21 January 2011

Cane Garden Bay BVI Day 3/10 cont'd

Cane Garden Bay, on Tortola's north shore, is among the prettiest of the British Virgin Islands' bays.  Protected by a large reef, the anchorage is quiet and sprawls out along a beautiful palm-fringed sandy beach.  

We arrived about an hour before sunset and picked up a mooring a distance off the shore.  There would be bands playing at night and we wanted to be able to sleep if desired.

We took the dinghy into the dinghy docks.  Our unwritten dinghy protocol was completely reversed from our sailing protocol.  Randall was the Dinghy Captain.  I was the Foredeck Crewman.  Randall motored us into the dinghy dock, and then cut the motor as we approached.  My job was to tie the painter to the dock, and then step onto the dock and help the girls ashore.  This had become a routine process by now, and so they were all quite surprised when I decided to change things up a little at the Cane Garden Bay dinghy dock.  Randall cut the motor as the dinghy drifted into the dock.  

He was busy swinging the motor up out of the water as I stepped quickly onto the dock, and with my trailing foot gave the dinghy a shove back out to sea.  Everyone sat in the dinghy, slightly stunned as to what was happening as they drifted away.  I found it all rather funny, but I think it was somehow less funny from the vantage point of the dinghy.  I wish they could have been on the dock with me, then they would have thought it was funnier.

The dock, although stable underfoot, looked like something out of a Pirates of the Caribbean set.  The dock was missing numerous boards, so we really had to watch our steps.  Coming back in the dark of night will definitely require a flashlight.  I'm guessing there simply aren't many attorneys down here, and so I like this dock, because it represents a world that prizes common sense over senseless litigation: if there's a hole in the dock, step over it.

We strolled along the beach, watching kids swimming and snorkeling in the water. Several kids were riding skin boards in the waves as they washed up the beach.  There is a large roped off swim area here with a gently-sloping bottom that is great for kids or people learning to snorkel.

There were several groups of pelicans out fishing.  Interestingly, they hunted in groups of 3 or 4.  The same group would work its way along the beach, flying 20 or 30 feet in the air with eyes trained on the water.  Then suddenly one would dive straight down, folding its wings in tight and opening it's large beak just a second before hitting the water.  The fish must have been everywhere, because the pelicans would even dive right next to a group of people in the water to grab fish.  If it weren't so late, I'd like to get my snorkel and watch the hunting from under the water.

There are numerous restaurants and beach grills along the beach.  We were fascinated as we approached the Banana Grill to be asked if we had a reservation.  We didn't.  But we didn't think that the only other occupied table in the place would mind much.  Of course they seated us right away and the food was great.  But it seemed that at every restaurant during the entire trip, we were asked if we had reservations, even when the restaurants were entirely empty.  This will become one of the fun phrases we remember from this trip, "Do you have a reservation?"

After we ordered dinner, I walked out onto the beach to shoot some pictures of the sunset.  Cane Garden Bay is a beautiful beach for sunsets, situated perfectly to silhouette the anchored boats against the setting sun.  Choosing a dinner table overlooking this view, the perfect time for dinner here is about 15 minutes before sunset.  

As I started shooting, I noticed some fishermen spreading a large net off the beach into the water, stretching some 20 yards out.  A few minutes later, these fishermen invited the kids on the beach to help them pull the net in to shore.  A small crowd soon gathered to watch the process, and to see what they might catch so close to shore.

Over about 20 minutes, the net was pulled closer, and eventually a smaller net was lowered in to pull the fish up to shore.  One of the fishermen found a small nurse shark in the net, so they carefully waited for the shark to swim near an edge, and pulled the net down to let him swim free.

Soon, they hauled their catch up to shore.  The smaller fish were thrown back, and the larger fish were sold to the grills along the beach, or to yachtsmen watching on shore.

I got back to the restaurant with a few minutes to spare before dinner arrived.  Actually, I might well have just watched my dinner pulled ashore in those nets.

Our credit card was declined for dinner.  We had forgotten to call ahead and let the bank know we'd be using it out of country. Apparently they thought someone was spending our hard-earned money as their own ill-gotten gains.  After all, these are pirate latitudes.  Reminder for the next trip, be sure and call the credit card companies before flying down to the Caribbean.

Cane Garden Bay was a little noisy at night for my taste.  We could barely hear the bands playing because we were about 200 yards offshore.  Actually I was the only one on board who was kept up at night by them.  I wouldn't have minded the music, except that we were far enough out that I could only clearly hear the bass player, who seemed to play the same riff in the same chord throughout an entire song.  However, in my hypnagogic stupor I did appreciate the final set a little more, as it was clearly more challenging for the bass player.

Also, the roosters along the shore had no manner of time reckoning.  They kept going off for several hours prior to sunrise.  It could be that they were a little jet-lagged too, I'm not sure where they were all from.

Cane Garden Bay is definitely a place we'll return to often.  The beach and sunset views are a great place to spend half a day.

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