Monday, December 29, 2014

Pieces of Eight

Pieces of Eight
Yesterday Bob and I went snorkeling in 'the Caves', which is around the point in Bight Bay, on Norman Island, BVI, near where we are on a mooring. We dinghied around Treasure Point, past the snorkelers who were flapping around in front of the three cave openings, and tied up on a dinghy line. We put on our own flippers and headgear and swam toward the biggest cave, and went all the way in.
It was getting late in the afternoon and the inner part of the cave was dark enough so that we couldn't see in the water. There were urchins and other reef animals, which we avoided, and headed to the small pebbly area at the back of the cave. A dark space next to us was a possible further area in, but the water didn't seem to eddy in very far, so we were probably at the very back side of the cave.
From there, we tucked up onto the pebbles and looked up at the cave walls and 'roof' and back at the entrance. We joked about hiding on the sides of the cave, spooking the timorous snorkelers who came in, covering ourselves with the mounds of sargasso grass for added creepiness.
It was probably more funny due to the influence of the area, called 'Privateer Bay'. One is given leave to think piratical thoughts here. It is the location picked out by R..L. Stevenson for Treasure Island, which makes Norman Island a destination, along with Dead Chest and Treasure Bay on the other side of Peter Island, the next spot we are headed.
As far as snorkeling, we were more impressed with Cooper Island, especially near the rocks between Cooper and Salt Islands. Where we were yesterday, in front of 'The Caves', it was actually not very healthy coral, probably due to the big ships that stay on the British National Park Services' moorings overnight, when they are only supposed to be there a short while. Its popularity is creating a demise of healthy reefs.
One wonders why there isn't an even bigger effort to preserve these amazing treasures, as people spend a huge amount of vacation time and money in order to enjoy them. Coral Bay's demise is still preventable, and I am hoping to participate in that effort in some way.
Bight Bay is reputed to be the largest attraction in the BVI. It is located between the West End of Tortola (Soper's Hole) and Roadtown, where people come in on their charters. It is easy to get to and direct and deep, and the largest collection of yachts we have seen to date are moored around us.
Bob went to get the dinghy and I snorkeled back around Treasure Point, back into Bight Bay and alongside the other side of the cave area, where I saw a large number of boulders which looked like clumps of duckpin bowling balls all grouped together. It seemed to me that if the Pirates actually did hide their treasure, it wouldn't be on the Cave side of the Point but would be in the strange rocks inside the Bay where it is calmer.
Pirates did not have scuba gear or snorkels, so it would not be much fun trying to pull up a chest in the water or out of the caves, which had a strong tide washing in and out. No, if there are any pieces of eight, I warrant that they are on the inside, somewhere between the shore and the yachts nearby.
Yesterday afternoon, there was a monohull (i.e. not a catamaran) coming in to anchor (the moorings were all used up), and the group of men aboard were hooting and cavorting on deck. They were festooned with old fashioned sailor's whites and hats, posing for a picture in front of the infamous 'Willie T's' steel ship, which is a notorious floating bar, as they passed by. They may have been part of the 'Gay Armada' or some other cruise charter, which celebrates the lore of the days of old, whilst rushing like mad around the islands, trying to pack all they can in one week of vacation.
There are the people who go off and hoot it up at Willie T's and others who sit on their fancy yachts and use their binoculars, watching other people acting crazy aboard, jumping off the upper deck and making glorious fools of themselves. I was trying to catch up on my notes, sitting in the cockpit, enjoying the post snorkeling exercise rush. Oh, and drinking a painkiller Bob brought up for me. My sister said to 'go live the dream' and I am doing my best to comply. Binoculars do help spotting the names and ports of origin of the boats coming in and out, if not for actual snooping…
We had gone to Willie T's the day before, but prior to snorkeling, we had stopped in to have lunch and 'Friggin' in the Riggin' drinks (Mt. Gay Rum frozen with mango and banana, topped with Gosling's Dark Rum).  We got some gas for the dinghy from Tom, who manages the Eco-style Restaurant and beach area, with his wife Lena. When we found Tom, he was in the back of the 300 year old stone foundation (from plantation days) on which they had built their house. 
Tom was up the hill, with his cheerful son, hoeing and working the garden. He had planted out lots of edibles as well as ornamentals. There were also some starter plants in the nursery he maintains; along with managing the establishment, the R.O. (the reverse osmosis machine which converts the sea water), the bar and restaurant, and collecting boat fees, they have a myriad of other duties.
I have some books he graciously lent me on island plants and their uses. He took us around the planted beach area covered in sand brought from Barbuda in huge amounts. He had been there to spread it. He had been tending the planted material for awhile, and was a store house of information about the old uses of the tropical material. I took notes as he did a plant id walk with us, and am going to incorporate it into the design I am working on for a St. Thomas project that is coming together.
For me, the chief treasure here is the way these grounds have been maintained, with care, by Tom and family. Some of the plants, such as the Tamarind trees, are centuries old. The fruit is delicious. I have begun to taste the treasures, so this is more 'pieces of ate', than any buried gold 'pieces of eight', and it is a true forager's feast, island style.

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