Expert's Choice: Virgin Islands

Nancy and Simon Scott wrote their first Cruising Guide To The Virgin Islands in 1982By Nancy ScottTRAVELING ON YOUR STOMACH» Self-ProvisioningIt's convenient to have your charter company provision for you, but it's an adventure to do it yourself. Cooking in the Virgin Islands is influenced by American, British, Spanish, East
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Nancy and Simon Scott wrote their first Cruising Guide To The Virgin Islands in 1982

By Nancy Scott

TRAVELING ON YOUR STOMACH

» Self-Provisioning

It's convenient to have your charter company provision for you, but it's an adventure to do it yourself. Cooking in the Virgin Islands is influenced by American, British, Spanish, East Indian, and West Indian cultures, and the markets reflect this. For variety, start with the larger markets, like Riteway in Tortola, the Food Center in Benner's Bay, St. Thomas, and Plaza Extra in St. Croix.

» Local Fruits and Vegs

Bananas, papayas, and mangos grow in abundance and are available in most markets. The Road Town farmers' market, located near the roundabout, operates on Saturday mornings.

• Inside the armorlike skin of the sugar apple is a custardlike interior that you can scoop out by the spoonful or eat it by the mouthful and spit out the seeds. The Road Town farmers' market, located near the roundabout, operates on Saturday mornings.

• Genips look like a bunch of green grapes; you have to tug off the skin to reach the sweet pulp surrounding a large pit. Eat these on the boat or on a beach so you can jump in the water afterward to rinse off the sticky juice.

• Found at the market: Dasheen is a root something like a potato. The Caribbean pumpkin is a mottled green and yellowish gourd primarily used in soups. Christophene, a light-green pear-shaped vegetable with a hard skin over the white meat, is served as a side dish.

» Dining Out, Price No Object

• Escape from the galley to Brandywine Bay Restaurant, just a few miles outside of Road Town. It has a breathtaking view over the Drake Channel and terrific food cooked by its Tuscan chef. Reservations recommended: 284-493-2301.

• In Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Hervé Restaurant & Wine Bar offers a panoramic view of the harbor and the city and a classically trained French chef. Reservations requested: 340-777-9703.

• In St. Croix, don't miss Kendrick's, in the inner historic district of Christiansted, for a diverse selection of original dishes created with fresh herbs and Caribbean fruits and vegetables. Reservations recommended: 340-773-9199.

» Try Local Food

Fish, conch, and lobster are all available in most restaurants in many different, enticing recipes. The Chillin' Café at the CSY dock overlooking Road Harbour, Tortola, serves local favorites like roti, an East Indian empanada-like creation with a curried filling. Other Tortola sources for Caribbean dishes include Maria's by the Sea (Road Town), the restaurants at Cane Garden Bay, and the restaurants on Jost Van Dyke.

BEACH BARS: Beach bars are ubiquitous in the BVI. Here are some of the most popular.

• The floating William Thornton, affectionately known as the "Willy T," is a 93-foot replica of a topsail schooner that presides over the Bight at Norman Island. It gives new meaning to the word "casual."

• Foxy's, in Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke, is always lively. Foxy sings calypso songs that always surprise and delight the crowd. The partying goes on until the wee hours.

• If there's a full moon, don't miss the party at Trellis Bay, with mocko jumbies (stilt dancers), music, and dancing in the sand. A spectacular fire is lit in a large, carved metal ball that sits over the water. From here you're within dinghy reach of the Last Resort, on the tiny island of Bellamy Cay, where terrific meals and entertainment are available.

• Cane Garden Bay is an incredibly beautiful arc of a beach lined by swaying palm trees. The western end of the beach has a number of fun restaurants and bars, all with music and entertainment. Leave your dinghy at the dock and have fun.

RUM DRINKS: Rum is the basis of most Caribbean cocktails; my favorite is the Painkiller, made of rum, coconut cream, orange and pineapple juice, with a dash of nutmeg on top. To relieve stress best, sit on a beach, listen to the sounds of the water, and watch the sun go down as you drink it.

RUN, WALK, AMBLE

BVI: Jog on the beach at Josiah's Bay—off the beaten track on Tortola's north coast; it's one of the BVI's most beautiful beaches, and it's great for a mental and physical time out. Or try the beach at Cane Garden Bay for an early-morning run.

St. Thomas: Vessup Bay beach, in Red Hook, is mostly frequented by boaters and doesn't have many tourists. Or try gorgeous Magen's Bay, on the north shore, before the beach crowd arrives.

St. Croix: Manchioneel Bay.

St. John: Francis Bay and Cinnamon Bay.

» Take a Walk

You can take a taxi to Mount Sage, Tortola's highest mountain (elevation 1,700 feet) and part of the BVI National Parks Trust. There are several well-marked trails with amazing views in all directions. On St. John, visit the National Park headquarters in Cruz Bay to join a walking tour conducted by park rangers. Leinster Bay is a good anchorage with a trail along the beach leading to the Annaberg Plantation ruins, on a hill overlooking the water.

» Take a Walking Tour

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, has interesting old buildings. The second-oldest synagogue in the United States is located on Crystal Gade. On Norre Gade stands the Frederick Lutheran Church, the official church of the Danish Virgin Islands (rebuilt in 1826 after a fire). Market Square, to the west of the main shopping district, was a slave market in early times and later became a market for local farmers.

» Tour a Fort

• Fort Christian, built by the Danes in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, guarded the harbor from invaders from 1678 through 1870. It is the oldest structure in the Virgin Islands.

• St. Croix's Fort Christiansvaern, overlooking the Christiansted Harbor, was built in the mid-1700s to protect the island from pirates, privateers, and other invaders.

• The Old Government House in Road Town, Tortola, started out as a small fort built by the British in the late 1700s. It was rebuilt as the first Government House in the late 1800s. Its Museum Room displays historic relics, photography of the old days, and mementos.

DON'T MISS

• The Baths, Virgin Gorda, are a spectacular jumble of huge granite boulders. The fun part is walking, climbing, and swimming among them.

• The Royal Mail Steamer Rhone sank in a hurricane in 1867. It was slammed against the rocks at Salt Island, heeled over, broke in two, and the remains are scattered in 30 to 90 feet of water. The wreck is now protected by the National Parks Trust. It's best for divers, but snorkelers can get a good view.

• St. John National Park covers nearly two-thirds of the island and an additional 13,000 acres of adjoining underwater land and reefs; it is one of the most beautiful parks in the United States. Stop first at the park headquarters in Cruz Bay to view the exhibits and collect information about the trails, beaches, historical sites, and anchorages in the park.

CROWD-FREE LUNCH/SNORKEL STOPS

• One of my favorites is Monkey Point, Guana Island, where you can pick up a National Parks mooring and do some snorkeling.

• Sandy Cay and Green Cay, off Jost Van Dyke, are great stops when the wind and sea are down.

• The photogenic Indians, near Norman Island, is a perfect stopping place for snorkeling on your way up the Sir Francis Drake Channel or over to the Bight.

• In St. John, Leinster Bay is easy to enter and has day moorings.

• In St. Thomas, Christmas Cove, on St. James Island, is near Current Cut and Red Hook—good for a time out when you're going between the USVI and the BVI.

• If you sail to St. Croix, do visit Buck Island, an uninhabited, pristine island off St. Croix. It has a gorgeous beach on one end, and the snorkeling trail on the other end features underwater signs identifying corals, fish, and other creatures.

• My absolute favorite lunch (or overnight) stop is peaceful Little Harbour on Peter Island. This is a good transition place for a first night on charter. The lack of facilities ashore adds to the tranquillity.

• When we have first-timer guests, we always head for the caves at Norman Island because of the abundant sea life and the uniqueness of swimming into a cave. With or without guests, we enjoy snorkeling at George Dog; you can snorkel up toward the beach and back along the rock wall or west of the beach to the rock formation called the Chimneys.

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