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Tales from Tortola … first days

Barrie had a cold when we left NS which Carmen picked up right away and I followed suit after we arrived in Tortola. We hacked our way through the first few days (Barrie referred to us all as the Phlem Family). Our breathing was made worse by a severe case of mould and mildew that had collected because Kate’s home had been closed for eight months. Three gallons of bleach later, most of the ceilings, walls, shelves and drawers were good as new again. Looking on the bright side, we won’t have to clean before we paint in the new year.

First light in Tortola

Mornings are magical here. Dawn comes quickly. At one point (around 6 a.m.) it’s dark and starry; then minutes later it’s light and butterflies are flitting about. At night the same happens in reverse. Dusk lasts about 10 minutes then any remnant of daylight disappears. Much like dimming a switch in slow motion.

Now, a little background about where we are hunkered down for the winter. It’s a country called the British Virgin Islands (BVI), and consists of Tortola, Jost Van Dyke,  Anegada, Virgin Gorda and 50 or so smaller islands—some inhabited and some not. Tortola is the largest with a population of approximately 23,000 people. Christopher Columbus named the island Santa Ana. (Lordy, that fellow got around, eh?) When the Dutch settled, they named it Ter Tholen after a small island close to the Netherlands. The British later altered it to Tortola.

Campground at Brewers Bay

The island is only 17 miles long and between 3-4 miles wide. But to get from one end of the island to the other takes over an hour as the island is a series of mini mountains and although there are lots of coastal villages with fairly flat roads, you can rarely get from one to another without first driving around hairpin turns that run feverishly up/down/around peaks and valleys with vertigo inducing elevations.

We took an entire day off from cleaning on Sunday and headed to Brewer’s  Bay—and over some scary roads. (I’m sure in a few weeks we’ll be flying around the mountains but right now I’m white knuckling it.) I promised Jane Boursaw photos from Brewers as she and her hubby were here many moons ago. (Aside: I just took an awesome course from Jane titled Blogging for Passion and Profit. My blog’s a result of that course.)

Fishing for cobblers at Brewers Bay

There was only one camper at Brewers (see tent in photo) but the grounds are run down and not cared for as they used to be. It’s a shame as the beach is lovely. We met two friends who were hand-lining Palometa from shore—locally called cobblers—using 8-inch round cylinders of filament, hooks, and Reef Silversides (the equivalent of our minnows but skinnier).  With a small stone attached about three feet from the hook, they swung the line around like a lasso, which went an amazing distance from shore.

I also received a cooking lesson: “Filet the fish, foil it then add sliced potatoes, green peppers, onions, garlic, salt and pepper. Then butter it before you grill it,”  said Clarence. I could almost taste the dish as he was speaking. “Don’t’ forget the butter,” he emphasized. I’ll bet trying that sometime. First I gotta catch me some fish.


  1. John John
    December 22, 2010    

    Is that sunrise view from your house? And what is that “big” island across the way, another Virgin? Right, don’t cook your fish before they’re caught, and don’t forget the butter!

  2. December 22, 2010    

    Yup. Sunrise view is from where we are living, which is just a few hundred yards as the crow flies to the beach … but as the roads go (you know all about the roads John!) it’s a 20 minute walk. The big island across the way is Jost Van Dyke. It’s fairly large. Famous for its New Year’s parties. And, yes, I won’t forget the butter.

  3. Tom Hall Tom Hall
    December 24, 2010    

    Love your Blog! My wife Karin & I are on our way to Tortola (12/30-1/8) and look forward to reading more. 😀

    • December 24, 2010    

      So happy you’re enjoying these babbles Tom! Send me a note when you arrive … would be happy to connect. You’ll love the island and her people.

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