We’ve never managed to escape the winter gloom before. Too much work stopping play. We have friends who’ve done it nearly every year – well, certainly for the last ten years. Florida, Sri Lanka, many Caribbean islands, tough work. Don’t get us wrong, we like Yorkshire in winter. It’s all about the changing seasons and the opportunity can’t be missed to get out all those scarfs, gloves and flat caps with ear flaps. We also need to use up our wood supply. It’s all the product of fallen trees and it’s really rather poor stuff. Buying good, kiln-dried, seasoned hardwood logs is probably the way forward for a good roaring stove. We just have to burn up the stuff we’ve got first. We’ve been doing that for nearly thirty three years, but there’s still time yet.
So, neglecting the stove duties, we find ourselves in the Caribbean, or the West Indies depending on your view of geography, topping up our vitamin D levels. A simple and comfortable transatlantic flight with Virgin turns into the inevitable hang around and skirmish with the staff at LIAT Airlines, your bus tour around the islands. Eventually we arrive in Road Town, Tortola, where we pick up a boat for a week’s sailing around the British Virgin Islands – “Nature’s Little Secrets” it says on every car number plate. In typical idiosyncratic style the cars are all left hand drive, but they drive on the left – a nod to British imperialism. It’s also a rather infamous tax haven, but nobody offers us a bank account. Nowt to keep in it anyway.
There’s a well established sailing route around Tortola, calling at various well-worn cocktail bars on the islands, hang overs (sorry) from the 1960s. We’ve been three times over the years at differing times of the year and, although this was high season, we see no sign of the promised wild drunken parties, naked dancing and the like. Perhaps everyone is just growing old like us, and the young things are in Vietnam or Antarctica rather than this homage to hedonism.
Much of the population is still poor, chickens roam the streets, local music blares out from little shacks and island shops still sell Spam and Cracker Barrel cheese. But the atmosphere is still unique and the white sandy beaches beautiful enough to rival the best the west coast of Scotland has to offer, but with warm sea and no midges. Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke is home to Foxy’s, the legendary bar with the a sandy floor and car number plates from around the globe lining the walls. Foxy Callwood, patron here for over forty years, won’t be one of the poor population. A well rehearsed operation behind the bar delivers cocktails at around USD$7 – not too much rum – but the Painkiller and Bananawhacker [a mixture of Banana rum, Khalua, Baileys, Frangelico and Amaretto] are particularly recommended, and the Mango Daiquiri can hold its own too. You can, of course, eat here – burgers, ribs, lobster – the menu’s pretty much the same everywhere. It’s the atmosphere and the view that changes. Just a little.
Beach Bar and Restaurant Foxy’s on Jost Van Dyke
…Approaching Jost Van Dyke make sure you spot Great Harbour and not White Bay, where the water is shallow and the reefs tantalisingly inviting to stray yachts. You’re sure to get your boat stuck, have to pulled off by enthusiastic locals in dinghies shouting conflicting commands, be inspected by a diver who only charges you USD$350 for a five minute look under water and then have your boat hauled out for repair, losing your insurance excess. Apparently.