Saturday 5th September
In the summer of 2001 we flew into Charlotte Amalie airport on the US Virgin Island of St Thomas, to meet up with my father. He had decided that we should join him for three weeks of sailing around the British Virgin Isles. His 42′ Beneteau was comfortable, and had enough room for the five of us (Dad and I, you and your brother, and my father).
Our first few days were spent at Jost Van Dyke, with incredible sugar-white sand and welcoming beach bars. One afternoon a flotilla of charter yachts arrived, and on-board one of these was quite an incompetent crew; thinking they had secured the anchor, they went down below. A few moments later, their yacht was headed on a collision course with ours. Lots of shouting, quick thinking and use of a spinnaker pole and fenders, soon had the situation under control, with the wannabe sailors looking very red-faced indeed.
A few days later, there was another incident from the same group of sailors. We were relaxing in the stern of our yacht, when a tender casually floats our way, unmanned. My father caught it and tied it up to his yacht. It was quite some while before the flotilla skipper came round, thanked us for looking after it, and then returned the dinghy to the hapless crew.
From Jost Van Dyke we sailed over to Soper’s Hole on Tortola, and then to Road Town. The buildings, the people, the food, the music were all so incredibly colourful and full of fun and energy. In the Pusser’s Rum store you were fascinated by the large stuffed tiger.
We anchored off Norman Island for a few nights, with marvellous caves for snorkelling and swimming. Just around from the caves, in a wonderful bay, was the terrific Billy Bones Beach Bar. We managed to secure a mooring and took the tender ashore to have some food and drink. As a welcome, we were all given rum punches. I think you grabbed three or four from the tray, before anyone noticed. I remember you did enjoy them. Our waitress was called Candy, and I think she took a real shine to you.
Next to Norman Island is Peter Island, with the most magnificent stretch of white sandy beach. Having anchored the boat, we all jumped overboard, and swam for the shore, playing about in the surf.
Our next stop was to be Marina Cay, and we arrived here in a sudden squall of heavy rain, obliterating all sight of land, but we managed to anchor safely, and the skies soon cleared. One afternoon we climbed to the top of this island where you found a library full of interesting books, (I think it was a room in the original house owned by Robb and Rodie White, who had bought the property in the 1930’s. He wrote the book, ‘Two on the Isle’.)
After Marina Cay, we headed over to Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda, and stayed in an actual marina for a few days, hooking up to air conditioning was an absolute luxury. One of our memorable days out from here, was to the Baths. Huge granite boulders cluster together to form grottos and spectacular pools. We clambered over the smooth surfaces, grappling with rope ladders, to reach the amazing Devil’s Bay. The snorkelling was superb. You and your brother enjoyed jumping and diving off the rocks.
At the Bitter End Yacht Club, where we anchored for almost a week, your brother had windsurfing lessons, and you splashed about in the club’s swimming pool. We wandered around the beaches, the clubhouse, and marvelled at the super-yachts alongside the dock. A calm and peaceful place to chill out and truly relax.
On our way to this last anchorage, we were sailing quite a way out from the shore, and my father rigged up some fishing lines from the back of the yacht. Miraculously, or so I thought, we caught our dinner. A good sized tuna. Your brother managed to jump across, into the tender, which we were towing, and unwrap the line that had caught around the propeller. You had to show off your strength, and picked the fish up by its tail. My father gutted it, and we had a barbecue that night of freshly caught ocean tuna. Absolutely perfect.
This really was an awesome holiday. If it became too busy anywhere, we’d pull the anchor up, and sail to somewhere quieter. Both you and your brother enjoyed the swimming, snorkelling, sailing, watching shooting stars, fishing, beachcombing, windsurfing, and wakeboarding (my father had bought a wakeboard to tow behind the tender. It certainly was great fun.)
A lifetime ago.
But such precious memories of you, and the incredible times you experienced.
Love you, my happy Angel.
Sailing sunny shores with your grandfather now, I’d like to think.
Missing you like crazy xxxx