Monday, September 3, 2012

Hiatus

The last time I posted here was June 14th -- nearly three months ago. I think it's safe to say that Basset's View of the Islands is on hiatus for the moment. I'm hesitant to say that it's on permanent hiatus, as I may come back to this space at some point, but for now, I'm enjoying not having the obligation to post here regularly.

I realized in June that I had pretty much accomplished what I set out to do when I started this blog: help other people plan their moves to the Caribbean, and to the BVI specifically; add to the information available online about the BVI. I was running out of things to say, and I couldn't see continuing to write if I didn't have anything to write about.

This sense happened to coincide with some difficult times in my family, along with the most significant period of depression I've had in over five years, both of which lessened my drive to keep writing. 

At this time, I'm getting ready to leave for Peru for two weeks. I know that some of my former regular readers (hi mom!) might be interested in some Peru stories, so I may post about that trip here, even though it's not BVI-related. Who knows? That might get me back into the writing groove.

Finally, I really need to acknowledge all of you that have read Basset's View of the Islands over the past two years. Thank you for reading.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Seaborne Airlines

Sometimes, trying to plan transportation between all the various Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico can be challenging. There are regular ferries between the USVI and the BVI, but sometimes coordinating ferry schedules to get from Tortola to St. Croix, for example, can be a bit challenging. What is an adventurous island-hopper to do? 





















Take the sea plane! Seaborne Airlines operates between St. Thomas, St. Croix, Puerto Rico and Vieques, and is talking about expanding service to Tortola (hopefully soon!). In St. Thomas, planes depart from Seaborne's air terminal, just next door to the Charlotte Amalie ferry terminal, making it a convenient option for folks traveling from Tortola to St. Croix. 


HB has been dying to try the seaplane since we moved to the BVI. I'm a little nervous, myself, as these 20-passenger Twin Otters are awfully small, but the idea of only a 20-minute ride to St. Croix is encouraging.





















But if you're looking for a slightly adventurous, definitely Caribbean experience while you're in the Virgin Islands, you might give Seaborne a try. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Nibbler

Last night, HB and I decided to indulge in a sunset swim at Brewer's Bay. When we arrived, the pelicans were fishing as usual, and we noticed a fair number of yellowtail snapper jumping, eating the bugs that were skimming the surface of the lake-calm water.

So we waded in and floated around and chatted and didn't really actually swim much. The fish jumping started to become more frequent, and soon the snapper were daring to come much closer to our mostly inert bodies. I was startled a time or two as they broke the surface within inches of my head.  

It was a lovely, relaxing swim, until one of the lovely yellowtail snapper chomped down on HB's nipple.

Up and out of the water he went, bleeding nipple and all, and I couldn't stop laughing. Ultimately, I think HB's pride is more hurt than his nipple.

For my part, I'm just thankful I had a swimsuit top.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Orange

June is the time for Flamboyants to bloom in the BVI, and these near Ballast Bay are really giving their all.
























Called Royal Poincianas in Florida, I much prefer the name "Flamboyant", which is the only one most of the residents here know.
























And since they've moved back up into the mountains for the summer, from wherever it is they're kept in the winter, a gratuitous roadcow picture to take you in to your weekend.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Growing Things

I know I just wrote about my seedlings a few days ago, but I am so excited at all the little sprouts HB and I have managed to raise in less than two weeks.
























HB's peppers are really starting to get sizeable -- about three inches high, which is huge compared to my thyme and basil sprouts. My cilantro is starting to put on some height, too, though. HB planted nine varieties of peppers, and so far eight of them have sprouted. Still waiting on the Butch T's, which are, of course, the ones HB most wanted to see.





















Here's a look at the whole operation. I have no idea how we're going to find space for all these plants once we transplant into larger pots, but we'll figure something out.





































Almost as exciting as our seedlings is what appears to be an actual dragonfruit growing on the dragonfruit tree. This was the last of the four blossoms to open, and magically, it appears to have actually been pollinated. Will definitely be keeping an eye on this over coming weeks.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dear May

To the month of May:

I'm sorry. I have maligned you in print several times, and verbally many more times than that, and I apologize.

Last year, you were an awful month. It rained for almost your entire stay here in the BVI, and I probably was experiencing more than my fair share of homesickness, so I looked on your soggy, dreary existence as further proof why the BVI was perhaps, not the right place for me. It didn't help that the tick epidemic began in you, and was perpetuated by the moisture you brought.

But this year, you have been a kindler, gentler May. We had a few foggy days, and you still managed to drop 9 inches of rain on us, but overall, it has been much more pleasant. You seem to have shared your attitude with these first few days of June, too. In fact, HB and I can't even remember the last time it rained.

So, I am very sorry if my words here have made you disliked amongst residents and visitors to the BVI. You have shown us that you are not always a bad time, that sometimes you can keep us happy with plenty of sun and only occasional showers. I hope our relationship can continue along this improved path.

Yours Sincerely,

Basset's View of the Islands

Friday, June 1, 2012

Trying to Reason

Happy Hurricane Season 2012 everyone! Today, June 1, marks the official start of the Atlantic Hurricane season, but as you probably know, the unofficial start this year was on the 19th of May, when Tropical Storm Alberto developed off the coast of the Carolinas to become the first named storm of the year. With the subsequent development of Tropical Storm Beryl a few days later, 2012 became the first year since 1908 to have two named storms before the official June 1 start of hurricane season.

Despite all the early-season activity, NOAA is predicting an average season this year. What does this mean for hurricanes in the BVI? Not much. It only takes one head-on hit to make it a devastating hurricane season for the BVI, and that can occur even in a slow hurricane year. So if you're a newbie here wondering what to expect, or planning on travelling to the area, here's what you need to know.

The absolute worst weeks for hurricanes in the BVI are the last week of August and the first two weeks of September. Something like 75% of all storms that have hit or brushed the BVI have occurred in this narrow window. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared at all other times, but maybe you might want to avoid travelling here during those weeks.

Overall, the BVI is a pretty safe place to be during a hurricane. The buildings are extremely sturdy, built to withstand not just hurricanes but earthquakes. There's little risk of storm surge, due to the deep waters surrounding the island, but even so, it's best not to remain in coastal areas if avoidable. Most buildings have storm shutters, which help keep the worst effects of the winds at bay. The government shuts off the electricity, so there is no chance of electrocution from downed wires -- an inconvenience if you don't have a generator, but ultimately a pretty smart safety precaution. Heavy rains flooding your residence or landslides should be your biggest concerns during a storm. Stay high and dry.

Perhaps the most important measure to take if you're in the BVI during hurricane season is to stay informed. Know what's brewing out there in the Atlantic and in the Gulf, and if it looks like something is coming our way, take preparations. My preferred source of information is Weather Underground's tropical weather page, but for the most up-to-date details, it's hard to beat NOAA's Hurricane Center. Take note, though, that many sources of weather news are US-based, and will only discuss storms that are threatening to US landmasses. Our proximity to Puerto Rico keeps this info relevant, but sometimes there will be a hurricane or storm that's not reported on until it's very close, as was the case with Earl two years ago.

All in all, despite the hurricanes, summer is my favorite time in the BVI, so if you're here with me, I hope you enjoy it too!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Seedlings

HB and I planted our herb and pepper seeds on Monday morning, and resigned ourselves to a couple of weeks of waiting before anything happened. Imagine my excitement then, when, on Wednesday morning, not 48 hours after planting, I saw this:































Bright green seedlings growing in some of my seed cups.



































They're so vibrant and big already, you can even see them through the double-layered plastic. I know basil is especially fast-growing, but I have thyme and rosemary sprouts too! The environment here is apparently very seed-friendly. Can't wait for some of HB's peppers to start popping up.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Waterspout

On my trip to Denver, I took along "The Girl Who Played with Fire" as some light airplane reading. The beginning takes place in the Caribbean Island nation of Grenada, and while our heroine is spending time in the sun, the island just happens to get hit by a hurricane.

Nevermind that this is in December, far past the usual confines of hurricane season. What really got to me is the scene in which a bad guy wanders into a waterspout, and the author insists that NEVER BEFORE has there been a tornado in the middle of a hurricane, and that it is IMPOSSIBLE for tornadoes to form over water. It seems Mr. Larsson could have done a bit more research, as tornadoes and waterspouts a very common side effect of hurricanes.

What I did not know until very recently, however, is that tornadoes and waterspouts can form in the Caribbean even when there are no hurricanes about.

On Sunday I was working in the kitchen, when I happened to glance out the front door at the cloud bank about a mile offshore to our north. Imagine my surprise when I espied what appeared to be funnel clouds.



































Those two little wisps dropping down from the main body of cloud really grabbed my attention in a primal way. At first I thought I was being silly, but then I turned to HB and asked, "are those funnel clouds?". One glance and he confirmed my suspicions.





































We stood on the porch transfixed as we watched the clouds elongate. After a few minutes, HB's sharp eyes picked up a disturbance on the surface of the water, just barely visible in the photo above.
























A longer lens confirmed what our eyes suspected. The funnel cloud had touched down on the surface of the ocean and created a waterspout. This one lasted about 10 minutes all-told, and the same cloud system created a second, weaker waterspout that lasted maybe five minutes. Quite a lot of weather excitement for our Sunday afternoon, though.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dragonfruit Flower

Obviously I have been rather absent for the last week or so, and with no previous notice. I had to spend some time in Denver with my parents, and it was not at the top of my list of priorities to update my blog. I appreciate those of you who have still been checking in here, and reassure you that regular posting will begin again forthwith.

I do give fair warning, however, that I am currently very happy with my island home, and find it much harder to write entertainingly about the BVI when I am happy here. As a result, you may be subjected to lots of drivel about how lovely things are, and little ranting about utilities or immigration or other similar items.

Onward! Upon my return from Denver, there was a lovely surprise waiting for me in the garden. Our landlords have thoughtfully planted a dragonfruit tree (or pitaya) just near the gate to our residence. Ordinarily, the dragonfruit tree, with its spiny, reaching limbs, garner only our occasional annoyance as we try not to stab ourselves in the eye while entering or exiting the garden. But sometimes, for just a few nights a year, we are rewarded with its extraordinary blossoms.



























These astounding flowers are approximately 8 inches in diameter, literally as big as my face, and open for just one night only. Last summer, when we moved in to the apartment, we happened upon one when returning from the bar late one night, but it had withered and died by the time we awoke the next morning. Since I've been back, three have opened, and there is another bud awaiting the right moment.




























Unfortunately, we are unlikely to get any dragon fruit from this plant. With blossoms open for only one night, a pollinator would have to fly from this plant, to another one nearby that is also flowering, within the confines of one evening, in order to produce fruit. Although I'm sure there are other pitayas on Tortola, I've never seen one myself, so I'm doubtful this one will be pollinated. The flowers alone are satisfying enough, though.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Puerto Rican Ground Lizard

Ever since I started my job here in the BVI, I have been desperate to do a post about these lizards. They're everywhere on the property here, and in my head, I refer to them as "dinosaur lizards", probably due to the way they look like mini-Godzillas to me. They're extremely shy though, so I never managed to really get a picture of one before, but finally, yesterday, there was a slow-moving male outside the office and I was able to grab my camera and snap a few shots.






































My favorite thing about the dinosaur lizards is how multi-colored they are in the sun. The sides of the males, especially, are adorned with blue and green spots, but vibrate in the sun, giving them a rainbow-sided look. 






Of course, they aren't really dinosaur lizards. They are, in fact, Puerto Rican Ground Lizards, or some close relative thereof. They are a type of ameiva, and I haven't been able to find much information on them. The El Yunque link indicates that these guys only grow to about 8 inches from snout to vent, but I have definitely seen larger specimens than that here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gardening

I'm headed back to the States in a few days to visit my parents, and one of the things I am most excited about is picking up the seeds that HB ordered. He's decided to finally give making his own hot pepper sauce a go so he ordered a wide variety of hot pepper seeds to try and grow: some habaƱeros, some poblanos, some purple jalapeƱos and some Butch-Ts (the hottest pepper in the world). The peppers should be relatively easy to grow -- they love a hot humid climate, and as long as we can keep the birds off them, they should do well.

I am more nervous about the handful of herb seeds and the one packet of tomato seeds I ordered. Tomatoes are not big fans of the damp, so I will have to struggle to keep them dry. I also have never grown tomatoes on my own before, and I know they can be finnicky and difficult, so I may be asking advice from you, my readers, a few times once I've got the seeds planted.

All in all, I'm definitely excited to start a new hobby here on Tortola and will keep you updated with our progress.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fog and Rain

Awoke last night to some of the most violent rain I've heard here on Tortola. Co-workers commented it sounded almost like a hurricane without the wind, the rain was so heavy.

With the amount of fog we've had, I've been asking myself fairly frequently lately when it was that I moved to San Francisco. As HB calmly pointed out, we moved on the 1st of May. Nominally, May is the 4th rainiest month on average in the BVI, after September, October and November, but the feel of the rain is May is entirely different. The continual grey clouds, and steady drip can make it feel like it never stops raining the entire month. And on Tortola, in the mountains, continual clouds means continual fog.






































I took this picture on my way to work this morning to illustrate my point. It wasn't until editing it earlier that I realized it is kind of a callback to one I took in Colorado last fall.

Just another twenty days or so of this to go. Unless it continues into June like it did last year. For those considering travelling to the BVI in May, be forewarned.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Dog's Life

Every so often, I feel a need to tie this blog back to it's title, and so here is your update on the titular basset hound in the BVI. On Monday, we spent a lazy and satisfying afternoon on the porch with the dogs.

































When HB went for a stroll through the garden, he took Roscoe with him
























but poor Flash, who can't be trusted to wander around off leash without trying to dash through a privet and out of the garden, had to watch from behind bars.


























I made it up to Flash later, though, by providing him with one of his favorite treats, a floor-dwelling human.




































One happy basset.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pineapple

Wandering around the garden yesterday, HB was somewhat surprised to encounter this:
























Having never encountered a pineapple plant before, the immediate identifiability of the fruit and the manner in which it grew made me almost think someone had bought a pineapple at the store and "planted" it (metaphorically speaking) as a trick. No, in fact, apparently this is how pineapples actually grow, right-side up at the end of a thick stalk.

I guess I'd never really deeply thought about it before, but somehow I just assumed that all pineapples came from Hawaii. Encountering this evidence to the contrary in the garden made me realize that of course, pineapples are probably grown in countries throughout the temperate zone, even here in the BVI.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Other Paths

As Michael in the Florida Keys will attest, having only one route to get to work can become a major liability, especially when traffic accidents occur. Not being able to quickly dart down a side street when traffic starts to get bad is something I'm still getting accustomed to, living the the BVI. I've written before about how an excavator-loading on the road to my house can make me 30 minutes late for work or, as it did the other day, cause my ice cream to melt as I was held up on the way back from the grocery store.

This morning, I was five minutes from work when I encountered a back-loader that had collided with a jeep in the middle of one of the many switchbacks on Windy Hill. The back-loader couldn't get enough purchase on the steep switchback to move out of the roadway, and a tow truck was going to have to be called in -- an operation that would keep the road closed for around two hours. Had I been in the Florida Keys and on Highway 1, I might have just turned around and headed home. In the BVI though, I am blessed to have at least one alternate route at all times. As it was, I had to backtrack about halfway to town, come down to the coast, and take the long way around to work. In all, my 20-minute commute became 45 minutes. Not too terrible. Still, I desperately missed those side streets and alleyways of my gridded-street Denver youth.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

King of the Lizards

Another weekend in St. John, another iguana sighting. I see them fairly frequently in Tortola, especially running around the hotel property, but never have a chance to take pictures of them. This guy was just sunning himself in the roadway and HB snapped a photo for me.













Friday, April 27, 2012

Patriotism?

First of all, let me apologize for my absence the last couple of days. Work has been inordinately busy -- largely due to a new sale we started that seems to be garnering a lot of attention -- and I haven't had time to eat lunch, much less blog.

In Tortola-related news, there's a sign on the side of Leroy's Barber Shop, across from the Road Town ferry terminal, I've always found a bit intriguing







































I'm not entirely sure who is so possessive of the name "Virgin Islands", or why, especially as Virgin Islands was originally used to refer to all the islands that are now part of the USVI and BVI. I suppose it stems from the fact that the official name of the BVI is actually, simply, The Virgin Islands. I'm not sure why this should prohibit other locales from using the name though. It'd be like saying Guinea-Bissau should change to just Guinea because Equatorial Guinea used the name Guinea first.

I hope and believe this is only the invective of one, over-excited individual, rather than the stance of the entire BVI citizenry.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tortola, Ho! Part 8: Work Permit

It's been a while since I've written anything in the Tortola, Ho! series, but I realized the other day that, aside from the Medical Certificate, I never really discussed what's involved in getting a work permit to come to the BVI. The process can vary a little, depending on where you're coming from, but is a pretty simple deal overall.

The first step in getting a work permit is getting a job. Before you even begin to make an application, you have to have a deal with your employer, as it is actually the employer who is applying for the work permit on your behalf.

Ideally, your employer has already been running an ad for your position in the BVI Beacon, and at this point you can go ahead and get started on your work permit paperwork. Many employers, though, will wait until they find the right candidate before they run the required advertisements. If this is the case, the employer will need to run ads for two consecutive weeks in the Beacon. After these have run, you can get started filling out your paperwork.

The full application can be found here. It's a pretty simple fill-in-the-blank form. It's mostly asking for your personal details (name, address, date of birth, etc.) and details of the employment. Part of the key to filling this out is to be as detailed as possible about your job qualifications, to make it clear to the Department of Labor that only YOU can fill the position. You should also attach a resume, any awards and college transcripts, etc. to the application. Most employers here in the BVI are familiar with the process, and will help you fill out the forms appropriately.

The forms are then submitted for processing. It used to take about 4-6 weeks to process a new work permit application, but the recent change in government has seen new work permits taking about 3 months to process, so be aware.

Depending on where you're coming from, you may also have to apply for a Visa with the Department of Immigration in order to enter the country. Most Europeans and North Americans do not need to apply, but a full list of countries requiring an immigration Visa can be found on the Governor's website. If you are a national of a country for which a visa is required, the full visa application is also available online. You'll want to submit this at the same time you submit your work permit. Again, your employer can help you with any questions you have.

Once your work permit has been approved, congratulations! Get your medical certificate and police records in order, and come to the BVI!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Early Bloomer

Here's something you don't see very often, if at all, in mid-April in the States







































This rose-bush by our porch has been going crazy for the last week or so, covered in lovely, fragrant blooms. What a wonderful surprise.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Machinery

Despite my constant reference to all the unusual road hazards here, like roadcows, goats, etc., one thing I haven't quite gotten used to about driving in Tortola is how the construction machinery gets parked haphazardly, seemingly wherever happens to be convenient. You'll come around a corner and nearly run into a front-loader, or an excavator.


























We've got two of these guys parked on either side of the road to our house right now, creating a narrow, excavator-lined alley through which one car can pass.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed we don't encounter the excavator-moving-crew when trying to leave for work some morning in the near future. Talk about a bizarre excuse: "I was late to work because they were loading an excavator on my road and I couldn't get around it. For an hour." It's happened before.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Irony?

An article on the BVI News about the illegality of strip clubs in the BVI came to my attention recently.

http://bvinews.com/bvi/strip-clubs-brothels-operating-illegally-police/

The article points out that although strip clubs are illegal, there are quite a few of them open, and the police seem to be doing little to shut them down.

Ironically, the article is accompanied by an ad at the top of the page for Club Crystal, Tortola's premier strip club.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pink

While the bougainvillea and rhododendrons bloom year-round, my favorite harbinger of spring in the BVI are these trees with pink blossoms.





































They're positively everywhere on island, and this time of year, they're all in bloom -- and I have no idea what they are. An old man on the street told me while I was taking photos that they're cedars, but I think it's pretty clear that they aren't.


























The hillside of Martins is just covered with them. Driving down a street lined with them is like the ending of a Disney movie, as the slightest breeze brings the bell-shaped flowers pirouetting down, calyx first.


























To me, the individual blossoms don't seem particularly lovely up-close, but when the trees have huge clusters, as in the first picture, it's almost like the bush is filled with cotton candy.

Anyone have any idea at identification?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Left at the Purple Dumpster

I have written in the past about the difficulty of giving driving directions on an island where there are no street addresses, few street signs, and a general lack of understanding of cardinal directions.

I was born and raised in Denver, a more-or-less cardinally-oriented, grid-based city, rife with street signs and addresses. In such a navigation-friendly environment, I disdained giving directions based on landmarks, preferring instead the precise nature of, "proceed three blocks to Grape Street and turn North (right). The house will be on your right, at 412 Grape Street." What a beautiful sentence. In the perfectly-gridded world of downtown Denver, three blocks is a definite measurement. Grape Street, being named with a green and white sign at every intersection, is unmistakable. 412 means the house is on the East side of the street, between 4th and 5th avenues. Lo! Beauty!

All that changed when I moved to the BVI, where roads were built more as an afterthought to urban planning (ha!) than the basis of it. Roads here follow old donkey trails, and although some of them are named, very few residents have knowledge of these names. Again, there are no street addresses, so you can't look for "14 Nibbs Street", but at least many of the commercial buildings have names, and those names are lettered on their facades. And despite my original insistence on sticking to street names and cardinal directions, the reality of giving driving directions to tourists on a daily basis has forced me to crumble to the necessity of using landmarks.

I was recently giving some hotel guests some driving directions to get to Brewer's Bay. I'd taken them up the five switchbacks of Windy Hill, gotten them past the big green Heineken sign at Rudy's Bar, but was stuck on how to describe the final turn onto Brewer's Bay Road East. It's a tricky 270 degree left that's easy to miss, and relatively non-noteworthy. Searching my visual memory for a clue, I finally struck on it: Turn left at the giant purple dumpster!

I cringed at my reliance on a landmark that could since have been moved, but when I saw the guests the next day, they'd had a lovely day at Brewer's Bay. They knew they were headed in the right direction, they said, as soon as they saw the purple dumpster.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Make It Work

Talk about a "wish I had my camera" moment. Out on the property today, I noticed a delivery man carrying some goods into the kitchen -- a fairly common sight. Except that there was no delivery truck around. Where had this gentleman come from with his brimming boxes of food? A quick peek down the driveway answered my question.

At the end of the driveway, on the main road, sat a flat-bed tow truck and a distinctly grumpy-looking tow truck driver. On the bed of the tow? The delivery truck.

I guess the delivery man figured, even though his truck broke down, he still had to make his deliveries.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Practicality

Our hotel guests love the tropical fruit trees that grow all over the property. The giant breadfruit tree is particularly popular, but we have soursop, sugar apple, marmy apple, almond, and all kinds of banana plants, too. The guests think the fruit trees give the property a great ambience -- make you feel like you're really in the Caribbean. Our gardeners and our chefs, though, like the trees for another reason.






































They provide fresh fruit for use in the kitchen. Our kitchen uses tons of bananas -- both green bananas (as a starch substitute/ in place of potatoes) and ripe bananas. Cutting the bananas from our trees when they're green provide the option of using them green or waiting for them to ripen while they hang in the pantry. When you order any banana-related food here, you can be sure it's fresh and local.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Weekend

Every so often, I get bouts of island fever, days or weeks where I just itch to get off Tortola. It seems to be worse in the spring. I know I have a short attention span, and that I need a large variety of activities to be satisfied, but the closure of nearly everything over this past Easter weekend brought about the worst round of island fever I've experienced since moving to the BVI.

Depending on your perspective, the BVI is either filled with activities or is a veritable wasteland. As long as the sun is shining and you're happy in the ocean, there's scuba diving, boating, snorkelling, paddle-boarding, surfing, sand-castle-building, etc. etc. There is no shortage of things to be done at the beach or on the water. But as I mentioned above, I am not content to do the same thing over and over -- or for extended periods -- so after two hours at the beach on Easter morning, I had exhausted my personal "doing things at the beach" threshold, leaving the second half of Easter Sunday and all of Easter Monday to be filled.

Once you've finished with the beach/water angle, there's not much to be done. There are a couple of gyms on island if you'd like to get some exercise, and a few hotels will let you use their tennis courts for a small fee. There are plenty of places to eat and drink, some small museums and a movie theater, and that about completes your options. HB and I haven't been out to the movies since Valentine's Day 2010, as we prefer the general spaciousness and non-teenagery-ness of our living room. The museums aren't open on official holidays, and for that matter, many of the bars and restaurants aren't either.

I spent most of Monday longing for a zoo to visit, a mall to window-shop at, or a long, smooth road to drive down. In the end, I settled for a long walk in the neighborhood with HB, which helped to fill the void and made me stop feeling sorry for myself. Still, I'm more than ready for my trip to Denver in May.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Does Not Apply

Since moving to the BVI, I've noticed that my admittedly questionable and scanty news outlets, like slate.com and Yahoo!News, seem to be less applicable to my daily life than they were when I lived in the US. Perhaps the best recent example is an article which appeared on the Yahoo! home page, called "5 fresh foods you shouldn't keep in your refrigerator".

The article advocates that tomatoes, basil, potatoes, onions and avocados should all be stored on the counter or in the pantry. It gives fairly good, plant-biology based arguments for why this is. But as I started thinking about applying the article in my daily life, I realized how impractical it would be.

In the BVI, storing tomatoes on my counter would lead, in the best instance, to immediate fruit fly invasion, and in the worst, to finding cockroaches or rats calling my kitchen "home". The line that really caused me to crack up, though was: "keeping [potatoes] in a paper bag in a coolish spot (like a pantry) is best."

Perhaps the author lives somewhere like Wisconsin, or has a pantry in her basement, but let me assure you, there is nothing "coolish" about my pantry. About the coolest my pantry gets is 72 degrees, and most days it's close to 80. According to the Vegetable Research and Information Center at the University of California, at no time in a potato's life is 75-80 degrees a good storage temperature, especially as "disease organisms logarithmically increase their population grown" at those temperatures.

About half of the way through the article, after picturing the co-inhabitants the tomatoes would bring, and puzzling over my pantry being a coolish spot, I mentally ticked the "does not apply to the BVI" box and moved on.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tortolan Deer

There are rumors going around that we now have deer on Tortola. I have heard a few folks say that they've spotted deer in and around the Sage Mountain area, and a few boaters have said they've seen the deer that live on St. John swimming the mile-wide channel that separates that island from Tortola.

For my part, I'm dubious. 

It is not uncommon while driving up Windy Hill to have a faun-colored creature, about the same size as the St. John deer, dash in front of you, and cause you to think, "oh look, a deer!" only to be revealed on closer inspection to be an creature of an entirely different Order:



























I think the rumored spottings of deer on Tortola are in fact spottings of Tortolan Deer -- also known as goats.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Anegada Miscellany

Just a few final pictures from our trip to Anegada last week.



First, the lovely views as we came in to dock near the Anegada Reef Hotel



Cedars scattered along the beach reminded me of Longboat Key in Florida, and also provided the only significant interruption to the otherwise flat horizon line.
























We get waders like great egrets and blue herons on Tortola often enough, but shorebirds like these plover (maybe killdeer?) are fairly uncommon on Tortola.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Anegada Perspective

When you do a google image search for "Anegada", you get pages and pages of results like these:


























Plenty of white sand, green water, and blue skies. While these images are definitely representative of Anegada's perimeter (yes, the island is pretty much surrounded by beaches), what they don't show is the island's interior, the vast majority of which looks like this:
























I'm sure the town, called "The Settlement" looks a bit more habitable than this -- after all, that's where the vast majority of Anegada's permanent population (approx. 200) reside. But the other 95% of the island looks like southern Florida. At the horizon line in the above picture, to the far left, you can just make out a telephone pole -- the only sign of human habitation visible from this vantage point near Cow Wreck beach.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lobster Dinner

When we arrived in Anegada around 10:30 on Sunday morning, we noticed a lobster pot tied up near the dock for the Anegada Reef Hotel, our port of entry.
























Anegada is renowned for its lobster -- huge specimens of Caribbean spiny lobster grilled up daily November to June (lobster fishing is not permitted July through October). Seeing a New England-style lobster pot in Anegada was strange, as Anegada spiny lobster are caught almost exclusively by free divers. A closer look, though, revealed that this was merely the perfect holding place for the catch until dinner time.
























Our return to the dock in the afternoon brought a more sinister scene, in part due to the heavy clouds to the south, and in part due to the frigatebirds circling wildly overhead and perching on the poles along the dock.





















What excited the frigatebirds so? The gentlemen in the hut were preparing the evening's dinner: dispatching the lobsters and various other sea creatures. Sometimes, a bigger knife, or in this case a machete, is simply more effective.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Saharan Dust

How close is Tortola to Africa? In geographic terms, not very -- about 3000 miles from the nearest point, Mauritania. That's about the same distance between New York City and San Francisco: a continent or an ocean apart. In climatic terms, though, we're pretty close. Close enough that when there is a sand storm in the Sahara, like the one filmed here for the Human Planet series, it affects our weather. Dust particles from the Sahara travel across 3000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean and cloak the island in a golden haze, making it difficult to see the outer islands, four or five miles away. The photo below was taken as the westerly winds were helping to clear the Saharan dust -- compare the clear skies on the right side of the picture with the haze on the left.




Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cow Wreck Beach

As I mentioned on Saturday, HB and I took the iSpeed to Anegada on Sunday to check out the 2nd-largest and lowest-lying of the British Virgin Islands for ourselves. With a population of 200, Anegada is definitely low-key, but there are still some cool things to check out -- like the pink flamingo population in the salt ponds, and the nursery housing several critically endangered Anegada Ground Iguanas. HB and I opted to do none of these things. Instead, we hopped a ride to nearly-vacant Cow Wreck Beach, and there we stayed until time to return to Tortola.
























It was a fairly cloudy day, with rain showers off and on, but it was actually pretty perfect weather for strolling along the sand and sitting in a chair with a book. Warm, not too breezy, and not so sunny that I got heat exhaustion. The water was a lovely, inviting shade of green, and the miles-long stretch of beach was empty.
























The intermittent clouds kept us from swimming in the clear green water, but HB and I occupied ourselves by digging with our toes in the high-quality, sugary-textured, beautiful white sand -- probably the second-best sand I've encountered in the BVI, next to Long Bay West.
























We ate lunch at the Cow Wreck Beach Bar & Grill -- you know you're in a boater's paradise when VHF channels are as prominently displayed on signs and advertisements as phone numbers.
























The quiet bar & grill provided three incredible fried fish sandwiches for HB and I to gorge ourselves on, along with a steady supply of Corona and limes, and some sturdy adirondack chairs to relax in. The entire vibe was pretty much perfect, and I would recommend the spot whole-heartedly to anyone looking for a place to spend a laid back day on the sand.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Naked Snail




The dogs must be used to snails, as they see them pretty much every day, or they don't put out much smell -- either way, the rash of shelled gastropods are of no interest to Flash and Roscoe. Not so this slug, one of the first I've seen in the BVI. Roscoe made a beeline to it on Sunday morning, sniffing and nosing and pestering. I shooed him away so I could get a picture, and then caught him harassing another slug further along the garden wall. The second one didn't fair so well, as it lost its grip and fell before I could interfere.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Anegada Bound



HB and I are going to Anegada for the first time tomorrow, and I am super excited! About 50 miles distant from Tortola, Anegada is the second largest of the British Virgin Islands, but is very different from all the other islands in the chain. Where Tortola, Virgin Gorda, etc. are all volcanic islands, Anegada is a coral atoll, with its highest point being only 28 feet above sea level.

Up until recently, the only way other than private boat to get to Anegada was by ferry. The Anegada ferry runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It departs Road Town twice daily at 6:45am and 3:30pm, and departs Anegada twice daily at 8:10am and 5:10pm. For the day-tripper, this would mean leaving Road Town at 6:45 am, and arriving back around 6:00pm, with 9 hours on Anegada in between.

For someone with a short attention span like me, 9 hours on an island with a population of 200, with little to do but swim, sun and eat lobster, is about 6 hours too many. As a result, I've been both desperate and reluctant to go to Anegada for about year.

But a solution has presented itself. Voyage Escapes is running a Sunday special on their super high-speed boat, iSpeed for the same price as a round-trip ticket on the regular ferry. Departure is at 9:00am and return is at 5:00pm, reducing the total trip time, and the total time spent on Anegada. So HB and I are trying it out tomorrow. Hopefully I'll have some great info and pictures to share with you next week.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Inhospitable Climate

The hillsides may be showing signs of their usual March browning, but we've had an unusually wet winter here in the BVI, with daytime rain through much of January. The last three days of on and off rain have made it an inhospitable climate for these youngsters, who have been curled up just outside my office door for the last 36 hours or so.



































For perspective's sake, each one is about as big around as a pencil.

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