Monday, Jan 21 --
Couple #3 set out in the dinghy at first light to look for birds. We got to sleep in a little longer but breakfast was still ready when they returned, mosquito-bitten and disappointed to have not seen any of the birds on their list.
We had plans to dinghy to several close-by snorkeling spots this morning. Sandy Spit was our first destination. This spit is just a tiny bump of sand rising above the water, looking like the cartoon island of a marooned sailor. At its south beach the Atlantic meets the Caribbean in such a fascinating wave pattern. It is a wonder the sand isn't carried away in the currents. The surf was too rough to easily beach the dinghy so we just watched the waves for a few minutes then rode back to a small Manchineel Bay beach on Little Jost van Dyke, near the Firefly's mooring location. There was a building and cement pier, the remains of a 1960's bar and restaurant. No one seemed to care that we tied the dinghy there.
Little Jost van Dyke is the location of a significant prehistoric archaeological find and the site of a former Quaker community, the Lettsome Settlement, where cotton was grown on still-visible terraced hillsides. John Lettsome, a physician of some note, was born in the settlement in 1744. He was sent to a Quaker school in England 6 years later and then studied medicine. When his father died in 1767, Lettsome returned to BVI, freed the slaves he had inherited and practiced medicine on Tortola for 6 months before going back to England. Ironically, due to the death of his son and wealthy daughter-in-law, he inherited another 1000 slaves. Lettsome died before he could free them. They were inherited by his grandson.
Another rich prehistoric archaeological find is on Cape Wright. Relics found indicate that the site was inhabited from about 600-1300 AD. It is a deep site and hardly disturbed at all by development since then.
Three of us snorkeled out to the south end of the rocks but this spot was not so interesting and there was a lot of churned up sand in the water. After a quick 30 minute look we were back in the dingy and on our way to Foxy's dock for our last stop before lunch. Hubby and I walked north along the Long Bay Beach breakwater wall. The others continued to the Bubbly Pool again. We waded in the shallow water south of the 'crawl' between Jost and Little Jost van Dyke for a while to see if we could find the shallow walkway to Little Jost van Dyke. Either we didn't find it or the tide was too high. The walkway may have, at one time, been a small man-made wall used to corral fish and turtles until they could be cooked for dinner. Next we walked south and east as far out onto Diamond Cay as we could, exploring the shallow pools along the way.
After a good lunch of quesadillas, soup and salad we readied the boat for a short trip to Sandy Cay. Just before we left, the clouds lifted and we were treated to a rainbow over the water between Jost and Little Jost van Dyke.
Sandy Cay is designated by the National Parks Trust as a 'Habitat Management Area' and dinghies are not allowed to beach on it. In 2008 the NPT installed day-mooring balls so boats would also not use their anchors near the island. We picked up the closest day mooring ball available and swam to shore. The rough surf made it challenging to exit the water gracefully . Snorkeling on the sheltered side of the cay is supposed to be excellent but we were here to hike a small trail passing through several different micro-habitats around the cay. It was interesting but we walked it quickly because of the sandflies in the undergrowth. We had to be careful not to step on the soldier crabs too until the trail took us higher, into a desert habitat. This cay also had been used as a cotton plantation at one time.
Jost van Dyke and its nearby smaller islands have a wealth of potential to explore. Finding the historic and geological sites takes some sleuthing since they are not yet well developed as tourist attractions. With a little advance research there are ruins, hiking trails, geological features and ecosystems here worth discovering.
By 15:00 we were back on the boat and motoring to Little Harbour, only one bay west of Sandy Cay. There are 25 balls in this mooring field so we had our pick of spots. Couple #3 dinghied to shore for a walk up the road and to bring back ice ($5.00). They were hoping to reach the ridge before dark for a view of Long Bay, Little Jost and Sandy Cay.
Jost van Dyke and the nearby islands are the tops of volcanic mountains that sit on the Puerto Rican Plateau. 10,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age, Puerto Rico and the British and US Virgin Islands (except St. Croix) formed one large land mass. Road cuts on Jost van Dyke are a good way to get a peek at the geology of the island.
The rest of us had quick showers and read for a while before starting dinner. By the time they returned with the ice, dinner was ready to serve. We only had tonight's meal and one more so we were trying our best to use up as many perishables as possible. The lentil and rice potpourri with sautéed veggies went well with the crispy sweet Waldorf cabbage salad.
Everyone was a little pensive while planning our route and snorkel stops for tomorrow. It will be our last full day on the boat. How quickly our week has flown by! Just as everyone was preparing for bed at 20:30 the rain poured down for a few minutes. I will probably be awake late enough to open all the hatches and portholes again once the rain blows through.