the futilities. We have a back-up generator to supply electricity during the frequent power outages, and since our house is not on the street water grid, we don't have to worry about lack of water. Our landlords do a great job of maintaining the cisterns and associated systems. The pump is in good working order, and so far we haven't had a broken pipe (touch wood).

But there is something about cistern water that differs from the municipal water you get at home -- namely, that it does not have the rigid health controls on it that municipal sources do. A cistern owner does not have to chlorinate or flourinate his cistern water; he does not have to run it through filter after filter to ensure particulate matter is down to 1 ppm.

The cisterns at our apartment do have a triple-filtration system that makes the water suitable for bathing and cooking with, but occasionally, we notice something a little ... off ... about our cistern water. It starts to smell a little funny. During these times, we avoid drinking our cistern water, as in all probability, the reason for the smell is that something -- an insect, a frog, a rat -- has crawled into the cistern and died there.

I always thought the smell reminded me of sauerkraut, but I think HB hit the nail on the head last night, when he exclaimed from the shower, "Why does our water smell of peanut butter and old socks?!"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

To What End?

I think it is time we had a talk. In case it hasn't been clear from inconsistent posting and late-afternoon posting the last few weeks, I am struggling to maintain Basset's View of the Islands. I have worked through all the various post ideas I had when I first started the blog, and all of my second-wind post ideas, and I feel I have mostly accomplished my initial aim, which was to help potential ex-pats through the process of moving to the BVI.

Although I certainly have not explored every bit of the BVI, I feel less and less inspired to write here. I have found my BVI niche, and am happy in it, and I believe my readers probably don't want to read about my umpteenth visit to Brewer's Bay Beach, or another Sunday of football watching at Mulligan's. Since routines make me happy, though, I am loathe to break them to explore new things.

Basset's View of the Islands is still important to me as a record of my time and experiences here, and I don't want to stop writing entirely. I'm trying to decide if I want to take it in a new direction -- more of a diary and less of a travelogue -- or just write a bit less frequently. In the end, I still want to be making something that satisfies both of us, you and me, because you're the reason I started in the first place, and you're the reason I'm still writing.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


We've been seeing a kestrel around our house for months now, but can never manage to get the camera trained on it before it flits off to a new perch.

The other night, we were driving home at sunset, and as we passed a house along our road, the kestrel lit on the sign. 

A happy perch for our kestrel friend. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park

In Road Town, on Wickham's Cay I, near the Administration Complex and cruise ship dock, there is a restful little spot called the Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park.

The Park commemorates the Positive Action Movement of 1968. In 1968, the government of the BVI was contemplating leasing the area now known as Wickham's Cay I and the entire island of Anegada to a man named Ken Bates. The term of the lease would be 199 years, and Mr. Bates would be granted exclusive rights to develop the area.

 Perhaps the "Bates Hill Lease" as it was known would have gone through, but Mr. Bates made clear his intention that he would not allow BVIslanders access to the lands granted in the lease except as workers on the properties he expected to develop.

Understandably, this proposition upset Mr. Noel Lloyd, and on the 3rd of December 1968, he took positive action: he marched alone in Road Town to protest the lease. The next day, many other BVIslanders joined him, and the marches continued for several weeks until finally, the Bates Hill scheme was scuttled.

Today, the Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park stands on Wickham's Cay I - the very land BVIslanders would have been kept from had the Movement not occurred. It is the site of many festivals and gatherings throughout the year, and offers a peaceful pause from the hustle of Road Town.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Lights Again

Sunday, our landlords had a Christmas party. Feeling inspired, we put up our Christmas lights.

Not visible from Road Town like last year, but at least the few boats out north of Tortola might be able to see them.

Christmas lights and palm trees. Definitely in the spirit.

Virgin Islands Tree Boa

Before my parents visited last month, I tried to convince my very ophidiophobic mother that the BVI didn't have any snakes, not really. She had some concerns after having visited me in Florida, prime snake territory.

My white lie was discovered though, as lately, I've been seeing snakes everywhere, and I wasn't able to hide them all from my parents. It IS true though, that there are no poisonous snakes native to the BVI, and they are all rather small and non-threatening, like this inch-wide Virgin Islands Tree Boa I had the pleasure of running into a few mornings ago.

The Virgin Islands Tree Boa is severely endangered due to extensive habitat destruction, particularly in the US Virgin Islands. I feel fortunate that HB spotted this one on a wall near where we park the car, and am more than happy to share our garden with it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Action Shots

I envy Conchscooter his walks. The BVI in general is not particularly walkable -- few sidewalks, narrow, hilly roads. It is no paradise for strollers.

Nonetheless, I need photos to share here, and inspiration most often comes to me when I'm driving. I see a pretty house, or bird, or sunset. But I believe it is a much more difficult prospect to take photos while driving than while walking.

Most of them come out more or less like this -- roadway, windshield glass glare, blur. I think I was struck by diminishing sun on the pink and white buildings on the hill, but it is obviously the blue building, or perhaps the window itself, that is the accidental subject of this photo.

Sometimes I surprise myself with the usability of the results. This photo could use some cropping -- take out the windshield wiper and the blurry rocks in the foreground. But the pelican, and the ship, and the colors of the clouds -- it kind of works.

Except when it kind of doesn't. A scary angle to the horizon here.

When you hold the camera on the top of the steering wheel, and click away, sometimes your favorite pictures are the ones you didn't even realize you took.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


At the ferry terminal in St. John, it was almost like looking through the back of the bizarro Wardrobe. Instead of snow-covered Narnia, there are Caribbean beaches awaiting

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Virgin Islands Coqui?

Our front porch has become my new favorite locale for spotting my weekly creature features. As I closed the doors to the bedroom before bed the other night, this little fellow hopped right in from the porch.

Based on its diminutive size, only about half an inch long, I think this might be the Virgin Islands Coquí, but I am no professional frog identifier.

The dogs grew very curious very quickly, and Flash has a history of catching and chewing on frogs, so we wrangled him into a tupperware to facilitate his repatriation to the outside.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cold Front

The temperatures at night have been dropping below 75, and we're starting to enter the few weeks of "cold" weather we get around Christmas. We've been closing the house up at night -- more to prevent the entrance of giant flying cockroaches than to protect against the cold -- but nonetheless, even with the closed doors, I've also been using a blanket on the bed.

At least when the mornings are so cool (relatively speaking), I don't feel so strange about porting hot coffee with me to work.

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