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British Virgin Islands 2006

My Trip to the British Virgin Islands (BVI)

I was invited down to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) by my good friend Verne Wheatley who is the District Office Manager of the Island of Virgin Gorda in the BVI. I had met Verne at the NY Boat Show a few years back and about the only tie I get to visit with him is in NY at the show. He was always talking up and promoting the BVI and how great the fishing was, the snorkeling, the diving, the food etc. So in early March Verne sends me an e mail about coming to visit the BVI. I had never been out of the country and had made public on my radio show many time, the desire to remain within the four walls of the good ol� USA. He wants me to come down and attend the Spanish Town 10th Annual Wahoo Tournament and broadcast my radio show from there. I was hesitant because I had not missed a live radio show airing of The Fishing Line in 13 seasons and would hate to have it happen because the phone lines were not up to date.

Upon some further urging I took the plunge and the tourism department of the BVI flew me down to broadcast our radio show and to see the island of Beef Tortola and Virgin Gorda where I would be staying and where the tournament was being held. Boy am I glad I did�it was fantastic.

Day 1: I fly out of JFK and 3-1/2 hours later I�m in San Juan, Puerto Rico where I have an hour layover before jumping on a Caribbean Sun puddle jumper (55 seat prop aircraft) to take us to the island of Beef Tortola. We land and go through customs, where I learn by December of 2006 there will be no more birth certificates allowed as international passage I.D. so I suggest you get a passport now, and Verne is there to meet us. We take a 25 minute water taxi or ferry ride over to Virgin Gorda. The entire ferry ride I can�t help but notice how nice the people are, how clean and clear the water is, the mahi-mahi breaking water on the balls of bait in the harbor and the entire way across from Beef Tortola to Virgin Gorda and just how nice it was to be out of NY!!

We unload at the ferry dock on Virgin Gorda and Verne takes us to get our transportation for the week. We climb into the Jeep to find the steering wheel on the correct side of the car (for Americans), but we are now driving on the left hand side of the road which was actually very easy to get used to and easy to drive the climbing green, forest hills of the 8-1/2 mile long island of Virgin Gorda. Roads are mostly newly paved and easy to drive, but I learned quickly from driving a five speed standard at home on Long island, I was best suited going in and out of gears on this automatic transmission to make climbing and descending hills much easier and safer. You will notice the farm flavor of the Island as chickens and roosters are everywhere along the side of the roads and there were no pigeons! Goats too added the mountain flavor to the driving as flocks of goats roamed the streets and at night disappeared as they all went home to sleep�it was cool and weird to see. I would worry about them driving at night but they were no where to be seen.

We get to our accommodation at the Mango Bay Resort. We are right on the shores of the west side, the Caribbean side, of the Island looking at unbelievably clean and clear water, the kind you see on post cards and I know why�we were in a post card setting that�s for sure. These accommodations on Virgin Gorda are NOT like San Juan where there are 40 story hotel and after hotel after hotels all lined up along the beaches for miles, these are �live in� homes with kitchens (some outdoors) where you shop for food and cook yourself and relax with beautiful relaxing furniture inside the room and out and with air conditioning should like it cooler than the sunny and balmy 75 to 85 degrees we had every day. This Mango Bay is top shelf all the way and you can ask for fins and a snorkel to use for your time there from the front desk at Mango Bay which is a short drive or walk from where you will be staying.

So we check into the Mango Bay on Friday afternoon and first thing I want to do is swim. Jump in the crystal clean green water to find an aquarium of fish at my feet and snorkeling in chest high water with coral reefs all around. I spent very moment I could from this point on snorkeling and swimming these Caribbean waters. It took a while to get use to breathing through my mouth and using the snorkel but in 15 minutes I was set and exploring the coral reefs of this beautiful place. The entire area is filled with coral reefs in different depths and even if you can�t swim, there is rock and reef close enough you can just walk to its edge and dunk you head with snorkel and mask and see the fantastic colored sea life before your eyes. Just unbelievable and something that will make me take up scuba diving, but not in NY because down in the BVI the visibility is 60 to 100 foot every day!

So now it�s Friday supper time and we go to eat and check out the fair grounds because this weekend it�s Easter and they have huge Carnival and Easter celebration on Virgin Gorda�it is their Mardi Gras� without the beads so to speak and Saturday and Sunday nights are the huge celebrations. The entire Island is on fire with tremendous salsa and calypso bands and high energy combinations of the two, the style name I can�t recall at every bare and restaurant. Being a musician myself I know a good act when I see one and the bands on stage this evening are superior�going 1, 2 and 2-1/2 hours without a break! It is just awesome and everyone is so friendly it was just fantastic. After meeting al the dignitaries and putting down a few refreshments with Verne and many new friends, I call it a night at 3:30 a.m.! Whew!! Stay tuned for Day 2 next time so check back for the next installment of my trip diary.

Day 2-Saturday: I start Saturday waking at 7:45 tired but warm and relaxed in the Caribbean sun and humidity. Off to breakfast we go where folks on the Island of Virgin Gorda have been up most of the previous 24 hours. I arrive at a small diner like place to order bacon and eggs while most in the place are eating fried chicken since internal clocks are now off schedule. After breakfast it�s down to the docks for a look over the area for this upcoming radio show this afternoon. All the fishing boats in the touney were gone before sun up and the peaceful tranquility of my new surroundings bring a peace to the soul as only being in the Islands can. Back to Mango Bay Resort I go.

Ten minutes after leaving the dock I�m lying in a lounge chair resting and napping on and off between snorkeling sessions I have partaken upon myself, as it is taking a little time to remember how to breathe through a tube as I did so well yesterday (LOL). The waters are much clearer than Friday�s session as winds have changed direction bringing in clearer water and visibility is back to 100 feet. The riled up sand from Friday�s winds have settled. I nap on and off, eat a little lunch, swim and snorkel and nap again resting for the big radio show and the big night ahead of us as the Easter Weekend and Carnivale is upon us beginning at 9 p.m. this evening.

I leave the Mango Bay Resort around 2 p.m. and head to the Spanish Town docks for the Spanish Town 10th Annual Wahoo Tournament and radio show. There are fish all over the place and the fishing on Saturday while not as good as it could have been, is still decent enough and some wahoo to 26 pounds are weighed in along with plenty of dorado in the 5 to 20 pound class and some small football blackfin tuna. Winds are NW and not the greatest for this sort of fishing, but still much better fishing and weather than it is back home in NY come Easter that�s for sure.

The radio show goes on at 4 p.m. and things are working perfectly for the first 45 minutes before I lose the long distance carrier for the next 15 minutes, but everything kicks back in and we run the rest of the show smoothly. After the show we hang around the docks having refreshments, chatting with the tourney crew and anglers and the great, friendly residents and folks at Spanish Town. We eat dinner and leave around 7 p.m.

Now back to the hotel we go and did I mention there are NO traffic lights or street lights on the mountain like roads on the entire Island? How about that! There are a few stops signs but no one is in a hurry as the slow paced vacation atmosphere of the Island is still upon me, but about to come to a halt. More on that later, but back at Mango Bay Resort I shower and take a quick 20 minute nap and arise at 8:15 for round 2 of Saturday�s festivities. A few sips of some top shelf tequila and we are off to the Carnivale to meet my host Verne Wheatley along with Mike Collins of the Virgin Gorda Fishing Corporation, the folks putting on the tourney.

We arrive at the fair grounds where the Island is coming to life anticipating the events and music of the night. Everyone is so friendly and I feel like a dignitary. Even when Verne is not with me, it�s as if the entire Island was made aware of The Fishing Line Radio show coming and the broadcast form the docks. I�m allowed access to the grounds and Verne arrives a little later and the festivities are off and running after hearing some short speeches from the many dignitaries, government officials and residents.

The music starts and the crowd starts to grow. There are booths set up all around the perimeter of the fair grounds selling everything from goat water (goat soup), to fried chicken to local delicacies and every liquor and beer you can imagine. Heineken in the bottle�$2, double tequilas or bourbon and Hennessey $3�.you can see how you can have an awesome time in the Island right? But aside from that it�s the people and the Easter celebration, a Mardi Gras in the Islands, which is what makes the time�well�fantastic.

Listening to bands play the crowd grows larger by the hour. Calypso and the Latin influenced fast paced music non stop for hours has everyone dancing the night away as the festivities are exciting, wonderful and joyous while at the same time peaceful. With all the refreshments flowing I did not see a single argument between anyone! Incredible and very unlike a Yankee Red Sox game! Hanging with great people like Verne Wheatley, Mike Collins and everyone from the Tourism board of Virgin Gorda�and having a great time, the next thing I know it�s 4 a.m. and time for bed! Wow what a night! However the Island remains awake and the place is jumping right into morning and after sunrise the street festival is setting up for Sunday already�wait it a minute�it is Sunday already!

The boats fishing have all left as it�s now Easter Sunday and the final day of the tournament. Stay tuned for Day 3�Easter Sunday�it does not stop!!

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