Tortola celebrates the full moon with a big party on Trellis Bay and we didn’t want to miss it. So up early to get to the bay before all the mooring balls were taken. We didn’t quite get the very last ball, but it was close. Trellis was packed.
We enjoyed an amazing sushi dinner at Marche along with some cold Kirin beer. Highly recommmended!
After dinner we wandered, had a few cocktails, danced and enjoyed live music up and down the beach. A perfect evening!
Hard to believe another week has passed. We have bounced around locations a bit, finally had some of the wonderful weather we had hoped for, and enjoyed some time with good friends.
After leaving Great Harbor, we headed to Diamond Cay on the east end of JVD. First stop was a hike to the Bubbly Pool. Not very bubbly when we visited, but a good chance for a natural jacuzzi.
Just outside Diamond Cay is Sandy Cay, a beautiful 14 acre island with 3 different ecological zones. We hiked from beach to mangrove swap to volcanic headlands all within a 30 minute walk.
The next day we headed to Cane Garden Bay on Tortola. Of course the nasty weather came back and we sailed through a bit of a squall. But the beach was as beautiful as ever. Conch and Mahi-Mahi for dinner.
We filled up on water and did a bit of laundry in Cane Garden, and then we were off to Sopers Hole. Breezy but sunny, so we got a nice sail down the coast. The village is beautiful – all Caribbean colors. We met up with our friends Beth and Art for dinner. Omar’s has the best (only) Indian food on Tortola. And only 200 feet from our mooring ball!
Saturday morning, we were joined onboard by our friends Sue and Chuck. Not all their luggage joined us, but eventually one bag was there, new clothes were purchased, provisions were provisioned and we departed towards Jost Van Dyke under cloudy skies (a recurring theme in case you hadn’t noticed). We enjoyed another wonderful dinner at Tipsy Shark, some more time on Sandy Key, a walk in a monsoon to White Bay, and our first Super Bowl on a boat. Our big 9 inch iPad screen was perfect for the big game.
Monday morning we woke up early to clear skies and light winds. Perfect for tacking upwind to Norman Island. Time for snorkeling at the Indians! We enjoyed dinner on the beach with all our friends.
After 3 days of rain, the weather finally broke and we headed out early to Jost Van Dyke. It’s about 28 miles, all downwind. And after all the storminess, a 4 foot swell pushing us all the way.
We made good speed under just the main. Stopped at Monkey Point for a quick lunch and arrived in Great Harbor just before 4pm. We had a reserved mooring ball which made a late arrival a non-event. Headed to shore for ice, a walk and some shopping.
Even 3 years later, there are signs of Hurricane Irma.
Our only purchase at the grocery was a $2 lighter. We still had two ribeyes in the refrigerator and they were about out of time. 20 minutes of futzing, 3 tries at a wind block and success! The coals were hot, the steak was cooked and we feasted.
Tuesday morning we took the dinghy into town for Christina’s fresh banana bread, then got out the paddle boards and took a spin around the bay. Mid-day, we walked up and over the hill to White Bay for lunch. It’s a beautiful stretch of beach with 1/2 dozen beach bars – lots of fun.
Back to the boat for washing up, blog writing and it’s off to dinner at The Tipsy Shark.
Our favorite place in the BVI (and maybe the world) is North Sound on Virgin Gorda. Great memories of trips to The Bitter End Yacht Club, evenings on anchor and great snorkeling. So it’s an early start and we are off – heading in to 20 knot winds and 6 foot seas! We choose to motor instead of beating into the wind all day. An easy passage, the only bad part is it’s too wavy to make coffee. Note to self, always have iced coffee ready.
Two hours of motoring and we’re in North Sound. Just in time for it to start raining. I’m in my swim trunks, so grabbing the ball is pretty much a fresh water shower. Once we’re safely on the ball, it REALLY starts pouring – like ‘somebody call Noah’ pouring. Hot coffee and scrambled eggs take the chill off and we hang in the cabin catching up on the world (and writing blog posts). Weather report says ‘unsettled weather’ – yep.
Finally, after an afternoon of pure soggyness the sun peeked out and we enjoyed a 180• sunset!
Dinner was going to be those damn steaks, but still blowing too hard to light the grill. Game time call and it’s Italian Night staring Pesto Pasta. Luckily the wine is still a good pairing….
We slept like rocks…unusual for a night on the dock. Melanie was up first and grabbed coffee and croissants at the French Deli. Wow do I love the French Deli! You should buy stock in the French Deli.
A boat briefing, another provisioning run (fruit, beer, cheese, pate, wine…) and we were off to Cooper Island, a quick 5 mile run.
Our first mooring ball pick up of any sailing trip is always an adventure – will we be speaking to each other once we’re hooked up? Will we need an intervention? But the sailing gods smiled on us and we grabbed like old pros!
Did I mention Melanie likes water toys? Two SUPs and a kayak are more or less filling up our deck. If we could tow a Hobie, she would be truly happy.
Manchineel Bay is a lovely sheltered harbor with balls for about 40 boats. The Cooper Island Beach club is great – rebuilt after Irma. We enjoyed dinner there our second night – conch fritters, roasted eggplant and chicken tiki masala. Absolutely delicious!
We enjoyed a second day at Cooper, a luxury we’ve never had on shorter trips. A bit of snorkeling and got the boat more settled. But North Sound is calling and we’re off early Friday!
The alarm went off at 4:30. Always good to start a trip in total darkness. A quick Uber to Logan and we were on our way. Melanie got us moved to the exit row – a nice score.
First stop, St Thomas. Just long enough for a quick lunch and then off on the ferry to Roadtown.
The ferry ride to Roadtown is about an hour. The Covid tests didn’t seem to slow down BVI customs from their normal glacial pace. A quick taxi ride and we arrived at our home away from home for February – Big Blue! Big Blue is a 35 foot Beneteau monohull. Only 3 years old and in great shape.
After a bit of unloading we headed out to our first provisioning stop – Rite Way. Water, paper towels, milk, coffee, … a long list. And Pussers rum! By the time we got back it was 9pm, so some charcuterie and cocktails was all we needed – no cooking tonight. Tomorrow morning, another provisioning run and off to our first destination, Cooper Island.
Alec (15) had it right when he was telling people “this isn’t going to be a piña colada and beach vacation– we’re going to Vietnam to explore the culture.”
For me, Vietnam was a mystery that I was hoping to unravel. I was a kid when the Vietnam War was nearing the end in 1973 and the Paris Peace Accords were signed. I didn’t understand much about it. In 1985, President Clinton re-established diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Soon after, people started vacationing in Vietnam to gasps of horror for some, and expressions of exoticism to others. This was always perplexing to me. I was eager to see Vietnam, meet the people, learn perspectives and develop my own voice on the subject. I was also excited to experience the cuisine!
Our 2-week journey:
I was also excited about our anticipated flight path that would take us across the north pole and over Russia into Hong Kong. Here’s a photo from the in-flight entertainment system! So glad I didn’t sleep thru this portion of the flight!
Touch down 7am from Boston. Wheels up again 6pm to fly to Hanoi. That means — 6 hours of fun in Hong Kong!
In this order: Get cash (Hong Kong dollars) at airport ATM. Find day luggage storage in Terminal 2. Buy airport express roundtrip train tickets (machine only accepts Hong Kong dollars). Off we go.
Well worth it, these were our highlights:
Victoria Peak – we went first thing, to avoid the crowds, and although it was too hazy to see much up top we enjoyed the Circle Walk which was beautiful and allowed us to stretch our legs after the 16-hour flight from Boston.
We ended our adventure with lunch at the Wu Kong Shangai on Nathan Road where we were able to deliver on our promise to Alec for authentic shumai.
Back to the airport. We all fell asleep instantly on the plane.
Our Vietnam adventure started in Hanoi. Tree-lined boulevards, centuries-old architecture, a mix of Chinese, French and Southeast Asian influences. It’s a mix of modern and ancient, was the HQ for the North Vietnamese army and is the capital of the country.
Seemed like the right place to start our trip!
Highlights of our time in Hanoi:
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (photo above) – There was an incredibly long line to get in on a Sunday morning. Reminded me of the line to get into the Vatican. It seems everyone wants to pay their respects to Uncle Ho. And unless you’re truly a VIP there’s no way around waiting. Once inside, a very strict “2×2” walking formation as we entered the Mausoleum with lots of guards to ensure it. I have to say, Ho Chi Minh was very well preserved! No photos allowed inside you might imagine. Once outside, the rest of the site was beautiful and relaxed – the presidential palace where he greeted important visitors, his everyday workplace (much more low key), his earlier and then later-life home, all in a beautiful garden setting.
Temple of Literature – Vietnam’s first university and a shrine for Confucian worship. It’s a beautiful place and very lively.
We loved the ambiance at Hoan Kiem Lake, a short walk from the Hotel de l’Opera in the old quarter where we stayed – http://hoteldelopera.com. It was beautifully lit at night and on the weekend when the streets are closed to traffic is a great family, strolling, and relaxing place. We must have walked around the lake 4 or 5 times during our stay in Hanoi! I’d highly recommend staying near the Lake and luckily there is no shortage of nice hotels to pick from.
Probably the most important lesson we learned in Hanoi was how to cross the street. I’d never seen anything quite like it – cars and motorbikes (lots of them!) going in every direction everywhere. 8 million people and 3.5 million motorbikes. How do you cross the street? — Avoid cars, they can’t slow down fast enough. Don’t worry about the motorbikes they’ll swerve around you. Just go.
I had loved the photos I’d seen of Sapa’s mountains and rice terraces when researching this trip. It was clear I had to go! Three days of trekking and cycling in cool air and in the presence of beautiful terrain and minority hill tribes sounded great!
I’d also read it’s an area that’s growing out of control with backpackers and booming tourism. It’s true. So glad we went. In 10 years it will be a very different place. Better roads will be a win, but that’s about it I think.
We took the overnight Victoria Express train from Hanoi. It was a family adventure! It also maximized our trip in that we didn’t lose a day traveling to and from Hanoi by car. Booking on a Victoria Express train car requires you stay at the Victoria Express hotel. But so worth it because the hotel is a short walk uphill out of town where it’s QUIET away from the Sapa town. A great hotel with great views, and a pool table in the lobby that we enjoyed during happy hour. Also, I can confirm the 2 Victoria Express cars have the thickest mattresses of all the train cars — I looked in the windows as we were walking by to get to our train car!