The cruising season is winding down. The anchorages are thinning out, exposing more and more mooring balls each night and the marinas are peppered with empty slips as boats haul out or set sail for points north or south. The beach bars are a little less lively, evenings a little quieter, and the sound of dogs, birds and roosters replace those of outboard dinghy engines. The charterers have headed back north where the weather has finally warmed up and the cruisers have headed south to hunker down for hurricane season. Yet we remain.
It's kind of nice, actually.
While I must admit I have grown to love the energy that these islands have during peak season, this relative quiet is a welcome change. Some cruisers scoff at areas like this which are deemed by many to be "too touristy", but we have really enjoyed it here. In fact, I'd go so far as to say we love it here. Before we came down, we weren't so sure - our decision was mostly practical. We were nervous that anchorages might be too crowded, that we'd pay a fortune in mooring fees, that we'd get sick of all the "credit card captains"... but our worries were all for naught. While it is true that the British Virgin Islands are rife with charter boats and much more crowded than, say, the Grenadines or Bahamas (with the exception of Georgetown, of course), there are still many places to go that feel a bit "off the beaten path". Even still, we've never felt that our experience down here has been lessened or somehow tarnished by the presence of others. Maybe we're different from other cruisers in this way? In fact - meeting people has been a huge bonus of this season. We've been gifted loads of left over provisions (everything from beer to paper towels) from generous charters who see that we live-aboard (it's pretty obvious who is a charter boat and who is a not in these parts) and we have met no fewer than two blog followers per week since we've arrived. It's amazing to see how many people we've touched with this site and be able to put some faces to our wonderful readers. We've never been far from friends, that is for sure, and there's something to be said for that. Don't get me wrong - being alone in a secluded anchorage is wonderful (we've experienced that quite a bit in the Bahamas and down island), but there are some major plusses to being among others as well. We enjoy both.
For our maiden season as a very young family of five, I seriously don't think we could have picked a better area to ease back into a life afloat. Where there are tourists, there are amenities and when cruising with kids, it's really nice to be able to hit up a little grocery store every other day if need be (Gah! Out of diapers!) and to know that there are always services (pediatricians, yacht chandleries, marinas, etc.) nearby should we need them, not to mention the fun of being able to enjoy a drink or two at some of the world's best and most famous beach bars (and, hey, the ability to order a pizza to-go is pretty nice too on occasion). We have all the time in the world to go "off the grid", but for now, keeping one foot in the "developed" world has been great for us. Then there is the sailing. We've actually enjoyed it so much more this season because here, there is almost always somewhere to sail to in just about any wind condition. And the distances? Being underway for no more than two or three hours is awesome and a must for our little crew ("if I can't see it, we don't sail there" is a joke I tell a lot). If we really want a change of scenery, the incredible island of St. John (possibly my favorite island yet?) has a distinctly different vibe and is only a hop, skip and a jump away. As for paying for moorings? We have paid for no more than five nights on mooring balls here in the BVI's since we arrived four months ago. The fact that we can anchor just about anywhere here was a huge relief to us, as the savings are significant. "I love anchoring in a mooring field where everyone else is paying $30 bucks a night" Scott ruminated last night as we swung on our Rocna in Soper's Hole, sipping on rum drinks, "it's like free money". And it is. Free is good.
But the winds of change are on the horizon and hurricane season is upon us. So where does that leave us? What's our plan?
Sailing down to Grenada is not an option for us - I have zero interest in covering those kind of miles with three small children. It was wonderful with one child, probably would have been "do-able" with two, but with infant twins and a toddler? No thank you. Being conservative has worked beautifully for us thus far and we have no plans to change that now. As such, we've decided that we're going to haul our boat and head back to Chicago for a few months to visit with family and friends before we return, yet again, to the British Virgin Islands in September or October. There are many reasons for this decision, and we hope to be able to share them with you soon, but for now - it feels good to know that we'll be spending summer with family and friends. And it feels really good to have a plan.
Change is in the air.