Prickly Pear Island

After that blog post that was a slow-song, tearjerker, I think we’re all in the mood for a dance number.

Several weeks ago when I was in Gorda Sound on the Island of Virgin Gorda, BVI, I had a beautiful and photogenic beach walk on Prickly Pear Island.

I find that when I get to a new location, if there is a marina nearby, it’s nice to spend a night or two in it and orient myself to the area before setting out on the anchor. Gorda Sound is (was?) the home of the very well known Bitter End Yacht Club. For my Chautauqua friends, Bitter End is where our sailing buddy Mac worked for a season teaching sailing. Unfortunately, Bitter End was devastated by Hurricane Maria and is still closed. The picture below highlights the challenges and timeframes of rebuilding after such devastation, especially on an island where all materials have to be delivered via small cargo ships.

Sign on the dock of the Bitter End Yacht Club announcing:
“Reopening October 9, 2017”

That was too bad for me as I had heard great things about Bitter End and was hoping to stay there. If I had been able to stay there I was going to keep it on the down-low that I know Mac, since—having the attributes of a sailor—he can wreak his own form of devastation.

I did spend a couple nights at the Leverick Bay Resort & Marina and it was very nice.

The red roofs in the foreground are the Leverick Bay Marina, Gorda Sound is in the middle of the picture and Prickly Pear Island is noted with a red arrow
This panoramic shows a better view of the Gorda Sound and Prickly Pear Island (again with red arrow)
Here’s a chart-view of Prickly Pear Island, the red arrow is where I did my beach walk, the star is where I anchored Hazel James, Bitter End Yacht Club is circled, and the square in the bottom-left is where the above photos were taken

Two things struck me about the secluded beaches of Prickly Pear Island. The first was the stark beauty of the sand- and salt-bleached dead trees. These trees were likely uprooted by Maria, washed high on the beach with the storm surge and have been there ever since. The second were the conch shells. There were some beauties in pristine condition that I took with me and later made into conch-trumpets for the sunset blowing of the conch shells (more on that coming in a later post). However, I found that the older shells, disintegrating into sand, had their own special charm.

Beach view
Opuntia Point (the northeastern point on the chart above), Necker Island is in the left background
Waves breaking on a beautiful rock formation
The aforementioned bleached trees
This shot reminded me of how my brain was functioning in the months after Colleen died (I’ve since heard it referred to as “Widow’s Brain” and it’s an accurate description)

The next set of photos are the slowly disintegrating conch shells.

You’ll notice the prominent hole in the crown of the conch shell immediately below, this tells us that the builder of this shell did not die a natural death. When a conch fisherman “catches” a conch (i.e., picks it up off the bottom, generally in 3-20 feet of water), they use a ball peen hammer to make the hole seen below. They then insert a narrow knife (like an oyster knife) and cut the conch’s muscle that attaches the conch’s body to its shell, and the body of the conch slides out.

I also love the pattern of recent raindrops on the sand
Although much further disintegrated, you can still see the hole made by the fisherman

Finally, I got to this section of the beach with innumerable conch shells that were much newer and in better shape. I was reminded of my Uncle Bill who was an avid shell collector. I imagine his little corner of heaven looks something like this.

Take care and stay isolated and healthy. Our little bay was just patrolled by a BVI Immigration boat for the second time in as many days so the BVI government is taking the curfew-lockdown seriously which is a good thing.

In looking back through my journal and ship’s log, I anchored in Little Harbour on March 26th—20 days ago. At the moment, the curfew is to be lifted this coming Monday (April 20th). We just got a tentative announcement from the BVI government that between April 20th and June 2nd residents and guests will be able to move about the country only for essentials. Given that, I’m going to look into sailing for home soon after the 20th. I need to do some limited reprovisioning and wait for a good weather window but those things shouldn’t take more than a week.

Funny, the BVI government announced this news on Facebook. Their post ends:

Medical hotline remains in place. Anyone with cough and fever, or difficulty breathing, asked to call. Only 5 people reported to remain in mandatory quarantine here. Total ventilator ICU bed capability in BVI: 9 – Wash your &$%#ing hands.

It’s funny that up until the pandemic I was having an expected-adventure. While everything was great, nothing was too far from plan or what I expected. Since the pandemic and lockdowns, I and my harbormates have been thrown into unexpected-adventure. One thing I’ve discovered is that being anchored in one place for such a long time with minimal interaction is a very Henry David Thoreau and Walden-like experience. In addition, perhaps the mere concept of expected-adventure, is—itself—an oxymoron.

Hazel James out.

11 thoughts on “Prickly Pear Island

  1. Ok so your college pop/rock band references launched a cascade of memories and images: Matrix; Kurt Varney; the Abbey; a girl slow dancing with her boyfriend (fresh off the farm somewhere between French Creek, NY and Corry, PA) making eye contact with the bass player on every turn; a snowy parking lot full of cars with OH plates and ski racks next to pickups with NY plates and gun racks.

    1. JJ: Wow, that was a flood of memories. If there’s anything weirder than an acid flashback, it’s a sober acid flashback.

      You forgot $7 drink & drown, all you can drink (beer or well-cocktails) 9 to midnight, $2 goes to the band and $5 to the bar. It’s a little unclear just how we lived through those times, maybe it’s better that way “Let the Mystery Be”.

      1. Full disclosure I didn’t forget, I left the Wed night part out intentionally. We referred to Drink & Drown there as Knuckles & Fists. Those boys from Corry chasing after our local girls were always trouble. I steered clear of that place mid week.

  2. First best wishes to stay safe. Hope this lockdown ends soon.

    This is unprecedented calamity for the whole world. India has extended lockdown by another 3 weeks – now till 3rd May 2020, so as many countries. It is frightening to see virus fighting the mankind !!!

    I am optimist and we will soon come out of this – lesson we to be more united than ever to keep world safe.

    Hope you will soon come out of this lockdown and resume your plan.

    The photos you have enclosed are very nice.



    1. Thanks so much Raj. Wow another three weeks for India? I can’t imagine what that means to all living without refrigeration, without stores of food and in very close proximity to others.

  3. VELILY VELILY INTERESTING!! Only someone as old as you will get the inflection and identify the character????
    Great pictures. Hope you get on your way on the 20th. If not for the pandemic it might be hard to leave such a BEAUTIFUL PARADISE!
    Love, T

  4. Hi again Dan,
    Just did an hour on “widows brain” and I think you will find it VELILY INTERESTING especially from a lady who has lost 2 husbands!!

  5. Dan,
    Another interesting post. You may be interested in a Ted Talk given by Susan A David, a Harvard Medical School Psychologist, concerning “ Emotional Agility”. Looking forward to your next post.

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