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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


On our overnight trip to St. John, I was excited to see a type of livestock I've never encountered in the Virgin Islands before.

This mama pig and about five or six piglets were enjoying rooting around in the mud holes left by the morning rains. And once fed, it was time for a good wallow.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


My parents just finished a 14-day trip to the Virgin Islands, including 9 days here with me in the BVI, and a day  together on St. John. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them, but as they got on the boat to St. Thomas yesterday, and we bid each other farewell, I couldn't help looking forward to my evening alone.

I'm exhausted, you see, and I was gleeful at the prospect of an early bedtime. 

Since my parents arrived on the 18th of November, I have been swimming three? four? times, out to lunch and/or dinner at least seven times, and visited Virgin Gorda and St. John. The amount of activity I have crammed into the past 10 days is equivalent to what I do in two months' time on a normal schedule. The pace has been gruelling for me, but I couldn't bring myself to slacken it, as I wanted to show my parents all the BVI highlights. 

Now it is time to return to my normal pacing. To swimming once a week, or once every ten days or so. To dining at home and visiting other islands only on special occasions. It is time to return to the very slow pace of life in the BVI, and to work to find a balance between the over-full week when I have visitors, and the slightly-to-slow week when I don't. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011


One day, I hope to snorkel the reef in Dog Bay on Virgin Gorda.

I will either need to get fit enough to swim the mile out and back from the nearest beach, or get rich enough to get a boat. I think the former is more likely.

In the meantime, I will content myself with photographs.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

North Shore

My parents are visiting for Thanksgiving, yay! Since four adults won't fit in our usual car, we have a rental car -- a Suzuki Grand Vitara -- for the duration of their stay. On Monday, we decided to take advantage of the four-wheel-drive, and try to find a beach HB and I had never visited. 

Rogue's Bay, also known as Lava Flow has some pretty amazing cooled-lava formations. Unfortunately, it also has a very disused 4wd road leading to it, and my parents weren't up for the adventure.

Still, the views of the north coast from our final stopping point were worth it. Hopefully HB and I will make it down some other time ... maybe in time for Beach Week 2012!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


At night, especially in the summer months, the bush becomes a wall of sound. Insects and birds create a pleasant backdrop, but the real noise comes from the frogs. Virgin Islands Coquis provide much of the sound, but there's a wide variety of other frogs making their contributions as well. I managed to capture one on film the other night.

He was about 3" long. I think it might be the invasive Cuban Tree Frog , but my identification is likely incorrect. Anyone else want to hazard a guess?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Alternate Routes Part 2

Picking up where we left off on Saturday, as I pass Sage Mountain, I come to

Kilometer 5 --  Ridge Road, heading down the north side of Sage Mountain. Views to the right over Cane Garden Bay are mostly blocked by lush foliage, especially now at the end of rainy season

Kilometer 6 -- I've photographed this ghut before, when it was filled with a waterfall of rain run-off. It runs under the Ridge Road, and helps keep heavy waterflow off the road.

Kilometer 7 -- Bananakeet Cafe and Heritage Inn sit at the first of five switchbacks that take you down Windy Hill and into Carrot Bay.

Kilometer 8 -- Entering Carrot Bay, I've always been a bit confused by this sign.

Kilometer 9 -- Towards the western end of Carrot Bay, there are a few small, neat guest cottages that look like an ideal place to spend a few lazy days.

Another kilometer or so to work and my peaceful drive is at an end.

Alternate Routes Part 1

A few months ago, at my father's request, I posted a series of pictures from every kilometer of my morning commute. A commenter pointed out that unlike his ride of Hwy 1 in the Keys, I am fortunate enough to have a choice in how I get to work. Since I recently moved and my route of choice has changed, I thought it was time for a kilometer-by-kilometer update.

The start point on this route is dropping HB off at his work in Road Town. Near his work is the Virgin Islands Supreme Court, which happens to be next door to the Elmore Leonard Stoutt High School. At 8:15am, plenty of students are on their way to school.

Kilometer 1 -- about halfway up the steep climb of kilometer-long Joe's Hill. This is one of the flatter spots.

Kilometer 2 -- at the top of Joe's Hill. I always take a gander into this yard, to see what animals are milling about. This morning's supply of one goat, one horse, and some chickens is relatively paltry.

Kilometer 3 -- Where the Ridge Road intersects with the Cane Garden Bay Road, I head left to stay on Ridge Road towards Carrot Bay. The food truck always gives me a chuckle.

Kilometer 4 -- The fairly upper-class neighborhood of Doty, near Sage Mountain. Very clean, well-kept houses with wonderful views of the Sir Francis Drake Channel.

My new preferred route is significantly shorter than my old one (about 10 km instead of 16) but still too long to include in one post. Part 2 on Tuesday!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Grab life with both hands and squeeze every last drop out of it.

... a motivational poster from the BVI Bovine Buddies.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Island Radio

I spend a fair amount of time in the car each day -- about an hour's total driving, plus a few minutes each evening waiting for HB to get out of work. I have never been one to drive in silence, I've always been a big fan of music while driving

In the radio wasteland of southwest Florida, I got used to the idea that music for driving meant CDs or an ipod. My 2007 model Volkswagen accommodated both options quite well and, admittedly, I got a little spoiled. Now that I'm using a rather older Hyundai for my daily driver, neither CDs nor ipods are compatible with the sound system, and I have learned to live wth the radio stations available to me.

For an island of 20,000 people, Tortola lucks out when it comes to radio, as we are able to pick up some broadcasts from the far-more-populous St. Thomas and St. Croix. Nonetheless, after parsing out the religious radio stations, I've realized there are only five radio stations to pick between for my daily drive time. In case you too want some in-car entertainment, here they are:

104.9 The Mongoose -- classic rock broadcast from St. Croix. No reception on northwest coast, or eastern third of Tortola.

104.3 The Buzz -- alternative rock broadcast from St. Thomas. No reception in Road Town or points east.

106.9 ZCCR -- reggae/hip-hop mix broadcast from Tortola. The extensive blocks of local commercials often make me tune out.

101.3 ZVCR -- reggae/r&b mix leaning more towards the reggae broadcast from Tortola. Usually don't get reception on this outside of Road Town.

780 ZBVI -- news interspersed with top 40 and reggae broadcast from Tortola. I find myself listening to this more frequently, as it gets good reception all over Tortola, and keeps me up to date on island events.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blind Dog

There is a dog who lives along the road to our house that has the most remarkable eyes. Very dark pupils with very light irises. The first time we saw him, we were fascinated, as he seemed to stare into our souls.

We see him about once a week, usually hanging out in the driveway to his house. We would slow down when we saw him, and a mutual staring session would begin. Or so we thought.

After the third or fourth time we saw this dog, I realized he wasn't actually looking at the car. Rather, he was looking kind of past the car. He had his head and eyes turned to where the noise was coming from the car. As we would pass, his head would follow not the object of the car, but the noise from the car, creating a strange sort of visual doppler effect.

In a flash of startling creativity, HB and I have taken to calling him "Blind Dog."

Friday, November 11, 2011


A fairly dry subject for today, as we jump into the exciting world of trade tariffs. It may seem like a small, inconsequential thing at first -- the taxes imposed by the BVI government on nearly all goods imported into the territory. Tariffs aren't something I researched, or really even thought of, before deciding to move here. More and more, though, I realize how much they impact me, and impact life here in general.

To my knowledge, the only goods that enter the BVI tariff-free are books, educational materials, and computers. Everything else is subject to a minimum duty of 10%. Duties range as high as 23-24% on some items like automobiles. If you are visiting the BVI, these tariffs strongly impact the costs of goods you buy while here. Not only are you paying the shipping premium of bringing that CD or bottle of water to the island, but you are also paying for 10-20% on the original purchase price of the CD or bottle of water plus the cost of shipping it.

As a visitor, perhaps this doesn't matter very much to you. You're only here for a short while anyway, and so what if things cost a little extra? You're in the Caribbean. If you're planning on moving here, however, tariffs can impact you in a big way. Everything costs more here because it's imported. I've already discussed the cost of groceries at length, but tariffs help put a price premium on everything.

I think the difficulty of coordinating shipping combined with the high tariffs also diminishes the supply of items in the BVI. Often it is difficult to find specific things, and it is always difficult to find a variety of things. If you are looking for a certain model cell phone in a particular color, you will probably need look elsewhere -- online, or in Puerto Rico -- to find it.

In the long term, I feel the tariffs help make the BVI a less consumerist culture. There are not infinite choices of infinite items, and many transplants quickly discover how few of those infinite items they needed anyway. If shopping is your favorite form of entertainment though, you may want to carefully consider a move to the BVI, and the impact of tariffs on your pocketbook.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Growing Season

I am still unaccustomed to the dual growing season that happens in the BVI, and, I assume, throughout much of the tropics. Springtime, March and April especially, is the main time to see flowers in the BVI, but there is a secondary bloom that occurs now, in November.

Not all flora participates in the November bloom. In fact, it seems rather limited to hibiscus, rhodedenron and bougainvillea. I suppose the breadfruit trees bloomed again, too, but their non-showy blossoms make them a bit more forgettable.

  And I'm not so sure I should refer to November as the "second bloom" for the bougainvillea.

Based on their enthusiasm this month, I rather think the bougainvillea regard this as their first bloom.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


HB and I had a pleasant drive on Monday, out exploring Tortola. Our observations confirmed that all of Tortola is one big farm.

This fairly large herd of cows seemed unusual somehow as we drove by. It wasn't until I looked at the photo afterwards that I realized it's because they're confined -- penned in by barbed wire -- rather than strolling nonchalantly in the road as usual. I wonder if the confinement is one of the causes of the skinny appearance of this herd?

The cattle egret was living up to his name admirably.

Since the roadcows were not, in fact, roadcows, we had to content ourselves with this brindled roadgoat instead.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Northern Swells

Around this time of year, the northern swells come in and waves start getting big. Surfers get excited, as there start to be actual surfable waves, usually in the range of 4-6 feet. Even super-placid Brewer's Bay will have a few small curlers in it.

Over the last two days, though, the North Coast of Tortola has seen surf bigger than anything remembered in the past five years.

Cane Garden Bay, seen from above has been transformed from its usual tranquil blue to a churned-up stormy green by the incoming waves. HB and I went to Josiah's Bay to check out the surf where it was likely to be largest.

We were astounded by the massive waves we encountered, many at least 10 feet, if not more. The rock wall to the right in the photo above rises about 8 feet above the sand, and some of the waves towered over it.

The effect of the surf crashing into the wall was lovely.

Although I'm enjoying the difference in the motion of the ocean, I'm hoping the ground swell dies down fairly soon -- I miss swimming!

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