Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor

Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 78
October 1, 1997

Last Update Sep 28 Sep 97 1030ET

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Park Service plan downsized

The  Virgin Islands National Park renovation project will be smaller than 
originally  announced,  due  to community protests.  Plans for a new Cruz 
Bay  visitor's  center  and  administrative  building  would  have  put a 
structure  in  the middle of an area currently used as a playground.  The 
Park  now plans only to rebuild the current visitor's center, leaving the 
adjacent  playground  as  it  is,  according  to  a  report in the Virgin 
Islands  Daily  News.  No site has been chosen for the new administrative 
center;   the  current  facility  is  located  on  St.  Thomas.   Islands 
Administrator  James Dalmida called the original plan a "monstrosity" and 
added "I'm glad they listened," the Daily News report said.(23 Sep 97)

Floating B & B planned

Capt.  Doug  Ross  has plans to turn his 35-foot sailboat into a floating 
bed-and-breakfast in the Cruz Bay harbor of St. John.  He expects the 35-
foot,  French-built  boat will be used for day trips and overnight stays.  
Ross  has  lived  on  St.  John for 11 years.  The sailboat has a galley, 
oven,  shower,  refrigerator  and  ice  maker and two comfortable private 
cabins, the St. John Tradewinds newspaper reported.(23 Sep 97)

Good walls make good neighbors

The  Cruz  Bay  Tourism  office  of  the USVI has a lovely new stone wall 
outside,  the  Tradewinds  showed  in  a  photograph.  The wall was built 
after  Gov.  Schneider,  touring  the island in March, suggested the area 
could use a little decoration.(23 Sep 97)

VIs ready for vacationers

Travel  wholesalers  and  airline  representatives have been given a top-
level  briefing  on the islands' tourism promotion plans for the upcoming 
Winter  season,  the  Daily  News  reported.   A  $2  million  television 
advertising  campaigns  will  be  targeted  at northeastern U.S. markets, 
while  a  print campaign aimed at upscale visitors will appear in The New 
Yorker  and  Gourmet  magazines.   Chris  Hanaway  of Florida's Certified 
Vacations,  who  attended the conference on St. Thomas, said "This island 
looks  great.   It's  in  the  best  shape it's ever been.  It's the best 
hotel product it's ever had." the News reported.(17 Sep 97)

Westin hotel plans "mass hiring"

Plans  to  reopen  Great  Cruz Bay Resort Nov. 1 are on schedule, and the 
general  manager of the Westin property says a "mass hiring" call will be 
made  son,  the Tradewinds reported.  Abel Damergi said the jobs will run 
the  gamut,  from housekeeping to restaurants, with people to be added to 
the  payroll  early  in  October.   The general manager said "The pool is 
going  to  be ready earlier than expected.  Everybody is doing great."(17 
Sep 97)

 ** Westin taking with reservations for Nov. 1

The  general  manager of the Great Cruz Bay Resort Hotel on St. John says 
"we  are actually being bombarded with reservations," according to editor 
Tom  Oat, writing in the St. John Tradewinds newspaper. Abel Demargi said 
his  Westin-owned  hotel, now renovating and preparing to reopen, expects 
occupancy  of  rooms  to  start  near 75 percent, and for it to rise from 
there.  The  general  manager  said  much  of the business coming in this 
winter  is  from  groups.  Among  the changes will be s shift in the main 
dining  room  from  Asian/Italian  to  gourmet  seafood,  the  Tradewinds 
reported.  The  bar,  located  between  the  beach  and the pool, will be 
relocated  closer  to  the  waster,  and  it  will be the center for many 
"theme nights" and entertainment, the paper reported.(9Sep97)

** St. John beaches to grow

Agents  for  the V.I. National Park are working to acquire two beachfront 
parcels  of  land  at  Dennis  Bay and near North Shore Road at Hawksnest 
Bay,   the  Daily  News  reported.  Both  plots  are  within  the  Park's 
boundaries.  The  Gibney  family  is  negotiating  to  sell five acres at 
Hawksnest;  it's  been  in  the  family  since  the 1940s and, the report 
quoted  a  park  spokeswoman  saying  "It's  been  the  park's number one 
priority  to  acquire  that property." Money to buy the parcels will come 
from  federal land and water conservation funds. One report says the land 
will  sell  for  $4  million.  A deal for the other land has already been 
done.  The land includes 18th century structures including the remains of 
a warehouse, rum still, and laborers' quarters.(9Sep97)

 ** Red Hook Market sold

A  popular stop for St. John-bound vacationers has changed hands. The Red 
Hook  Market  has  been  renamed  the B&P Market and is now owned by Gail 
Bastas  and  Ann  Plummer, the daily News Reported. Bastas used to be the 
store's  buyer,  and  has  worked  for  several  St.  Thomas  hotels  and 

** St. John police get bicycles

While  a  new  $3.1  million police headquarters is being built, St. John 
police  have  some  new  transportation  vehicles  to  put  into service. 
Businessman  James  Penn  has  donated  three  bicycles to the force. The 
Assistant  Police Commisioner said the bikes "will lessen response time," 
the  News Reported. Hill said he's pleased with the new equipment, saying 
it's  good  for  morale and lets others on the force "know someone in the 
community cares."(9Sep97)   




(Ed Note: the following contribution by Melynda Nuss is copyrighted and used in the CTR with her permission.)

  Have  you ever had a fantasy about being marooned on a deserted island? 
Nothing  around  for miles -- no cars, no phone, no TV -- just white sand 
beaches,  clear blue water, and of course a swimming pool and a waiter to 
bring  you drinks. If this and some scuba diving sounds like your idea of 
paradise,  the Great Guana Cay might be for you. Located about 45 minutes 
from  Marsh  Harbor  by ferry, the Great Guana Cay has one small village, 
one  hotel  --  complete  with marina, restaurant, and swimming pool, one 
(other)  bar,  and one somewhat half-hearted attempt at a souvenier shop. 
You  can  walk  from  one  end  of  the  island  to the other in about 15 
minutes;  the  locals,  when  they  have heavy loads, use golf carts. The 
hotel  --  The  Great  Guana Cay Resort -- occupies the end of the island 
closest  to  the  harbor, where yachtsmen from up and down the east coast 
moor  for  the  Saturday  night  barbeque  and  fish  fry.  The other bar 
occupies  the  opposite  end of the island (wouldn't want to get thirsty, 
now),  where there are 7 miles of deserted ocean beach. There's one phone 
at  the  hotel -- to be used only for emergencies -- and one pay phone in 
the  middle  of town on the way to the beach, which can only be used when 
the operator is on duty. If there's a line, you'll just have to wait. 

I  went to the Great Guana Cay on a package -- air fare from Miami, hotel 
accommodations,  and  two  meals  a  day  are  all included in the price. 
Getting  there  is,  in  this  case, truly half the fun. You take a small 
propeller  plane  from Miami to Marsh Harbor over water so clear that you 
can  almost  see  the  fish  in it. Once you're in Marsh Harbor (itself a 
thriving  metropolis  that  looks  much  like the standard American beach 
town),  you  take  a  taxi to the ferry, which then transports you to the 
Great  Guana Cay. The ferry runs to and from Guana twice a day -- once in 
the  (early)  morning  and  once in the evening, so if you miss it you're 

This  fact  is especially important for scuba divers. The Great Guana Cay 
does  have scuba equipment and a dive leader, but very few people seem to 
use  the  service.  During  the  time  I  was  there,  there was only one 
intrepid  diver, a Floridian in his 60's who had clearly done this a time 
or  two  before,  and  he  went  out paired with the dive leader. There's 
something  to  be  said for that kind of personal attention, but the size 
of  the  operation also has its drawbacks -- I rented my equipment there, 
and  suffered  with  a leaky mask and a pair of flippers about a size too 
large.  There  are,  however,  plenty of dive operations in Marsh Harbor, 
and  the water was littered with dive boats, some of which appeared to be 
giving group lessons. 

It's  no  wonder  --  the  diving is great. I hadn't scuba dived in quite 
some  time  and  didn't  feel  comfortable  going out without a refresher 
course,  but  I  did go on the boat with the divers and snorkeled off the 
side  while  waiting for them to come back. The water was clear and blue, 
just  like  the  Caribbean, and although the water was too deep to really 
be  good  for snorkeling I did see a pretty good array of fish and coral. 
When  the divers returned, they reported that they had seen a reef shark, 
a  barracuda,  and  all kinds of grouper and assorted fish. They had also 
seen another boat of scuba divers. So much for the deserted island.

Back  on  dry land again, there are plenty of hammocks and a drink called 
the  Guana  Grabber,  a  rum punch served in the obligatory frufy tourist 
glass  with  a  slice  of orange and a marischino cherry. The food, to be 
honest,  is  not gourmet fare -- think of how far it has to be shipped -- 
but  it's  consistently  pretty  good,  and  it's  served with a smile by 
waiters  who  know  your  name.  I  was  traveling alone, and bartenders, 
waiters,  and  even  the  chef  went out of their way to keep me company. 
Yachtsmen  called  me  over  to their tables at dinner and shared with me 
stories  of where they had come from and where they had gone. One of them 
even  tried  to  fix  me  up  with  his  nephew. Hotel accommodations are 
likewise  serviceable  but  friendly.  They  won't offer much for patrons 
looking  for  a  luxury  hotel,  but the rooms are large and airy and the 
beds  clean  and  soft.  Outside  of  the  hotel, there are little houses 
painted  colors  that  a peacock could only dream of surrounded by lavish 
displays  of tropical flowers, tiny striped lizards, and, on the miles of 
ocean  beach,  the  occasional  rock  outcropping  or  wrecked  dinghy to 
interrupt  the  still vista of white sand. I wouldn't recommend the Great 
Guana  Cay  for  small  children  or  those  who  have  to  be constantly 
entertained, but if you open your eyes, there's plenty there to be seen.

In   short,   I   would   recommend  the  Guana  Cay  wholeheartedly  for 
honeymooners,  technophobes,  or  anyone  else who just wants to get away 
from  it  all.  And  if  you're  looking  for  me, I'll be in the hammock 
overlooking  the  harbor,  a good book in one hand and a guana grabber in 
the  other.  And  you'd  better  not get anywhere near me with a cellular 


My  husband  and  I  just  got  back  last  night from a one week stay in 
Bonaire.  We  have  been  to  four other places in the Caribbean-- Virgin 
Gorda,  St.  Croix,  Grand  Cayman,  and Cancun-- in August over the past 
several  years,  and  although  we  enjoyed  all  of them, Bonaire is our 
favorite  by  far.  If,  like us, you are looking for peace and quiet, no 
crowds,  perfect  weather,  great snorkeling or diving from the shore, an 
interesting  island  to  explore,  excellent dining, and drinkable water, 
Bonaire  is  the  place!!  Everywhere  else  we've been had some of these 
things,  but not all of them. I know that I sound like a travel brochure, 
but it's all true!! 

We  stayed  at  the  newest hotel on the island, the Plaza Resort Bonair, 
which  is  rated  at  5  stars.  We  loved  it!! The Plaza has a definite 
European  flavor  and  most of the guests are not American. It is located 
right  on  the  water with a palm-studded sand beach complete with a reef 
(called  the  18th  Palm)  right  offshore.  Snorkeling  there,  we saw a 
hawksbill  turtle  (twice),  squid,  and  a  barracuda in addition to the 
usual  assortment  of  tropical  fish. The beach was not crowded and very 
quiet  as  both radios and jetskis are not allowed (hallelujah). The room 
was  very  large,  the  grounds were beautiful, and there is a marina and 
dive operation right there. Summer rates start at $125. 

The  island is very interesting to explore. It is arid with cactus-- sort 
of   like  Arizona  on  the  ocean.  Wild  goats  and  donkeys  roam  the 
countryside  outside  town.  There  are many species of birds including a 
green  parrot  and  flamingos. In Washington-Slagbaai park there are tame 
blue-tailed  lizards  that  hang  around  looking for a handout. The dive 
sites   on   that  side  of  the  island  are  extremely  beautiful  with 
unbelievably dense coral growth right off shore. 

Also,  the  weather  was  perfect--  in the mid-80s with a constant trade 
wind.  It  only  rained  once  at  night  the  entire time we were there. 
Bonaire's  rainy  season  is in November and December, not in the summer. 
No  dodging thunderstorms like we did in Cayman. We've already decided to 
go back again next year-- a first for us. 



Finally,  the countdown was over and our vacation was underway. This trip 
to  the  Virgin  Islands (our fourth in six years) involved in-laws, Glen 
and  Dorothy  Craig;  friends, Tom and Jane Zikratch; and ourselves, Gary 
and  Mary  Lou  Kunkel.  Our  flight  from Fresno, CA to St. Thomas, USVI 
seemed  to  take forever. The routing involved a five-hour layover in Los 
Angeles,  a  very  long flight to New York (yes, that's right - CA to St. 
Thomas  via  New York!), then another fairly long hop to the islands. All 
went  without  a hitch, but it was sure nice to look out and see the blue 
waters  surrounding  St.  Thomas  with sailboats near the airport when we 
arrived Sunday noon.

We  like  to  arrive early enough to look around, shift into island time, 
do  some shopping, and get settled into our hotel. We like Hotel 1829 for 
its  Caribbean charm. It's made of very old materials (ship's ballast and 
the  like)  and  has a nice bar, great restaurant and spectacular view of 
the harbor.

Unfortunately,  the  Craigs'  flight didn't go as scheduled. They were to 
meet  us  for  dinner  at  8:30  p.m. but their flight was delayed due to 
weather  and  subsequent  diversion.  They did finally arrive late Sunday 

When  it  became  evident  that they weren't going to be in St. Thomas at 
dinner  time,  we  went  ahead  and  walked  down  to the Green House for 
outstanding  Jamaican  Jerk  ribs.  The restaurant played Jimmy Buffett's 
One  Particular  Harbor  and Volcano during dinner -- a good way to start 
things off.

Day One

We  charter  with  Caribbean  Yacht  Charters  for  several reasons. They 
almost  always  offer  ten  days  for  the price of seven, which actually 
allows  us  to  sail  for  portions of eleven days (charter days run from 
noon  until  noon  the  next  day).  The boats are clean, fast, have good 
ventilation,  and  are  equipped with very large center cockpits. We like 
to  spend  all  our time in the cockpit. Also a center cockpit allows for 
lots  of headroom in the after cabin. This year's boat was a two-year-old 
Hylas 49 named Galila.

Traveling  from  the  hotel  to  the  Compass  Pt. marina, we dropped the 
ladies  off  to purchase our provisions at the Pueblo Market in Tutu. The 
boat  was  ready to go as soon as we arrived (about 11:30 a.m.). The guys 
did  the  check  out,  which  went  very quickly since we had sailed a 49 
before,  and  obtained snorkeling gear, drinking water, etc. CYC's marina 
manager,  Goeff,  provided  a  very  detailed  explanation of how best to 
navigate  out  of Compass Pt's shallow channel. This was much appreciated 
since  a  couple  of  the marks were missing. While at the marina, we met 
Kyle  Jachney  whose family owns Caribbean Yacht Charters. That explained 
how  he  seemed  to  know  everyone  there.  Kyle  was  very  helpful and 
personable, as is everyone associated with this company.

The  ladies  arrived soon after with all our supplies. These were quickly 
stowed  below  and  we  were  underway at 1:40 p.m. -- our earliest start 
ever.  If  we  had  been ready as promptly as the boat was, we could have 
departed  even earlier. Nevertheless, this meant we had plenty of time to 
sail directly to Jost Van Dyke.

The  winds  were  perfect  which  allowed for a fine sail to Great Harbor 
where  we  anchored and dinghied in to clear customs and immigration. The 
cost  for  our  cruising  permit and miscellaneous fees came to $229. The 
entire  process  probably  took  15 minutes or so. Now, we could head for 
Foxy's and really get the vacation started.

When  we arrived at Foxy's, he was just heading out to go fishing. Seeing 
that  we  had  hoped to hear him, he graciously stayed and entertained us 
with  several  tales  and  some hilarious songs. He tried to tell us that 
Foxy  wasn't  here  and  that he was just filling in for him, but we told 
him  we  were  onto  him  from our first trip. He often says he's someone 
else,  usually  George, just to tease the visiting sailors. When we asked 
about  his daughter, who was in college during our last visit, he proudly 
explained that she had since graduated.

Foxy  explained  that  he  had  lost  a  small portion of his roof during 
hurricane  Marilyn, but that his philosophy was that Mother Nature needed 
to  remind  humans  of her power from time to time. We're happy to report 
that  Foxy's  is  unchanged  and  as  great  a  stop  as ever. Dinner was 
outstanding  and the entertainment was too. This is one of the true must-
stops for any visiting sailor.

Day Two

This  was  an  easy,  laid-back,  limin'  day  for  us. After a leisurely 
breakfast  aboard,  we  dinghied  over  to  White  Bay,  one  of the most 
beautiful  beaches  in  all  the BVI. Everyone snorkeled for a while near 
the  westernmost part of the bay, then we walked over to the Soggy Dollar 
bar  for  a  drink.  The Soggy Dollar is where the popular Painkiller was 
first  invented.  The  bar  itself  was named from the soggy dollars that 
sailors  used  to  pay  for their drinks after swimming ashore. If you go 
there,  you  can arrange to have drinks prepaid and ready for any friends 
that  you know will be arriving (for the record, our name is spelled K-u-

After  White  Bay,  we  dinghied back to Great Harbor where most everyone 
elected  to  be  dropped  off  at  the  boat. Tom, Jane, and I went on to 
Foxy's  so  Tom  could  buy  a  souvenir hat. As we were returning to our 
dinghy,  we  heard  steel  drums being played down the beach near Rudy's. 
Apparently,  there  is  a  class  for children on Jost Van Dyke where the 
kids  can  learn  to  play  the  steel  drums  (steel pan may be the more 
correct name). We listened for a time, then returned to the boat.

Just  before snorkeling in White Bay, we discovered that we had neglected 
to  get  swim fins for two of our people ... guess we were too anxious to 
depart  from Compass Pt. Marina the day before. Anyway, we sailed over to 
Soper's  hole  in  strong winds and rented fins from Baskin in the Sun, a 
nice dive shop located near Pusser's Landing.

Drinks  and conch fritters were downed at Pusser's and a few dollars were 
spent  in the gift shop as well. Soper's hole is a very picturesque place 
with  many  brightly-colored  shops. Sunsail has their charter base there 
and will sell you a token for their showers.

I  took  a  dingy  ride around the harbor and went under the small bridge 
that  connects  Frenchman's  Cay to the main part of Tortola. There was a 
fairly  strong  current  running  through  the opening which made it look 
like  boating  on  a  river,  but  the trip was fun. You can dink out the 
other side and look out into the Sir Francis Drake channel.

Winds  at  night  were  described  as  "a  real howler" by a professional 
skipper  we  met. I don't know what they were, but they seemed to be well 
in  excess  of  30  kts.  Anyway,  they  provided  plenty  of  below-deck 
ventilation  with  the  hatches  open.  Wind  scoops  were definitely not 

Day Three

Began  the day in almost total overcast and rain. We left Soper's Hole at 
9:45  and  sailed in strong winds to the Indians. My wife, Mary Lou, is a 
very  good  sailor  and  sailed  most of the way there. The boat balanced 
well  with  all  of  the  main  and about  of the jib in these winds. We 
picked  up  a  mooring  ball at the Indians that had just been vacated by 
Kenny  Logsdon, with whom we had corresponded via e-mail before our trip. 
We spoke very briefly to him as he was departing. Small world, huh?

The  mooring  ball at the Indians had only about a 12 inch pennant on it. 
Someone  had  obviously  broken  it  in the past and re-tied a very short 
loop  near the ball. We had to rig our own pennant using a dock line. The 
process  looked like something from a Three-Stooges movie, but we finally 
got it done and everyone jumped into the water for some snorkeling.

On  all  our  previous trips, we had looked for (but never found) a Queen 
Triggerfish.  This  time,  everyone  was  on full Queen Trigger alert and 
Jane  Zikratch found one between the Indians and Pelican Island. Mary Lou 
and  Jane  yelled  at  Tom  and me and we swam over to see our very first 
Queen  Trigger  in  four  trips  to the BVI! They are very beautiful fish 
that  swim  with  graceful  movements  of  their  long fins. We must have 
followed  it  for  15  minutes  before finally letting it swim off on its 
own.  There  was  a  small sea turtle there too which entertained Tom and 

The  Indians are one of our two favorite snorkeling stops in all the BVI. 
The  other  is  Cistern  Point  on  Cooper  Island.  The  Indian's didn't 
disappoint  this  time  either.  There  is  always a huge variety of fish 
here.  Besides  the  Queen  Triggerfish and turtle, we also saw two Black 
Durgeons and a large Barracuda.

We  had  heard that mooring balls had been installed in the Bight, but it 
was  still  surprising  to  see them there. We had always anchored in the 
past,  along  with  everyone else. There were far more boats here than we 
had ever seen before!

One  of  the things we like to do is eat at the William Thornton (Willie-
T).  The  original  boat had sunk and we were anxious to see what the new 
boat  would  be  like.  We're happy to say that the new boat is very much 
like  the  old one. There is no longer a large hole in the deck where you 
sit  with  your feet hanging down into the hold, but otherwise, it's VERY 
much  the  same  as  ever.  Same  people, same bar setup, same food, same 
atmosphere.  Success  hasn't  spoiled  the Willie-T. Everyone had ribs or 
fish for dinner and everything was great.

All  the  ladies  wore  glow-in-the-dark  earrings for dinner. Each had a 
green  one  on  her  starboard  ear  and  a red one on her port. The full 
effect  is  obtained as you dinghy around in the dark ... All you can see 
are  the  red  and  green  lights a couple of feet above the water as the 
dink moves from place to place.

Day Four

Left  the  Bight  at  8:00  a.m. and motored around to the Treasure Caves 
where  we  picked  up a mooring. While snorkeling here, we saw three more 
Queen  Triggerfish!  We  hadn't  seen any at all in three previous trips, 
and  here  we  were with four in only our first few stops. Snorkeling off 
the  caves  is always nice. We had an underwater light which we took back 
into the deepest cave.

Sailed  on  to  Deadman's  Bay,  Peter  Island  in  fantastic conditions. 
Deadman's  Bay  is  one  of  our favorite stops thanks to it's photogenic 
scenery.  The  resort  was closed which meant we had the anchorage all to 
ourselves  for  over  an  hour.  Even  then,  only one other boat arrived 
before we left.

In  the  past,  we'd  seen  several sea turtles here, but this time there 
were  none  at all. Nevertheless, the beach is beautiful white sand lined 
with  palms. Tom and I went ashore and took lots of pictures of our yacht 
with  Dead Chest in the background. You'll see shots like that in many of 
the cruising guides and calendars for the area.

Next,  we  sailed up Drake's Passage to Manchioneel Bay on Cooper Island. 
Mary  Lou  sailed  most of the way there and managed to attain 10.1 knots 
indicated  on the knot log just before we dropped sail and moored for the 
evening.  I  don't  know  if  even the theoretical hull speed would allow 
more  than 10 kts., but that's what the log indicated. What great sailing 
we had all throughout the trip! If this is typical for July, we love it.

Cooper  Island is always nice. We like the little beach bar at the Cooper 
Island  Beach Club. The ladies bought tee-shirts that said Cooper Island, 
West  Indies.  They  thought  that  saying West Indies made it sound more 
remote  and  exotic.  We  had  a  drink  at the bar and bought a few more 
souvenirs  at the shop down the palm-lined path. It was pretty hot ashore 
as  Cooper  Island  blocks  the  prevailing  wind. Once back at the boat, 
there was a nice breeze, however, and we quickly cooled off.

Day Five

Shortly  after  breakfast,  we  dinghied  down to our favorite snorkeling 
spot  at  Cistern  Point  and tied up to the dinghy mooring. Here, we saw 
schools  of  squid,  Queen  Angelfish,  a  huge  Southern Stingray, Black 
Durgeons,  Barracuda,  and (wouldn't you know it) more Queen Triggerfish! 
This spot always delivers a great variety of things to see.

Once  back  aboard  the yacht, we sailed in very strong winds and squalls 
into  North  Gorda  Sound  and moored at Leverick Bay about 3:30 p.m. Tom 
was  at  the  helm  most  of the way and easily handled the stiff breeze, 
even  though  his  sailing  experience had been limited before this trip. 
Once  ashore,  we bought more groceries at Buck's market and took showers 
at  the  nice  facilities  adjacent  to Pusser's store. There is no extra 
charge to use the showers at Leverick Bay.

Glendon  barbecued a roast that we had sliced into almost-manageable size 
for  the  grill.  Dinner  was  accompanied  by  salad,  garlic bread, and 
Baroque  music.  Heck  of  a  deal!  This  was a day marked by both great 
snorkeling and outstanding sailing.

Day Six

We  did  our  laundry  first thing (Soap Ops, we call it). Even though we 
went  ashore  very  early,  the  locals  had  already  taken  most of the 
machines  --  can't blame them. The early bird gets the laundry. Everyone 
had  a  great  breakfast at Pusser's while we waited for washing machines 
to  open  up. Once laundry was done, we motored the short distance to the 
Bitter  End.  Along  the way, we attempted to make dinner reservations at 
Biras  Creek, but they were already fully booked. There was a combination 
of  Puerto  Rican  holidays  that  allowed many from that island to spend 
several  days  in  the  BVI  -- apparently many of them did. We saw many, 
many Puerto Rican sport fishermen boats at most of the anchorages.

Disappointed  at  having  to  bypass  Biras  Creek, we took the dinghy to 
Eustatia  Sound  for  still  more snorkeling. There is an orange can buoy 
that  one  can tie up to at the reef protecting the outermost part of the 
sound.  Immediately  below  the  buoy, there is an anchor. Shortly beyond 
that, there is an old cannon on the bottom.

Snorkeling  was  very  nice,  although the long dinghy ride was a wet one 
due  to  high  winds  and  choppy  seas.  We  saw lots of barracuda and I 
managed  to  catch  a very large lobster on the ocean side of the reef. I 
took  it  back to show the others, then let him go. It was a big one that 
looked  mighty  tasty,  but we had no BVI fishing license and didn't want 
to chance keeping it.

Day Seven

How  could seven days rush by so quickly? We hoped to sail to Anegada and 
had  obtained  advance  permission from CYC to do so, but the weather was 
very  unsettled.  There  was  a tropical wave approaching and the sky was 
completely  overcast  when we awoke. We immediately decided that this was 
not  what  you  want  to  attempt  Anegada. All were in agreement that we 
could  take  our  time,  since  Anegada  was out of the picture. Finally, 
about  9:15  the  weather  began  to  improve,  and  we  sailed  out past 
Colquhoun reef.

The  weather improved still more, so we thought "why not just sail toward 
Anegada,  see  how  things  look, and just turn back south if the weather 
deteriorates?"  The  weather  cooperated  and  we  sailed  the 004 degree 
magnetic  course  to the Western end of Anegada with no problem. What you 
have  to  do is make good close to 004 M. The first fixes showed us being 
set  to  the  Southwest, so we adjusted our compass course to 010 M which 
allowed us to maintain our desired track.

Like  the cruising guides all say, you see the trees and buildings of the 
island  long  before the island itself becomes visible. It seemed like we 
were  almost  all  the way to the island before we could pick out the red 
and  green  buoys  that  mark  the  entrance  channel. Once the marks are 
spotted,  it's simple to follow the channel into the anchorage. If you're 
on  course,  there  is  ample  water most of the way there. Only when one 
finally  enters  the  marked channel and rounds the final green buoy does 
is  get  really shallow. There are several moorings available, so we took 
an  outer  one that was in something like 7-1/2 feet of water over a sand 

We  were  happy to have finally made it to Anegada and surprised that the 
weather  cooperated  for  our journey there. Nevertheless, we hadn't been 
there  too long when we decided to dinghy to the Anegada Reef Hotel dock. 
As  we  were  walking up the dock, a rain squall approached. We just made 
it  to  the  hotel  when the skies opened up. Soon there was a torrential 
tropical  downpour in progress. All agreed that this added to the Anegada 
experience.  We  enjoyed  being  off  the  beaten track for this tropical 

We'd  heard  that  the hotel was famous for its barbecued lobster ... and 
it  deserves  to  be!  Huge  lobsters  are cooked on the grill. The hotel 
didn't  seem satisfied that these were big enough, so everyone got two -- 
a  huge one and a less-huge one! If you like lobsters, you've come to the 
right  place  at  the  Anegada  Reef  Hotel. Even my wife had enough, and 
lobster is far and away her favorite meal.

During  dinner,  we  met the hotel manager and Jerry George, who skippers 
for  the  Moorings.  He  was  there  visiting  his  girlfriend,  not on a 
charter.  We  enjoyed  talking  with  him and he gave us a nice reggae CD 
before we returned to our boat.

Day Eight

Everyone  went ashore to the Anegada Reef Hotel for breakfast. That done, 
we  took  a  taxi  to  Loblolly  Bay for snorkeling. The taxi was a small 
pickup  fitted  with  bench seats in back. The driver, who we named Mario 
Andretti,  wasted  no time in traveling the dirt roads of Anegada. What a 
thrill  ride!  He stopped to point out a couple of flamingoes in the pond 
near  the  hotel.  When  we arrived at Loblolly, we told him we had named 
him  Mario Andretti and explained that it was the name of a famous racing 
driver. His only reply was a cheerful, Thank You!

Loblolly  is  the  home  of  the  Big Bamboo beach bar and restaurant. We 
snorkeled  and  saw a small lobster, many fish including large schools of 
Blue  Tangs,  a  turtle,  and a small grouper. The visibility wasn't very 
good  (probably  due to the heavy rainfall the night before), but this is 
a  very  nice  beach  and  a  good place to snorkel. Just before we left, 
someone  brought  in  a  large basket of huge lobsters. We had heard that 
the Big Bamboo is another great place for lobster dining.

Mario  Andretti  picked  us  up  for  our return thrill ride to the hotel 
anchorage. We got underway at 1:00 p.m. and sailed on one very deep port-
tack  reach  all  the  way  to  Marina Cay. Most of the way we had over 9 
knots  indicated  on  the  log  ...  another fine breeze. All agreed that 
Anegada  was our very favorite stop of the trip. Nice people, great food, 
and good snorkeling in an out-of- the-way place.

We  took  a  mooring at Marina Cay. Even with our 4:00 p.m. arrival there 
were  plenty  of  sites  available  --  something we were concerned about 
given  our late start from Anegada. Soon, we were ashore at Pusser's nice 
store  and  restaurant.  Drinks  and conch fritters were quickly ordered, 
then  we  noticed Anouk in the anchorage selling her jewelry. A few of us 
jumped  back into the dinghy and went out to our boat to see her. She had 
several  very  nice cloisonne pieces. The ladies bought some earrings and 
talked  with  Anouk for a while. As we attempted to start the dinghy, the 
shift  lever  failed  to  shift into any gear. It would move, but nothing 
would  happen.  Finally,  the  entire shift lever fell off and sank in 37 
feet  of  water!!  We  had  to row back to Marina Cay to finish our conch 
fritters  and  pick up those who had stayed ashore. Rowing in this breeze 
was  no  fun,  but we got back to Pusser's without any trouble. Dinner at 
Pusser's  was  ribs  and  very  good, then it was another row back to the 
boat for the evening.

Once  back  aboard, both Mary Lou and Dorothy suddenly began to feel very 
ill.  Both experienced severe nausea and sweats. The onset was sudden and 
the  symptoms  affected both equally. Their condition was bad enough that 
we  looked  up  the  emergency  medical  numbers  in case their situation 
worsened.  Fortunately,  they were able to avoid the run to the emergency 
room,  but  each  spent a completely miserable night. By the next morning 
each felt noticeably better, although still not really good.

Day Nine

After  a very long night for Mary Lou and Dorothy (and for the rest of us 
too,  due  to  worrying  about  them),  their  condition finally began to 
improve.  Shortly  after  breakfast, I made several dives looking for the 
shift  lever  that  had fallen off the dinghy motor. The bottom was about 
30%  sand  and  70%  grass. Even though it was a long-shot, we thought it 
worth  the  effort to see if we could find it. Just before finally giving 
up,  I surfaced shoulder-first into a jellyfish that stung like crazy. It 
was  one  of  the clear six inch Moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita.) that we 
generally  don't worry much about. Anyway, slamming into it as I surfaced 
resulted  in  a  sting  that  burned and itched for days. Guess we'll pay 
them more attention in the future. No luck with the shift lever either.

We  sailed for the Baths on Virgin Gorda because neither Tom nor Jane had 
ever  seen them before. Once moored off the Baths, Tom and Jane snorkeled 
around  while  the  rest  of  us waited on the boat. Mary Lou and Dorothy 
were  able  to  eat  a  little  which helped improve their condition even 

When  the  Zikratches returned, we sailed around past Marina Cay, through 
Camanoe  Cut,  down along the North side of Tortola, and into Cane Garden 
Bay  (I  hear  it  gets  better,  that's  what they say. As soon as we've 
sailed on to Cane Garden Bay -- Jimmy Buffett).

Once  in Cane Garden we went ashore and called CYC about the dinghy shift 
lever.  They  had  never  heard  of  such  a  thing (neither had we), but 
explained  how  an  inspection  plug could be removed from the lower unit 
and  a  rod moved to force the motor into forward. That allowed us to use 
the  dinghy  motor, although it would always be in gear. This work-around 
would  do,  but  CYC  would be sending a new motor via its chase boat the 
following  day  This worked so well that we called CYC back and told them 
that  we would not need a replacement. There was only a day and a half of 
our  charter  left,  the  motor  worked well in forward, and we wanted to 
avoid an unnecessary trip for the chase boat.

We  had previously wanted to see Callwood's distillery in Cane Garden but 
had  always managed to miss it somehow. This time we asked directions and 
found  it  fairly  easily. It was located in a 400 year old building that 
looked  unchanged  from  Medieval  time!  The  entire  place  smelled  of 
charcoal  and  wood  smoke. Dark, fiber- wrapped ramekins lined the walls 
of  the distillery. We were told that rum had been made there in the very 
same  way,  by the same family, for over 200 years. It's easy to believe, 
once  you  see  the place. I bought two bottles of rum at $7 each ... one 
to  drink  and  another  to  keep  for  all  time. Jimmy Buffett mentions 
Callwood's  rum  in  his  song  Manana.  The rum is outstanding (wish I'd 
bought  more) and the distillery is well worth a visit. Signs on the wall 
remind  you  that  there  is  to  be  no  picture  taking  unless you buy 
something.   An   easy   request  to  satisfy.  Do  not  miss  Callwood's 
distillery. I only wish I'd bought a tee-shirt as well.

After  Callwood's  we  returned  to  the  Paradise bar and restaurant for 
still  more lobster dinners. Once again, these were very good. The Puerto 
Rican  fishing  boat  fleet was here in full force. They must have had 12 
boats  rafted  up  together  in Cane Garden Bay. What a party crowd these 
folks  were. They had huge floodlights and music going most of the night! 
It was good that we were some distance from them in the anchorage.

Day Ten

Everyone  had  a leisurely breakfast aboard, then it was off to Sandy Cay 
for  more snorkeling and picture taking. Ours was the first boat at Sandy 
Cay,  although  we  saw  a great many boats (maybe a dozen) anchored near 
Green  Cay.  It  turns out that the Moorings had an international sailing 
school/camp  for  kids  that involved all these boats. Many were Beneteau 
510s  and each had a lot of kids aboard. We weren't anchored very long at 
Sandy  Cay  before  other  boats began to arrive. Finally, it looked like 
Piccadilly  Circus  with  boats  and  people all around. We were lucky to 
have  the  place  all  to ourselves for long enough to take several great 
pictures  before the onslaught. It looked like all the kids were having a 
great  time. What a nice thing for young people to do, sailing in the BVI 
for three weeks.

While  at  Sandy Cay, we noticed CYC's chase boat with a new dinghy motor 
attached.  They  had delivered a replacement even though we had told them 
we  didn't really need it. When I mentioned this to the repairman he said 
"No  problem,  I  had to come this way and the company wants you to enjoy 
your  trip."  This  was very thoughtful since we truly could do just fine 
without  any  gear  other than forward. Nevertheless, it was nice to have 
neutral and reverse again, in addition to forward.

Once  we  left  Sandy  Cay,  we sailed over to Soper's Hole to return the 
fins  we'd  rented  for the ladies a week earlier. This done, it was time 
for  showers,  drinks,  and  more conch fritters at Pusser's. They have a 
beer, John Courage draft bitter, that Tom and I really enjoy.

Glen  Craig  is  the  Sheriff of Sacramento County. He received a message 
from  Virgin  Islands  radio to call the Governor as soon as possible. He 
and  I  dinghied ashore, but every young person involved with the sailing 
program  was  lined up to use the phone. Finally, we dinghied over to the 
ferry  dock  where  Glendon was able to phone Governor Wilson. Turned out 
to   be   the  kind  of  thing  that  didn't  really  need  an  emergency 
notification,  but  at  least  it  proves  that  you  can  be  reached if 
necessary,  and  if  the people are persistent enough. We were happy that 
it was not an emergency and that everyone could relax.

Day Eleven

We  left  Soper's  Hole  in chamber-of-commerce sunshine after packing up 
for  the turn-in of the boat. Good winds again made for an enjoyable sail 
back  to  Compass  Point.  Dorothy sailed most of the way and enjoyed the 
trip  even though the swells were the largest we'd seen so far. Once near 
the  channel  into  the Compass Point Marina, we called CYC as instructed 
and  were met by their people. We tied up and removed our things from the 
boat,  then  looked at CYC's new 46 and their 51 as well. Geoff showed us 
a  51  that  had  electric primary winches! Pretty decadent...push button 
winch grinding.

After  the  taxi ride back to Hotel 1829, we met Jack and Joyce Tracksler 
of  Bedford,  New Hampshire. They wanted to know all about our trip. When 
we  asked  why, they said they were just starting their charter with CYC. 
When  we  asked which boat, they answered "a Hylas 49 named Galila!" What 
a  coincidence,  meeting  people  who would be sailing the very same boat 
the  very  next day. This would be their second charter aboard Galila and 
they  had specifically requested it. We ended up visiting with them for a 
time  and  each  promised  to  write  and  tell  the  other  about  their 
respective  trips  when  we got home. Then we were off to the Green House 
for the final St. Thomas dinner -- more Jerk ribs!

This  was  another  outstanding  vacation.  We were sad to leave but very 
happy  with  the weather, fine winds, cooler temperatures, nice boat, and 
being  able to finally get to Anegada. There is no question that we'll be 
back  ...  It's  only a matter of how long it will take to save the money 
to  return. I know there are still some lobsters at Anageda that need our 


(Ed Note: The following file is copyrighted by Lynn McKamey (ScubaMom),, and used in the CTR with her permission.)

BIRAS  CREEK  RESORT,  Virgin  Gorda:  Manager  Jamie Holmes contacted me 
shortly  after  Hurricane  Erika  passed  the BVI and reported "the storm 
came  within  100  miles of us, but the winds were on the far side of the 
hurricane.  None  of the BVI properties were hurt and business is back to 

Biras  Creek  announced that 1998 rates would remain the same as 1997, so 
in  my  book,  they once again remain the "best value for upscale resorts 
in  the  BVI".  For  further  information  and  to  see their new on-line 
brochure, visit the new Biras Web Site at 

DRAKES  ANCHORAGE,  Virgin  Gorda:  After being closed during the summer, 
Drakes  will  open for the fall season during October. Contact the resort 
at (800) 624-6651 or (617) 969-9913 for exact dates. 

GUANA  ISLAND  started  sending a news letter to those who have stayed at 
this  delightful  island  which  is  actually  a  very small personalized 
resort  surrounded  by  a  wildlife  and nature preserve. It is estimated 
that  it  has  more  flora  and  fauna  than  any  island its size in the 
Caribbean.  As the resort likes to say "We're the only wildlife sanctuary 
in the world with a cocktail hour." 

Guana  Island News: "This comes to you a bit earlier than usual this year 
because we have lots of good things to report.

New  Managers  Richard and Lynda Barnett took over on July first, just in 
time  to  handle  a couple of weeks of full Island Rentals -- one wedding 
and  one  anniversary  celebration  -- a great way to learn the ropes and 
prove  that  they  can handle anything. Of course, we expected they would 
as  they  come  to  us well recommended and with lots of hotel and resort 
experience  in  England  and  the  Caribbean,  most  recently  four years 
managing Anse Chastanet Hotel on St. Lucia.

Our  summer  projects  are  well underway under the direction of longtime 
Guana  Architect Howard Watson. The one we're really excited about is the 
creation  of  the Chicken Rock Steps. No, it's not a dance -- but it will 
be  an  adventure.  When  circumnavigating the Island on a Sunset Cruise, 
you  will pass "Chicken Rock," -- the rock formation at the northeast end 
of  Guana  that  looks like a sitting chicken. Well, the sea pools around 
Chicken  Rock are enticing, but impossible to reach in any normal way, so 
we're  building  a  trail  of  about  150  steps down from the top of the 
cliff.  Those of you who talk about hiking the trails but never do may be 
encouraged  by  this  destination,  where at the end of the long hike you 
can refresh yourselves in these marvelous, pristine pools.

And  on  the  way  back, you might like to stop and check the progress of 
our  restoration  of  the  Quaker  ruin on the road to North Beach. We've 
been  excavating  it  further  and  have uncovered surprising things that 
tell  us  more about the Quakers who inhabited Guana in the 18th century. 
We  had  thought  it was a sugar mill ruin, but it seems the Quakers were 
occupied with more than sugar.

The  newest  species we restored to Guana, the white-crowned pigeons, are 
a  year  old  and we were finally able to bring in ten new chicks to join 
them  in  the  aviary  on  the  Flat.  In  October they will all be "soft 
released"  -- that is, the door will be left open so they can come and go 
as they become acclimatized to their freedom. 

In  other  news:  our  restored  iguanas, land turtles and flamingoes are 
still  doing  well  as  are  the  twenty flamingoes we brought to Anegada 
island  in  1994.  New chicks are continuing to hatch on Anegada and what 
with  a  few  adult  birds leaving and some new birds joining that flock, 
there are now more than thirty. 

So  nothing should prevent you from coming to savor the pleasures of this 
very  special  place.  As  usual, we will all be there waiting for you -- 
Chef  Kathy  Burnett,  Foreman  Lynford  Cooper,  Head Housekeeper Tessie 
Cordice,  Engineer  Roger  Miller,  Gardener  Oscar Chalwell (still going 
strong  after  fifty  years) -- and all the rest of our regular staff. In 
the meantime, don't forget to visit our new web site at "

LITTLE  DIX,  Virgin  Gorda:  This summer I received an announcement from 
Peter Shaindlin, Managing Director which included the following news:

"While  the  new  Children's Grove has been received by the family market 
with  great initial success, a number of recent guests expressed a desire 
for  a  period  during  the  winter  season  when they could be sure of a 
particularly  tranquil  environment  reflecting  a  peaceful and romantic 
atmosphere.  Accordingly,  I  am  pleased to announce that from January 3 
through  March  15,  1998,  only  children  eight years and older will be 
accepted  at  the  resort.  We  were  delighted at the extremely positive 
response  to  our  new  Fitness  Pavilion  as well. With state-of-the-art 
Cybex   and   Lifefitness   equipment,   we  are  now  able  to  offer  a 
comprehensive  facility  for those needing an exercise venue during their 

June  will  mark  the  arrival of our new Executive Chef, Thomas Ryan. We 
are   very  excited  about  him  joining  our  team.  Tom  has  extensive 
international  five-star  experience,  including  such diverse tenures as 
Munich,  Germany  and  Southern California. The 1997-1998 season promises 
entirely  new  menus  with  Chef  Ryan's  well-recognized  spin:  simple, 
spectacular   presentations   of  indigenous  cuisine,  with  the  finest 
ingredients and exceptionally healthy design." 

For  more  information  about  Little Dix, rates, and childrens programs, 
visit their web site at 

PETER  ISLAND  RESORT:  During  May,  the  resort  closed  to  completely 
renovate  the  entire property and from the report I received, it will be 
better than ever when it re-opens December 1st! 

The   large  Marina  has  been  reconstructed  and  the  Lobby  is  being 
redesigned  to  give a sweeping view to the sea. I was delighted to learn 
that  the  main  dining  room  will have newly enlarged windows to give a 
more  dramatic  view  of  Tortola  and  Sir  Francis  Drakes  Channel  (a 
formidable  task  since  the  windows  are  carved  out of 2' thick stone 
walls!)  A  private  dining  room will be added and will be available for 
small parties, meetings, and receptions.

The  pool  terrace  will  feature  a newly designed band shell gazebo for 
evening  entertainment  and  a  nearby "library" will be created complete 
with comfortable furnishings and a big-screen television. 

Garden  Rooms  (1st  floor)  and  Ocean  View Rooms (2nd floor) are being 
expanded,  and  the  Beach  Front rooms are being completely redecorated. 
The  Fitness  Center  is  being relocated to Deadman's Beach, adjacent to 
the recreation center.

Daily  rates  for 1998 will include breakfast & dinner for two - lunch at 
the  beachside  restaurant will be an optional add-on for guests. (I love 
Peter  Island  lunches  and  wouldn't  miss  them for anything!) For more 
information about the resort, rates, and packages, call Cindy at 800-346-
4451 or 616-776-6456. 

DIVE  BVI:  The following report was received from Joe Giacinto, managing 
director,  who  oversees  the  four  operations  scattered throughout the 
islands  - Peter Island, Marina Cay, Leverick Bay, and Virgin Gorda Yacht 

"The  really good news is that the BVI has had an incredible summer, mild 
sea  conditions,  and  great visibility. This is a great change from last 
year  with  Bertha  having  hit  in early July there literally was little 
business for almost five months and weather was unstable.

Chuck  Gathers, who was with Randy Keil at our Peter Island operation, is 
now the new Dive BVI/Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda location manager. 

Peter  Island  is  still  closed  and  being  renovated. The main dock is 
already  totally  rebuilt  and functional. It was completed in a six week 
period  which  has  to be a record. The area around our dockside DIVE BVI 
store  will  be spruced up and they are moving maintenance away from that 
area  and  relocating  the  yachting  showers  and  bathrooms  into  that 

Our  Marina  Cay  operation  is managed by Simon Filmer who offers diving 
daily,  however  we  will  be  closed  on  Sundays  during  September and 
October.  We  have a compressor with air storage, two hobie waves and six 
ocean  kayaks,  so  we  are  now offering more water sports equipment and 
will  be  adding  to  that  base  for  the  winter season. A dive boat is 
stationed  at  Marina  Cay  so  morning and afternoon diving is available 
just  like  the  other locations. The BVI Dive Operators are coordinating 
an  on  going  Diving  Medicine Seminar conducted by the kind donation of 
time  and knowledge of Dr. David Boaz who runs the chamber in St. Thomas. 
This  hopefully  will  speed up the process of evacuating diving accident 
victims  to  the  chamber  in the future. The numbers of divers coming to 
the  BVI is still increasing and we have seen an increase in accidents as 
a  result.  Visar  (Virgin  Islands  Search  And Rescue) will also become 
instrumental  in  the  process  as  they  have become expert at procuring 
helicopter  evacuation  and will provide that facility. The entire effort 
will  make diving here safer and a distinct plus for diving the BVI." For 
more information about Dive BVI, visit their web site at


(Ed Note: The following contribution is copyrighted by kasey jones and is used here with permission. More details can be found at : ) In May 1997, I traveled with my mother to Grand Cayman island, a British Crown Colony 450 miles southwest of Miami, just south of Cuba. We flew American Airlines from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Miami International, then onto Grand Cayman, where we arrived at noon, local time. (The Cayman Islands are on Eastern Standard Time; they do not have Daylight Savings Time, so the time was an hour earlier than in Baltimore.)

We  got  through  immigration and customs quickly and went to the line to 
get  our  transportation  to the hotel. Tropicana Tours' bus was full; we 
sat  on  fold-down  seats in the aisle. The luggage was piled dangerously 
high  next  to the driver; several times he had to put his arm up to keep 
the suitcases from falling on him. 

After  a bumpy ride (driving on the left) with Spice Girls blaring on the 
radio,  we  arrived  at  the  Westin Causurina Hotel on Seven Mile Beach, 
next  to  the  governor's  mansion. Check-in was quick and we were in our 
room  less  than  an  hour after landing at the airport. We had a room on 
the  second  floor  of  the  five-story hotel, the nonsmoking floor, that 
faced  the  parking  lot  and  the  main  street on the island. (This was 
charmingly  called  an  island-view room.) The room is done in aquamarine 
and  sand  tones.  Our  room  is  rather  crowded for two, without enough 
drawer  space.  It has two double beds, a 26-inch color TV, with HBO, the 
Disney  channel,  ESPN,  CNN, and the East Coast satellite feeds for ABC, 
NBC  and CBS. A small refrigerator has the usual overpriced items. A very 
small  round  table  with two chairs sit near the balcony. The electrical 
outlets  are  not  located near the table, so it's a good thing I brought 
an extension cord for my laptop computer. 

The  bathroom  is  a  nice  size,  with  marble  floor  and  a  dribbling 
showerhead.  There  are the usual shampoo and mouthwash. The toilet is in 
a  separate  room  within  the  bathroom.  There  is a small in-room safe 
available  for  $2 U.S. a day. The safe is on the floor in the closet and 
very difficult to open and close. 

We  quickly  changed into our swimsuits and headed to the pool and beach. 
The  Westin has a large, rectangular-shaped pool with a pedestrian bridge 
over  the center. It was four feet deep the entire length. One side has a 
small  Jacuzzi,  and  both  sides  had  little canals of flowing water in 
which  guests  could rinse their feet after walking in the sand. There is 
a  swim-up  bar.  Opposite this was the stand where guests can get large, 
fluffy  towels.  Plenty  of lounge chairs and little, unsteady tables are 
arranged around the pool. 

To  one side was a Red Sail concession, where guests can rent Hobie Cats, 
floats,  Jet  Skis, windsurfers and boogie boards. Steps from the pool is 
glorious  Seven  Mile  Beach  (which  is  really only 5.5 miles long). My 
mother  and  I have been to Cancun, the Bahamas, Curacao, St. Thomas, St. 
John,  Puerto Rico and the Big Island of Hawaii, and we agreed that Seven 
Mile  beach  was  the best we'd been to. Grand Cayman has a barrier reef, 
so  there  are  no huge or dangerous waves (and no surfing). The beach is 
immaculate,  the  sand  soft  and  white,  and the water is blue and very 
warm. We spent more time in the Caribbean Sea than we did in the pool. 

Back  on  the  lounge  chairs at the pool, we wanted lunch, as we had not 
been  fed  on  the  90-minute  flight from Miami. There are waitresses in 
swimsuits  who  will  bring sandwiches and salads from the kitchen on the 
hotel  side of the pool. We had trouble summoning one, and once we did it 
took  nearly  half  an  hour  to  get  a  salad, a sandwich and two large 
bottles  of  Evian  water.  The  sandwich  and  salad  were delicious, if 

This  brings  me  to cost. I picked the Cayman Islands after being unable 
to  find  a trip for two to the U.S. Virgin Islands for less than $2,500. 
My  travel  agent at Mid-Atlantic AAA got us the Grand Cayman trip, seven 
nights  at  the  hotel,  round-trip  airfare and transfers, for $2,200. I 
considered  that to be a bargain. But the Cayman Islands are outrageously 

The  Caymanian  dollar is equal to $1.25 U.S. And because little can grow 
on  this scrub of an island, virtually all food is imported. So our salad 
and  sandwich  came  to $20 U.S. We usually had the buffet for breakfast, 
and  that  averaged  $30  for  two each day. The most expensive (and most 
delicious)  meal  we had was the Mother's Day buffet dinner. While it was 
spectacular  (details will follow), the meal came to $130 U.S. Diners can 
eat  inside  or  out,  where  they  will share the patio with the Greater 
Antillean  grackle,  a  bird  that  seems  to live on handouts, and tiny, 
insect eating, curly-tailed lizards. 

Back  at  the  pool,  after  eating  and  resting  and  looking  over the 
brochures  that  describe  the myriad activities available to tourists, I 
went  into  the lobby to the concierge desk. I was able to book an island 
tour,  the  Atlantis  submarine and an all-day sail and snorkel trip with 
the  help  of  a  woman  named  Fiona  who had the most wonderful British 
accent.  All  of  the  hotel  staff have their country of origin on their 
name  tags.  Most  seemed  to  be  from  Canada,  with much of the United 
Kingdom well represented. 

Our  first  restaurant meal was at Ferdinand's, which the Westin bills as 
a  casual  restaurant  with  South  American  and  Caribbean cuisine. The 
setting  is  far  from  casual.  The  lighting  is dark and romantic, the 
tables are impeccably set and there is an extensive wine list. 

The  prices  are  high  and  listed  in  Caymanian  dollars. The specials 
sounded  delicious  but  at  $30  U.S. we skipped them. We split a pulled 
pork  quesadilla with papaya, tomato and black bean salsa. That was $4.50 
U.S.  and was divine. My mother had swordfish with Parmesan cheese crust. 
I  had  rum-glazed  shrimp  ($18.50  U.S. each). Both entrees were served 
with  roasted  garlic  mashed potatoes (bland), perfectly steamed veggies 
and onion straws.

The  meals  were  exquisitely presented and tasted delicious. The food is 
cooked  to  order,  so expect to spend some time there. The serving staff 
are  friendly  but only barely efficient. We went to bed at 10 p.m. after 
a  very  long  day  (we had gotten up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the 7:30 a.m. 

The  next  day  I got up and dressed about 6:45 a.m and went to the small 
exercise  room  on  the  first  floor.  It  has two treadmills, two stair 
climbers,   one  rowing  machine  and  some  free  weights.  There  is  a 
television  perched  in  a  corner.  One  could  also walk along the main 
street  for  exercise,  as  the  island  is  level. Many people travel by 
bicycle, so I suspect one could rent a two-wheeler as well. 

After  my  mother  awoke, we had the buffet breakfast for $17 U.S. apiece 
at  Ferdinand's.  There  were warming tables with pancakes, French toast, 
scrambled  eggs,  sausage,  bacon,  eggs  Benedict,  hash  browns, sliced 
melon,  pineapple,  strawberries,  papaya,  cereals  and yogurt. There is 
also  a  station  at which a chef will make omelets to order. Most of the 
food  that was supposed to be hot was lukewarm. This and all meals so far 
have  a  15  percent  gratuity  added, so there is no need to calculate a 

We  had a full day planned. The bellman summoned a cab for us and we took 
a  10-minute  ride  to  the  cruise  ship  dock  to  get  our trip on the 
submarine Atlantis. 

We  went  on the Atlantis, which cost $150 U.S. for two. We were the only 
two  people  on  the 48-passenger sub who were not from one of the cruise 
ships  docked  just  offshore.  The  45-minute  trip was nice enough, but 
didn't  yield  as  many  fish  as  we have seen on submarine trips on St. 
Thomas  and  Hawaii. We saw quite a lot of coral. I was seated at the end 
and  was  very uncomfortable during the voyage, and water dripped onto me 
when  the  hatch was opened after we returned to the surface. Even though 
I  had my new Minolta Vectis S advanced photo system camera (which I used 
to  take the pictures on this page), I discovered after the pictures were 
developed  that one really can't get good pictures from the submarine as, 
at a depth of 100 feet, there is so little light. 

After  the  submarine  ride, we went shopping in the central district. It 
was  quite  crowded  because  there were three cruise ships visiting. One 
shop  that  had  Haitian  and  Cuban art was run by an embittered British 
expatriate  who  took only cash. This was common, we discovered. We had a 
nice  lunch  in  a pub, and it rained quite hard for about 45 minutes. We 
took a cab back to the hotel and I bought postcards and stamps. 

We  went  back to the hotel for a brief rest, and then we were off again. 
We  were  picked up at 2 p.m. by Diana of Tropic Island Tours. There were 
four  other people on the tour, all from the Westin. Diana said she was a 
former  New  Yorker  who  has lived in the Cayman Islands for eight years 
and  is married to a citizen. Her van's air conditioning was not working, 
so that made for a very uncomfortable two-hour land trip. 

First  stop  was  the  turtle  farm,  which  is little more than a lot of 
turtles  in  tanks.  Worth seeing for about five minutes. Then we went to 
Hell,  a  small  area  with  a black, dolomite rock outcropping that look 
like  jagged  flames.  There  are  painted statues of the devil scattered 
about,  just  in  case  the  Hades  metaphor  is  too subtle for you. The 
outcropping  is  pretty  lame  --  it takes about an area of a basketball 
court.  We  visited  the  Big Island of Hawaii last year, where there are 
endless  miles  of  black  slag,  so  this  looked like nothing. The main 
attraction  is  getting  postcards  postmarked  as  being  from Hell. The 
postmaster  dresses as the devil, and asks each customer, "Where the hell 
are you from?"

We  then  drove  through  Georgetown  and Diana pointed out the hospital, 
banks,  the  port,  and the shopping district. We also stopped at a house 
with  conch  shells  build  into the exterior walls. Since we had already 
seen  downtown when we went to Atlantis, that part of the trip was pretty 
much a waste of time, and at $30 U.S. per person, a waste of money. 

That  night,  we  walked  the  half-mile  to  the Holiday Inn and had its 
American  backyard  cookout  buffet. The buffet included mushroom, pasta, 
rice,  chicken  and  green  salads,  hamburgers  (underdone),  hot  dogs, 
barbecued  chicken  and ribs and fish, corn on the cob, peas and rice and 
scalloped  potatoes.  At  $19  U.S. it was a fair deal, although that did 
not  include  beverages  or  dessert.  One  could  eat either on the deck 
surrounding  the  pool  or  indoors.  As  I  had  been  bitten already by 
mosquitoes,  we  opted  for  indoors,  where sullen waitresses took their 
time bringing our beverages. 

The  next  day,  we went on Captain Marvin's all-day snorkeling adventure 
with  8  other  visitors.  We took a five-minute bus ride at 8:45 a.m. to 
the  dock  and  had  to  clamber over another boat to get to ours. It was 
small  and uncomfortable -- a few padded benches along the side that were 
against  a  jutting  edge of the wall, making it impossible to lean back. 
The  rest  of  the  bench  was in the sun. The boat had a tiny head and a 

There  was  only  the  captain  to do everything. We were given no safety 
instruction.  This  was  not  a  trip  for  first-time  snorkelers. After 
sailing  for  25 minutes, we stopped to dive for conch. There was nothing 
else  to  see.  Other  snorkelers  dove about 10 feet and retrieved seven 
conch;  I  didn't  try  to  dive  that deep, what with my eustachian tube 
dysfunction and all. 

We  then  took  off for five minutes to what is called the coral gardens. 
We  stopped there for about 45 minutes. There was a lot of coral, but not 
very  many  fish.  We  traveled to a beach with picnic tables, some trees 
for  shade,  a restroom and a vendor selling soft drinks. The captain had 
marinated  the  conch  the  snorkelers  caught and we ate that on saltine 
crackers.  He  also  had  rice, potato salad, green salad and baked mahi-
mahi. It was good and filling and a nice stop. 

But  we  had  to stay in the shade; the sun can get beastly and even with 
number  30  sunblock,  my mother and I got slightly burned. After an hour 
on  the beach, we headed for the highlight of the trip. We stopped over a 
sand  bar  with waist-high water and were immediately surrounded by about 
a  dozen  of the stingrays, ranging in size from a baby about as big as a 
catcher's  mitt  to  one the captain called Darth Vader, which had a wing 
span  of  nearly  five feet. They brushed up against us looking for food. 
The  captain  grabbed  one for each of us to hold. They are very slippery 
and slimy. 

The  captain  gave  us food for them and this caused the rays to swim all 
over  us  to  get the food. It was great fun -- everyone was laughing and 
giggling  and  shrieking  as the rays searched for food. The downside was 
there  were  several other boats there, one with more than 100 people. We 
didn't  lack  for  stingrays  but it just showed what a tourist trap this 
was. But don't miss a chance to frolic with the stingrays.

After  20  minutes  with  the  stingrays, we traveled five minutes to the 
barrier  reef  that  protects  Grand  Cayman from strong waves. The waves 
weren't  terribly  strong -- I'd been bounced around much worse in Cancun 
and  St.  John.  But  after  three previous times in the water, I was too 
tired  to  struggle  against  the  current. We got back to the hotel at 3 

At  $45  U.S.  per person, I would pass on this trip. I like more comfort 
and  more attention on my snorkeling trips, and there are other visits to 
Sting Ray City that don't cost as much and have nicer boats. 

We  tried  to  go  to  La Havana for dinner, but it was hosting a private 
reception,  so  we  went  back  to Ferdinand's. My mother had the nightly 
special  (if  it's served every night, how can it be a special?) of petit 
filet  mignon, mahi mahi and lobster tail with garlic mashed potatoes for 
$42.50  U.S.  She  raved  about  it.  I  had lemon pepper fettuccini with 
steamed vegetables and grilled shrimp in clear broth for $24 U.S. 

Another  day,  we took an afternoon snorkeling trip. We took a cab to the 
cruise  ship dock and boarded a fishing boat as the crew were putting the 
catch  on  ice.  A  total  of 10 passengers went with us. This boat was a 
little  nicer  than  Captain Marvin's, but the crew was of no help during 
the  entire  trip. They had no information about the sites we visited and 
didn't  help  anyone,  including my 71-year-old mother, get in and out of 
the  boat.  Fortunately,  the passengers all pitched in. We were supplied 
with  punch  and  nothing  else. Luckily, we and the other passengers had 
our own gear. 

Despite  these  drawbacks,  this was a fabulous snorkeling trip. First we 
traveled  about  20  minutes  to directly in front of the Westin, about a 
mile  off  shore. There we snorkeled a wreck that was about 50 feet down. 
There  were  a few fish, and scuba divers were also visiting the site. It 
was fun to watch them. 

After  45  minutes  we  traveled back to where we had started, going past 
three  cruise  ships,  and snorkeled very close to the shore. Here we saw 
magnificent  coral,  including brain coral and elkhorn and several caves. 
There  were  a  lot  of  fish,  including  some big ones. It was the best 
snorkeling we had on the island. 

We  got  back on the boat and sailed a few more yards away, directly over 
a  wreck which was only 10 to 15 feet down. It was a huge wreck, probably 
a  cargo  ship  (here  is  where  the  crew's  lack of information really 
interfered  with  our  enjoyment of the dive) and we could easily see the 
spine,  the mast, the holds, the anchor and could visualize how it looked 
before  it  crashed.  There  were  several  fish there as well. We made a 
final  stop,  again  a  few  yards away, but it started to rain and got a 
little  chilly,  so  I passed. That was a mistake, because those who went 
saw  barracudas.  This trip was worth the cost, $45 U.S. per person. Just 
hope you get a more helpful crew. 

With  the  exception of two dinners at the Holiday Inn, we ate all of our 
meals  at  the Westin. We did not rent a car. The island is only 20 miles 
by  6  miles  long  and  has one main drag, so I don't think getting lost 
would be a problem. However, driving on the left would be tricky. 

On  Friday, we took another half-day tour of the island. This time it was 
just  us  and the tour guide, Chris, who was from Jamaica. He drove us in 
Island  Tour's  air-conditioned van to a Cardinal D's Park, small, deeply 
weird  zoo  with  very primitive conditions for the animals. It was built 
by  a man whose brother was a pilot and it contained animals representing 
places  the  pilot  had  flown.  There  were  a  lot  of birds, including 
parrots,  peacocks,  ducks and chickens. There were some ponies, rodents, 
and,  inexplicably,  two dogs in cages. The island's endemic iguanas were 
also on display, as were a family of agouti, an introduced rodent.

Next,  we  drove  to  the  Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Garden. This is a 
small  preserve  of  mostly  flora. It has a clearly marked one-mile walk 
through  it.  Chris  was most helpful at pointing out plants, and when my 
mother  told him she was a birdwatcher, he took great pains to point them 
out.  (My  mother,  incidentally,  had written to the Cayman Islands Bird 
Club  weeks  before  the trip to ask about birding trips. She received no 
response,  and  was most disappointed.) The walk would be considered easy 
in  most  places,  but  at  noon in the Caribbean, one must be sure to be 
slathered in sunblock and have plenty of drinking water. 

We  drove  to  the  east end of the island, the windward side, to see the 
blow  holes,  where  the  ocean  crashes  with  such  force  through  the 
limestone  that  makes  up  the  island  that the water is forced through 
manhole-sized  openings  and  looks like a geyser. Across the street from 
the  blow  holes,  a  man  sold us coconuts he kept on ice. He sliced the 
coconuts  open  and gave us straws so we drink the cold juice. I've never 
been  a  big fan of coconut, but this hit the spot. This tour proved what 
a  big  difference a knowledgeable, helpful guide can make in a visitor's 

That  night,  we had dinner at the Holiday Inn and stayed for the show at 
the  comedy  club  there.  The  show  was $12 U.S. per person and is in a 
nightclub  setting  in which waitresses try to sell you drinks during the 
show.  The performance was supposed to start at 9:30 p.m., but didn't get 
under  way until nearly 10 o'clock. The club showed clips from "America's 
Funniest  Home  Videos"  until  the  manager  started the show. He called 
himself  the Big Kahuna and did a 10 minute routine. Two other comedians, 
both  from  the  United States, performed, each about 15 minutes. All the 
routines  were  fairly  off  color  -- about what you'd see on HBO comedy 
specials,  and  not what you'd see on "The Tonight Show." Of course, this 
will vary depending on who's performing. 

We  spent  the  last two days hanging around the pool and swimming in the 
Caribbean.  I rented a float each day (after 1 p.m., they were half-price 
at  $4  U.S.) and drifted lazily in the wonderful water. I went into town 
on  Saturday to do some shopping and found many of the shops were closed. 
There  was  only  one  cruise  ship  docked, so the area wasn't nearly as 
crowded as it had been on Tuesday. 

Our  last  full day there was Mother's Day. Both restaurants, Ferdinand's 
and  Havana,  were  serving  a  spectacular buffet all day and evening to 
celebrate.  We decided to have dinner. The food was beautifully displayed 
and  seemingly endless. There were a dozen salads, sushi and a raw bar, a 
tray  of  cold cuts and cheeses, including Roquefort, Gorgonzola and bleu 
cheese,  steamed mahi mahi, hot and cold pasta with red and white sauces, 
steamed  veggies,  a  carving table with leg of lamb, beef Wellington and 
ham  with  sauces,  and  a  dessert  table to die for. Champagne was also 
served.  Everything  was  delicious  and  nicely  prepared  despite being 
served  on steaming tables. The bill for two, as I said earlier, was $130 
U.S.,  making  it  the  most expensive meal I had ever had (and after our 
vacation in Hawaii in 1996, that's saying a lot). 

On  departure  day,  checkout  was  quick. We waited about an hour in the 
lobby  for  our  transport  to arrive. So many people were leaving that a 
separate  truck  was brought to cart the luggage. Check-in at the airport 
took  quite  a long time, with so many of us leaving at the same time and 
the  American  Airlines  counter only had two clerks. There is a $12 U.S. 
per  person  departure  fee.  The  airport has six shops selling jewelry, 
liquor  and  candy.  Grand Cayman is an international banking center with 
more  than 600 banks on this island of 20,000 people, and they aren't the 
kind  with  drive-through  windows and automatic teller machines. Because 
of  all  this  money,  the  Cayman  Islands  have a very high standard of 
living  and  no  property, personal, income or sales taxes. There is very 
little  crime,  most  of  it  petty,  so  this is a very safe island. But 
because  the  land  is  virtually  barren, expenses for food and everyday 
items  such  as  newspapers  or  toiletries are very high. Be prepared to 
spend a lot on food. 

The  Westin  is a wonderful hotel, among the best I've visited. The beach 
is  perfect  and the service, in most cases, was good. The power went out 
on  the  island only once during our visit, and was restored in less than 
an  hour. One day, there was no hot water for about 18 hours, but because 
it's  so  warm,  taking  a  cold  shower was not unbearable. These things 
happen in the Caribbean. 

The  Westin gets most of its trade, judging from our visit, from business 
groups.  Almost  every day about 3 p.m., a section of the deck around the 
pool  was  closed  to guests while it was set up for some group function. 
Also,  the  pool  tended  to  be  the  gathering  place  for  these group 
travelers  to  unwind,  so  it  frequently became crowded and rowdy. This 
didn't  matter  to  us,  because the beach and the water were so calm and 
lovely. USA Today arrived about 5 p.m. every day in the hotel gift shop -
-  kind of late for a news junkie like me, but because I was on vacation, 
it  didn't  matter.  Everything is priced in Caymanian dollars, so add 25 
percent to the price to avoid the shock. 

The  Cayman  Islands  are  a wonderful, safe place to visit. They are not 
for  someone on a budget, however. Because of the high costs, we were not 
able  to  spend  the  money to take a day trip to Little Cayman or Cayman 
Brac,  as  we  had initially planned. The islands are also not a place to 
party.  There  was  a  disco  across  the  street from the Westin, but it 
seemed to be open only on the weekend. 

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