British Virgin Islands '01 The Journal

Below is the group journal we kept in the BVI. We took it in turns to write up a day each and the author can be identified by the initials next to the title (meet the team here). It has been edited for spelling, punctuation and grammer and occasionally readability, but otherwise it is reproduced faithfully. The links are mostly to pictures although there are one or two to external sites.

The aim of this is to give an accurate representation of the trip, complete with both the highs and the lows we experienced.

Hope you enjoy it!

Day 1 Wednesday 15th August SM

Zoë and I drove to the airport in good time, leaving the car at National Wind Power and getting a lift from Dad to Terminal 3. Adrian arrived at 5:30pm and check-in was smooth, but AA were very thorough, with the barrel causing its usual consternation. It was easy to kill the two-hour wait in the huge shopping malls of Heathrow and we boarded AA141 amongst even tighter security. The flight was AA's flagship route and so the plane was spotless, the attendants polite and useful, and the chair in front had a TV screen in it, complete with computer games.

After 7 hours, much of which was spent asleep, we arrived at JFK Terminal 9. Since it was 11pm we decided not to go downtown but to crash in the terminal for the night.

Day 2 Thursday 16th August AB

JFK is a dump. Our attempts to sleep were thwarted by the terrible seats (effing armrests!), the shockingly bad piped muzak, the mind-numbingly crackly speakers and the general hellishness of the terminal. However, a pretty normal flight to St Thomas later and things were looking up. We got off the plane and took a taxi to the ferry terminal in the baking heat. The ferry to Tortola blasted along at breakneck speed sending up a sheet of spray bigger than the boat itself.

After a fairly long taxi ride along the length of Tortola from West End to Trellis Bay, we finally met with Jeremy, owner of Boardsailing BVI and provider of our boats, and his cat (Frisbee by day, Chica by night). No sooner had we arrived than we learnt of a hurricane on its way. Taking this in our stride, we took a relaxing dip in the sea and spent the rest of the day chilling out. A dinner of pasta with bacon 'n' stuff was consumed.

We await hurricane Chantal.

Day 3 Friday 17th August ZM

Woke up to find that Chantal had become nothing more than a tropical storm with strong winds, the effects of which we felt later.

We had already decided that we were going to Road Town and, after some discussion with Jeremy, we caught a taxi that just happened to be passing as we walked to the airport. The taxi drove the only road to Road Town, picking up people along the way. Shortly after we were dropped in the centre of Road Town, what was left of Chantal's wet side hit us and the heavens opened. When it slacked off a little we went to cash out travellers cheques, which took some time. Then went to a dive shop if we could get Adrian a mask. However, they were all too expensive so we wandered back via the Pusser's Outpost where we had a shifty lime daiquiri. Finally we felt like we were in the Caribbean. Sam's new friend in the Tourist Information told him that the Dungeons were worth seeing, so we traipsed up the hill in what by this stage can only be called a monsoon.

The Dungeons turned out to be not much more than a garden wall. On the way back we discovered the botanical gardens, which were well worth a look around. We found some lunch at "The Captain's Table", which was delicious. We then completed our shopping, firstly at a chandlery that we had found despite the policemen's sketchy directions and incomprehension of our accents. Then we went food shopping, which is always educational in a foreign country. Having nearly accidentally walked out with some nappies, we managed to catch a taxi back to Trellis Bay, where we immediately changed into swimming things and went snorkelling, Adrian using his new mask.

In the evening we met Ollie, a guy who worked at The Last Resort, and went and got food and Pusser's Painkillers at De Loose Mongoose, a bar down the beach. We then watched videos until we went to bed.

Day 4 Saturday 18th August SM

An early start. Before breakfast we packed up all the stuff we needed for a day trip and went to look at the boats. We chose an Ocean Kayak double and an old yellow single. However, after some discussion with Jeremy, he persuaded us to take two Cobra boats, something to do with sponsorship. The single that I paddle (Cobra Explorer) is a perfect expedition boat, which tracks well. The double (Cobra Tandem) was a nice shape but lacks storage space. We decided to try them out for a day.

We left the beach at 10:15am and headed around the bay, getting used to our new boats. They were heavy but they track in a straight line pretty well. A hop across to Marina Cay saw us passing to the east of its reef.

As we paddled, Jeremy caught us up in his catamaran and took photos. He stayed with us as we turned downwind and surfed the 2-foot swell down between Great Camanoe and Scrub Island. We landed briefly on a beach for a photocall and then Jeremy departed, leaving us on our own.

We paddled on up the shore of Scrub Island until we arrived at a cave known locally as "The Toilet Bowl". It offered some of the best snorkelling I have ever seen, with hundreds of fish and a natural underwater arch.

We spent an hour snorkelling and having lunch before we realised that we were getting quite sunburnt, and headed for the beach to find some shade.

After sheltering for about 20mins we decided to head back to Trellis Bay. Upon arrival we swam for about 20mins and then showered. A party was in full swing at Boardsailing BVI, so we sat and chilled out with some middle-aged Americans for the afternoon, alternating a bit of packing with emailing.

Dinner was at De Loose Mongoose, and when we returned the party had moved up a gear. We partied for a couple of hours, went to finish packing and went to bed.

Day 5 Sunday 19th August AB

Our attempt at an early start began well, having all been up and out of bed in reasonably good time, However as we pondered the logistics of fitting everything onto the boats and worked out our food budget, time was being eaten up, resulting in us leaving at 10:45am.

Paddling in the heavily laden boats was extremely hard work, especially for Sam in the single, as their tracking when loaded was miserable. After the hard slog across Trellis Bay, we headed for the gap between Guana and Great Camanoe Islands, and then turned right to follow the coast of Great Camanoe. Some fairly strenuous paddling into an easterly headwind was rewarded by the sight of two turtles.

We took a break to explore a couple of sea caves, also admiring the colony of pelicans inhabiting the cliff faces. The rock formations here are particularly impressive. More hard paddling later we rounded the headland to find a paradise beach that will be hard to beat. The cove featured a small reef of its own, a sizeable coconut grove and a glorious sandy beach. Pulling up ashore we immediately went back into the water for a spot of snorkelling. However it was getting pretty hot, and we were already sunburnt, so we headed towards the shade of the palm trees. Taking a break, we experimented with the hammocks, finding no shortage of places to hang them up. We then went back into the sea for more snorkelling and explored the reef, abundant with fish and corals.

We needed fuel, so Zoë and I took the tandem around the other side of the island to Marina Cay. We saw more inquisitive turtles looking out from the water only a few yards from the boat. Arriving at Marina Cay, we fuelled up; at only 44 cents worth of petrol, we were given it for free. Zoë and I then headed back with fuel and water, reaching our beach just as the sun disappeared behind the island.

An unusual tasting dinner of baked beans, sausages and mash (and grated orange cheese) ensued. A boat pulled up with two men who set off to collect coconuts. Meeting them again, we learned that one of them had planted the trees many years earlier and owned the island. He kindly offered us a couple of coconuts, so we were able to finish the day with rum and coconut milk, before retiring to our hammocks.

Day 6 Monday 20th August ZM

Woke up early to the already scorching heat. We had a breakfast of Alpen which I incompetently dropped having eaten only half of it.

At about 8.30 we ditched the second of the coconuts we were given and headed out for our longest crossing so far. It was a relief to be on the water as it was becoming nauseatingly hot on land. We paddled round the end of Scrub Island, bouncing from wave to wave, until we reached the Toilet Bowl, where we had been snorkelling before. This time there were even more fish as the tide was in. We discovered sea caves that would need exploring when the tide was low. After about half an hour, we paddled on to the end of Scrub Island where we sheltered behind a rock to put on our buoyancy aids for the crossing to The Dogs.

The crossing itself was about 2 miles, very bouncy, very wet but not at all traumatic and in about 45 minutes we reached West Dog, which is little more than a rock. We tethered the boats by a little inlet and stopped for some lunch. Our initial ideas of swimming were less than appealing as the inlet was full of purple jellyfish about the size of Frisbees. Since we didn't know if they were poisonous or not we were cautious. However, after a delicious lunch of saltwater soaked raisins, crackers and fig rolls, Sam and Adrian jumped off a rock into the water and retrieved the boats from their tether.

We paddled on to Great Dog. By this stage Adrian and I were suffering badly from the effects of the heat and sun so we found a tiny shaded beach covered in large pebbles, where we hid from the sun. Sam meanwhile paddled up to a moored yacht to see if we could get some water as we had previously knocked the lid off our main water bottle. Not only did they give us all the water they had but also three cans of Coke.

We spent the next few hours snorkelling until it became a little cooler, when we paddled about 50 yards round the corner to a rocky bay that was our campsite. We ate dinner of macaroni cheese and mandarin slices and set up camp. Our hammocks were in the most precarious of positions on the edge of an unstable looking slope, attached to a very unstable looking tree, so it took me a while to relax enough to get to sleep (at about 8.00pm).

Day 7 Tuesday 21st August SM

Early start 6:30am followed by usual preparations. Before breakfast Adrian and I set off around the coast to look at a place to jump into the sea from. A quick look with mask and snorkel showed it to be plenty deep enough. We both made the 20-foot jump and then returned to the boats.

Zoë wasn't feeling too well and decided not to have breakfast and we left the beach at about 7:30am. Our destination was Little Dix Bay, where we hoped to get a drink and cash some travellers cheques. The crossing took just under an hour and we arrived at the very posh looking resort unsure of how they would receive us. Adrian went ashore to ask if we could have breakfast and came back to say that it would be $15 a head. After a bit of 'umming and aahing' we decided to go for it. The restaurant was really posh but it was eat-all-you-can, and we did.

After paying, filling the water bottles and using the loos, we departed at about 10:30am. We paddled south down the coast, past Spanish Town to the Baths, unique giant boulders that form fantastic snorkelling. We tethered the boats on the dinghy lines, we snorkelled for an hour before finning ashore. There was a fantastic trail over, under and through the boulders and we followed it to Devil's Beach, which was quieter and prettier. Zoë and Adrian stayed there while I scrambled back and moved the boats, towing the double behind me. After more snorkelling we tethered the boats offshore again and reversed the trail, taking photos as we went. We had some food and drank at a bar and then returned to the beach.

We left Devil's Beach at 3:30pm and continued south. As we rounded the end of Virgin Gorda, we came into an Atlantic swell of about 5 feet. Luckily we only had a 1/2 mile crossing to make to Fallen Jerusalem, our destination for the night. The high swells made landing tricky but a sheltered cove on the south side allowed us ashore. After securing the boats we explored. It was the most beautiful place with big boulders, up to 50 feet in diameter, set in white sand on turquoise sea, rimmed with green bushes.

Adrian and I snorkelled some more and continued on our quest to find high things to jump off.

After some routine maintenance and a supper of tomato & sweetcorn pasta we sat with rum cocktails and watched the sun go down before retiring to our hammocks. ZBVI radio had warned of storms so we decided to head to Trellis Bay tomorrow night.

Day 8 Wednesday 22nd August AB

We had a bit of an epic last night when Zoë put her foot through her hammock. We awoke in the middle of the night to a loud tearing noise swiftly followed by cursing, as the hammock gave out where it had been rubbing against the rock underneath, creating a massive tear. We decided to put Zoë in my hammock with me, which meant a less than blissful night's sleep for both of us. We got up in the morning to hear confirmation of the news that we had briefly heard last night, which was that a wave of bad weather was headed our way. We decided that we would return to Trellis Bay immediately and directly, although this would mean attempting a crossing almost twice as long as anything we had done before. Our planned breakfast of pancakes did not happen because the MSR had packed in, presumably due to sand, so we had to resort to muesli.

After breakfast Sam and I snorkelled over to a rock to jump off. Having packed up, we were ready to set off at 8 o' clock, wearing our buoyancy aids in anticipation of rough weather. This turned out to have been a good idea because no sooner had we left Fallen Jerusalem, we were encountering large 6-foot swells. Feeling decidedly uncertain as we could barely see Tortola due to poor visibility, we nevertheless ploughed on, forced to make regular steering adjustments as the strong wind sought to push us off course. We were engulfed by heavy rain a couple of times, such that we were no longer able to see Fallen Jerusalem behind us, nor the powerboats and ferries around us, and we were slightly worried that we might lose sight of our destination. Fortunately this did not happen, and so despite being thrown about by the waves and blasted by the wind and rain, we had completed the 5-nautical mile crossing in 1hr 50mins.

Arriving at Trellis Bay, we pulled up our boats, took most of our things inside and showered. Jeremy had gone to the dentist's and the cybercafé was rapidly filling up with frustrated Sunsail passengers whose flights had been cancelled, so we soon found ourselves making sandwiches for them as the storm closed in. As Zoë and I were doing this, Sam and Ollie (from The Last Resort) were struggling to help save a family's boat from being blown onto the reef by the storm, for which they later earned a cool 50 bucks each. We spent the rest of the day relaxing inside as the island was battered by heavy rain and winds. Zoë made a start on repairing her hammock while Sam serviced the MSR.

We went to De Loose Mongoose for dinner again, this time sampling their coconut daiquiris. Jeremy put on a video for us ("15 Minutes") but Zoë was asleep on the sofa before the opening credits had even started. The film was quite good, and by the time it had finished and we all trooped off to bed, the wind and rain had almost completely fizzled out.

Day 9 Thursday 23rd August ZM

Had a lie-in until late, making the most of the room we were staying in. Whilst Adrian made pancakes, Sam stitched my hammock that I had patched the night before. I then sorted out the food as a lot had been spoiled by seawater in the front of Sam's boat. Adrian and I then went to the store to replace the food. The store is extraordinarily expensive but there is not much we can do about it. We packed up the boats, said goodbye to Ollie and Jeremy, and set out again. We paddled round to the north shore of Tortola, through the gap between Tortola and Little Camanoe. Adrian had a brief stop for us to swap positions in the tandem but we made good progress.

The north shore of Tortola is quite wild with few buildings, some of which are ruins of old plantation buildings. We stopped at a sea cave to do some snorkelling and tethered the boats in the usual fashion. The cave was full of hundreds, maybe thousands, of small fishes in a huge shoal. It also went back and down a long way. At the very back and bottom there was a white barrel. It was very dark in there so we couldn't see it too clearly, but given the amount of smuggling that reputedly goes on here we didn't touch. As we were snorkelling an English girl who was on holiday came over to our cave and we talked for a while. She seemed bored with being on holiday with her parents.

Sam and Adrian found very high things to jump off (25ft) and repeatedly jumped off them. I watched. When they had exhausted jumping possibilities we paddled off to Josiah's Bay, a big sandy bay where we found a spot amongst the trees that was just like a bedroom. We set up camp and the boys spent an hour spraying petrol everywhere trying to fix the MSR. Afterwards we ate a dinner of Mexican chilli & mash, and chocolate chip cookies, which went down very well.

Adrian went and read on the beach. It didn't take long to fall asl...

Day 10 Friday 24th August SM

Waking up in the glade of trees with a gentle breeze blowing over the hammocks was one of the best moments of the expedition so far. We had a breakfast of cereal and then packed the kit into the boat. Having launched in gentle surf we continued west along the north shore of Tortola. Passing Brewers Bay we rounded the headland into Cane Garden Bay, an eclectic collection of shacks on the pure white sand. Having tied the kayaks up at the dock we went for a wander ashore. Feeling thirsty, our first port of call was Myett's Garden Bar, a delightful tree house affair where we had a cool drink.

Once we had cooled down, we walked up the beach and swung on a tyre hanging from a palm tree. Walking back along the road through the village, we got a glimpse into what life must be like for a local. The road was extremely hot, necessitating running at various points. After checking on the boats and picking up some more food at a 'superette', we returned to Myett's for lunch. We ordered conch fritters, jerk chicken wings and beer-battered shrimps with a side order of chips, and they were fantastic.

After 11/2 hours' sleep on the beach and a swim, Adrian and I returned to the boats, diving off the dock on the way. Returning to the bar with the boats, we dumped the rubbish and filled up the water bottles with very dubious-looking water, and then started the crossing to Sandy Cay. The 2-mile crossing took just under an hour and we landed at Sandy Cay at about 4pm. After a quick swim we started unpacking; it was then that the nightmare began.

There were hundreds of tiny flies, no bigger than grains of sand, swarming around us. They had a nasty bite and made life a living hell. Long clothes and Muskol kept them at bay but only just, and it was not a very enjoyable supper. We sat on a breezy point for half an hour after eating, which allowed some respite before climbing into our hammocks and trying to seal them shut.

Day 11 Saturday 25th August AB

After what was, for me at least, a night of itching misery, we all woke up at almost exactly the same time and decided that the best course of action would be to get the hell off the island as quickly as possible. With the flies (no-see-ums) swarming around us we were packed up in record time and on the water before 7 o' clock. After a brief paddle over to Jost van Dyke, we paddled around the island a little way until we came to a rocky shore. We pulled up and stopped for breakfast. After the first dismal attempts at pancakes, I had just begun to get into the swing of things when it started raining, hard. We sat there miserably scratching bites in the cold rain, but were eventually able to get something vaguely pancake-like inside us.

Paddling on, we started our clockwise journey around Jost van Dyke. A couple of bays further we pulled into White Bay to pick up water and get drinks at the Soggy Dollar Bar. The restroom was furnished with the wonderful motto: "Here in this land of Sea and Sun, we don't flush for Number One." Relaxing outside, we applied cream to our itching bites, drunk our pineapple juices and played a game that involves swinging a suspended ring onto a hook. After that we were off again.

The landscape of Jost van Dyke got more impressive as we approached the western point, with towering cliffs gouged with deep gashes, surrounded by huge boulders. At the western point itself was a large colony of seabirds of many types, notably terns and pelicans. As we rounded the point we turned into the wind and waves and the going got tougher, with Zoë in the front of the tandem being particularly soaked by spray.

The north shore of the island did not disappoint, being completely uninhabited and featuring more spectacular scenery. The paddle along the north shore was fairly strenuous, but as we neared the eastern end we were rewarded by the sight of two dolphins, breaking the surface regularly about 10 yards away. Zoë got very excited about his.

Reaching the end of the island, we passed through the gap between Jost van Dyke and Little Jost van Dyke. We paddled over a reef, where the water was so shallow that larger boats cannot pass between the islands. Pulling into a promising-looking bay on Little Jost, we stopped for lunch. Unfortunately our rest point was a very uncomfortable tiny coral beach, littered with broken glass and rubbish, so our stop there was fairly brief.

We then paddled off towards Sandy Spit, and passed between it and Green Cay. After a quick toilet break in the sea we started on our long crossing towards Tortola. The crossing was long and featureless, and our progress as we fought the headwind was painfully slow. After paddling hard for about an hour and a half, we finally limped into the bay on the western side of Rough Point. Inspecting the site carefully for insects, we decided to stay the night.

After a snorkel around the reef in the bay we set up our hammocks. Zoë prepared a wholesome meal of couscous and vegetables, followed by a surprisingly successful attempt at a cheesecake. The sun set over the sea in a particularly impressive way, and we retired to our hammocks fairly exhausted, although I managed to bloody my toe on a pointy rock on the way.

Day 12 Sunday 26th August ZM

I cheerily woke everyone up at sunrise this morning, which they really appreciated. We had a leisurely breakfast before setting off when the sun reached our bay. We paddled along a couple of bays to Josiah's Bay where we stopped at a bar called The Grape Tree for a pineapple juice. Adrian and I couldn't resist a hotdog as we were hungry by 10am and it was a long time until lunch. We headed back into the scorching sun and after a quick frolic in the water we got onto our boats and attempted to surf at one of the BVI's premier surf spots, failed and gave up. We paddled back round the corner where we saw another turtle, stopped and tethered the boats so some rocks. I had a doze while the boys went and found jumping-off rocks and snorkelled.

We didn't stay long and soon we made the crossing over to Guana Island, so named because on one of the headlands there is a rock shaped like an iguana's head. We stopped on a small sandy beach for the statutory lunch. Adrian and I posed while Sam took photos. To the delightful melodies of Rocky Horror sung by the present cast we crossed over to Great Camanoe, where set up camp in the trees on a cliff. This gave the impression of having penthouse suites. Sam was a precariously long way in the air.

We went snorkelling and came across the most amazing shoal of fish. There must have been literally millions of fish, moving in an area 2m x 3m x 10m. They moved in waves keeping a set distance from the coral and us. We could swim through the middle and be surrounded by clouds of silver fish.

Day 13 Monday 27th August SM

The sheltered location of our camp meant that it was cool enough to stay in the hammocks until nearly 7.30am. When we eventually got up, we began the usual packing. The bay we were in was obviously a favourite fishing spot for the pelicans. They would climb to about 30 feet in the air before plummeting head first into the water. The noise they made was like a cross between a falling boulder and a dropped hunk of meat. After a breakfast of "Aunt Jemima's" pancakes, we set off south. Having rounded the bottom of Great Camanoe, we split up. Zoë and Adrian went straight to Trellis Bay while I paddled round to Marina Cay to get some fuel. On the way back I was surrounded by a flotilla of Sunsail boats showing how not to beat.

After getting back to Trellis Bay, and meeting up with all the others, we all showered, said "Hi" to Jeremy and sorted our kit out. Zoë and Adrian we down to the store to buy the remains of our food, lunch and postcards and stamps. We had a mammoth postcard writing session after which Adrian and I walked up to the airport to post them. Having chilled out for an hour or two, we loaded the boats and set off for the eastern end of Scrub Island. Landing was tricky across a shallow reef and the beach made of very sharp coral.

Adrian and I went for a snorkel while Zoë read her art book. The reef was very shallow and breaking waves meant that the snorkelling was more of a survival challenge than a sport. Having pitched the hammocks we had a fantastic supper of turkey curry and rice followed by an apple each. We then retired to bed.

Day 14 Tuesday 28th August AB

Having survived the most torrential downpour in the night, in which Zoë's mended hammock proved to be less than completely watertight, we awoke to find the wind still strong. After listening to the weather report we decided to postpone our crossing to Virgin Gorda until midday, so that the wind and swell would die down a bit. After our breakfast of pancakes, sat on the extremely uncomfortable coral beach, we retired to our hammocks and spent the rest of the morning reading and dozing under the baking sun. Before setting off we ate our lunch of crackers, cheese and chocolate chip cookies, and then set off for Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda. The crossing itself was unremarkable but hard work, paddling into the wind. Fortunately both wind and waves died down as we neared Virgin Gorda, and we arrived at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour at about 3 o'clock.

Tying our boats onto a dinghy jetty, we looked around the harbour shops and had drinks in the courtyard. We then filled up our water bottles in the freezing cold air-conditioned restrooms, bought supplies (chocolate pudding, powdered milk, honey, drinks and an onion) and had ice creams, which provided a welcome break from the oppressive heat.

By the time we left it was 4pm, so we paddled straight to Fallen Jerusalem without stopping at the Baths. We re-established ourselves in our familiar campsite. I set up the hammocks, looking for a new site for Zoë, avoiding rocks, while Sam and Zoë prepared a dinner of mashed potatoes and tomato pasta. Dinner was surprisingly good, and we sat up on the large rock eating our puddings as the sun went down. We retired to bed under the bright light of the moon.

Day 15 Wednesday 29th August ZM

Had another epic night. In the night there were very heavy rain showers. The first shower was valiantly combated by the hammock. The second and third were however not so successfully repelled. By the early hours of the morning I was sitting in a pool of water in my hammock. Adrian suffered similarly and when I had finally had enough shivering in my puddle he lent me his thermals, emptied my hammock and gave me a big hug. I curled back into my hammock and woke up to the sun.

For breakfast we had a pancake fest enhanced by the recently bought honey. We then went for a snorkel and the boys found something high to jump off. During breakfast we got visited by a crab that was literally red, yellow and blue. Having cooled down we set off sedately until we reached the edge of Fallen Jerusalem, where we hit the Atlantic swell. The boats went up 5ft. The boats went down 5ft, sliding down the waves in turquoise water. Having seen the size of the swell we altered course a little and headed towards the inside of Round Rock. Adrian and I managed to surf one of the waves. We paddled past Ginger Island and Carval Rock - which is supposed to look like a ship - to the far side of Cooper Island where there is a beach club. We stopped to do the usual: dump rubbish, use loos, get drinks, and stayed for the inevitable lunch. These were the best burgers we've had since we got here.

There were two cats in the restaurant, fairly typical of the few cats we have seen out here. They are very large and have features more like those of big cats, like panthers, than those of domestic cats.

We dozed and swam, took photos and bought some more water, and then headed off to Salt Island. To get near to the bay we wanted to camp in we had to cross a reef. Given the size of the reef and the pointyness of the reef, we were a bit reluctant to surf. However circumstances didn't leave us with much choice and we ended up surfing over the reef.

We paddled around what looked like a mangrove swamp until we came across a beach that Adrian described as "post-apocalyptic". The trees were all dead or twisted into unnatural forms. The beach was littered with the debris of civilisation. Anything that anyone could possibly have needed was on the beach.

Altogether we were unimpressed. Our impressions were not improved when the heavens opened and it started to rain torrentially. We dived into the sea for warmth, and Sam and I went to find hammock spots. We found a little grove of trees at one end of the beach that seemed to suffice, and I went and made dinner (macaroni cheese, but it had been spoiled by seawater and so was disgusting). We then had some debate on whether it was better to spend the night out in another tropical wave, or throw ourselves on the mercy of the beach club we had just left. We decided to sit it out as the weather on the horizon looked more promising. We curled up in our hammocks to see what the night would bring.

Day 16 Thursday 30th August SM

In the end the night brought 12hours of almost unbroken sleep. We had a light shower that was so gentle that Adrian didn't wake up, despite having no cover. We woke up shortly after dawn. The beach looked much nicer in the sun but it was still covered in debris. Adrian produced pancakes for us while Zoë and I loaded the boats. We left the shore at 8:30pm.

The swell and wind had subsided over night and it wasn't too hard to break back out through the surf. We turned west and headed along the shore of Salt Island. We stopped briefly at the old salt works so Adrian could see the pans before continuing west. The crossing to Dead Chest Island was done in a modest swell but with the wind behind us. A rock garden to its south produced a little concern but both boats found a way through. The island takes its name from a pirate tradition whereby a crew would be put on the island with a chest of gold, a cutlass, and a bottle of Rum each. After a set amount of time the survivors would be allowed to split the gold.

Passing Dead Chest, we paddled along the north shore of Peter Island until we reached the Peter Island Yacht club, a big resort. Having tied up the boats at the dinghy dock, we wandered in search of the bar. We were accosted by an over enthusiastic manager who directed us over the hill to the beach bar, where we each had a giant pineapple juice.

Fully sated we returned to the resort and used the washrooms. These were quite amazing, wood panelled with silver fittings, individual hand towels and complementary ear buds, and we felt quite unworthy. We filled up with fuel, bought some fuel and departed. Continuing westwards, lunch was taken in a small bay towards the end of Peter Island. We rounded the end and paddled about a mile back east before making the crossing to Norman Island, where we landed at about 2pm.

After about an hour of snorkelling we put hammocks up and chilled out until 4:45pm when we cooked a supper of chilli and mash followed by pears and honey and hot chocolate. We then returned to bed with Rum cocktails, just as the sun was setting.

Day 17 Friday 31st August AB

We awoke to the sound of pelicans squawking and the smell of pelicans' guano. We had our usual breakfast of Aunt Jemima's pancakes and decamped in no particular hurry, as we knew that we didn't have much paddling to do that day.

We set off up the side of Norman Island, and a couple of bays later we came across "Arcadia", a yacht that we had seen around before, so we decided to try and scrounge some water off them. The couple on board were very friendly and gave us a full gallon of drinking water. We tried to help them in return by offering them an o-ring from the MSR spares kit, as they need one for a diving tank, but unfortunately we didn't have any the right size.

Thanking them profusely, we continued paddling to the northern end. Coming around the corner we saw "Flying Cloud", a three-masted 90-foot sailing ship, so we paddled up for a closer look. Up close she looked rather battered but still majestic. The hull appeared to have several patches on it as if it had many disjointed metal plates hammered on. Unimpressed by the captain's failure to invite us on board for breakfast, we continued paddling.

Around the next headland from the bay in which Flying Cloud was moored, we arrived at the Treasure Caves. These are a group of sea caves deep enough to swim into, surrounded by a coral reef. Having tied onto the dinghy line we jumped into the water for some snorkelling, to find ourselves surrounded by organised snorkelling parties, complete with floats and life vests. While they explored the caves we waited outside and investigated the reef. The visibility in the water was quite good so we were to see the coral encrusted rock faces descending below us quite clearly. The caves themselves were fairly dark and lifeless and you could see even less under the water than above it.

Once we were getting wrinkly we got out and sat on the boats. Sam spotted a likely jumping off rock so the two of us swam over. I was able to clamber out, scale the rock face and jump off, but Sam spiked his foot on a sea urchin whist trying to get out of the water.

Back on the boats and hungry we paddled off to Pelican Island, where we found a secluded beach with some shade under a rock. We spent an hour or so chilling out under the rock and eating out lunch, today was the last of the manky crackers! Relaxed and fed, we paddled the short distance over to the Indians, a group of rocks protruding from the sea, on which an impressive coral reef grows. As we entered the water we were soon surrounded by a group of fish that proceeded to follow us around for the rest of our swim. The Indians are amazing, a must see experience and we all agreed that this was the best snorkelling of the trip. The rocks are covered with particularly interesting coral formations of different shapes and colours. Between them swim hundreds of fish, many if which we had encountered before, the largish rainbow coloured fish, the slightly yellow ones with black stripes, the blue fish with bright blue edges, the tiny dark blue fish with iridescent spots. Zoë and I also saw an eel darting between the coral. We swam around for almost and hour before, exhausted, we went back to the boats.

We then paddled lazily over to Peter Island where we found a small beach on which to camp. Unfortunately it had a fair number of the small black biting flies we had encountered at Sandy Cay, but we decided that we might as well stay put. Dinner was couscous and mixed vegetables with tuna and kidney beans, with oranges for dessert.

We headed off to our hammocks early where, with the covers over to keep off the flies and unable to get to sleep because of the heat, we played word games with the light of the full moon and flashes of distant lightning showing through our hammocks.

Day 18 Sat 1st September ZM

Anticipating a short day's paddle and having a lot of Aunt Jemima's left, we decided to have a pancake fest, whilst fighting off little black bugs. We made a fairly swift exit off the island in torrential rain and set off at a relaxed pace. We paddled around the end of Peter Island, hugging the coast for interest's sake. At one point we ran over some pillars of coral and piled up on the beach nearest to it. Sam & Adrian went for a snorkel whilst I finally finished the "Concepts in Contemporary Art" book that I was obliged to read. We continued paddling along the coastline to the Peter Island Resort where we had stopped a couple of days earlier. All the time we were paddling we could see rainstorms and hear thunder in the distance but managed to avoid most of the rain. At Peter Island we filled up the water bottles and went and used their luxurious restrooms, which are in themselves worth visiting the place for.

We wandered over to Deadman's Beach, having declined a ride in the hotel shuttle, and stopped in the bar. Adrian and I ordered smoothies, which were amazing and came with a huge chunk of melon in them. On the counter in the bar were crisps made out of different types of potato etc, which we partook in eagerly. We then sat down under a palm tree and ate our crackers and fig rolls. Having spent the rest of the morning and some of the afternoon sitting on the beach we set off reluctantly for Dead Chest Island. On our way out we met the people from the "Arcadia" again, but didn't talk for long. It took no time to reach the ominous looking Dead Chest, so called because Blackbeard, the pirate, used to leave men on the island with a keg of rum and a machete. He would come back some time later and those still alive would become part of his crew.

We arrived on the shore of Dead Chest, both Sam and Adrian complaining about having sore areas. Adrian proceeded to rectify this by stripping naked at the far end of the beach and wandering around. It was at this point that it started to rain hard and the black biting insects descended 'en masse'.

A very quick decision was made to leave the island. This was followed by a pack up and relaunch that the SAS would have been proud of. Having hit the water, cursed all flying, biting insects to hell and formulated plans for torching the island we set off on what would have been the next day's paddle to Trellis Bay.

This started with a long crossing from Dead Chest Island to Buck Island, but the winds were light and we were motivated by putting distance between us and the flies. We then crossed Fat Hogs Bay and headed for the gap between Tortola and Beef Island, at which point we took a wrong channel and ended up in water about 20cm deep in a mangrove swamp. This problem overcome we passed under the controversial new bridge and headed down the coast past the airport. By this stage we were getting more than a little tired and paddling was getting really very painful but we have all been marathon paddlers so we gritted our teeth and kept going. We pulled up on the beach in Trellis Bay exhausted but pleased with ourselves; we had paddled about 15 miles, nearly the whole length of the BVI.

Since Jeremy wasn't in, we lit the MSR in the porch and made some hot chocolate then walked down to the store for crisps and chocolate. Jeremy turned up in good spirits, having watched the England vs. Germany football game and proceeded to talk to Sam whilst I cooked a pasta dinner. We were too tired to take up Jeremy's offer of entertainment, seeing the night life of Tortola, and besides, the conversation was getting a little odd so we had and early night, which is what we needed after our long day.

I must just mention the crabs and lizards out here, as they seem to have been neglected so far. You can lie in your hammock and the ground underneath you is continually moving, as there are so many hermit crabs. They grow to sizes bigger than a fist and have most amazing ability to climb up vertical rocks with their heavy shells on their backs. There are similar numbers of lizards that scramble all over the ground and branches, eating ants and termites. They come in a number of colours and are fascinating to watch.

Day 19 Sunday 2nd September SM

We awoke in the relative comfort of Jeremy's back room on what was to be the last day of our paddling. The morning was spent unloading most of the boats having breakfast, emailing and sorting out the equipment.

At about 11, having made a good start at getting our stuff together, we made lunch and packed our snorkelling kit back into the boat and set off for a day trip. We didn't go far, about 1 1/2 miles around the corner of Scrub Island to the beach where we had landed for photos on the first day. Here we wallowed in the water, ate lunch, played beach ball and did all the things normal people do in the Caribbean. After 2 1/2 hours of being normal, we got back in the boats to go snorkelling.

The boats handled massively differently without 30kg of equipment on them; they were much more buoyant, passing over waves rather that through them. They were also much more affected by the wind. We paddled back towards Trellis Bay and then anchored them before putting on fins and a mask. The snorkelling wasn't great, with another shoal of fish obscuring most of it but Adrian and I both saw a 4-foot shark and we all saw a 6-foot fish that we couldn't identify.

After that we climbed back onto the boats and paddled to Marina Cay where we looked round the Pusser's store and had a drink. Adrian had his in a Pusser's mug that he got to take home. The music was dreadful, a kind of "Sea Shanties for the New Millennium" and after the particularly bad "Down in Soper's Hole", we left. As we were packing up we bumped into the girl we met on Day 9, who was still bored with her holiday and looking forward to going home.

Our last trip in the boats took us from Marina Cay back to Trellis Bay, where we hauled the boats up the beach, stripped them of all the remaining kit, the rigging lines and the back rests and returned them to the pile. All the kit went away in the shack and we spread our stuff out to dry.

We spent a few hours chilling out before Jeremy announced it was time to get a take out. However all the take out places were closed so we decided to go into Road Town. We were joined by a couple of guys from Puerto Rico, one of whom flies planes all over the Caribbean. They were in Tortola on a couple of days' break. We shut up the café to leave but Jeremy couldn't find the keys to the truck. After half an hour of fruitless searching we gave up, opened the café again and Jeremy cooked us a meal of chicken and rice. We spent the rest of the night drinking obscenely strong cocktails while Jeremy engaged us with tales from around the world.

At 10:30pm the guys from Puerto Rico ordered a cab to go to Bomba's full moon party but we were too tired. I returned to bed while Zoë and Adrian sorted out the finances with Jeremy.

Day 20 Monday 3rd September AB

As our last full day before leaving, today was a day for packing kit, shopping and relaxing. After a breakfast of toast (I also devoured the last of the Corn Flakes) the morning was spent packing up. Jeremy had gone out for the morning so we looked after the Cybercafé for him and sent out some final emails. The rest of the morning was spent reading out on the porch.

Once Jeremy was back, we bought ourselves a lunch of bread, Camembert, bananas and crisps, before ordering a taxi for Road Town. After a blast along the hilly highway, we arrived outside Pusser's Outpost to find that the taxi driver didn't have change for $50, so we ordered our drinks in Pusser's and took the taxi fare out of the change. Having necked our various non-alcoholic/extremely potent cocktails, we looked around the Pusser's company store for likely souvenirs and gifts.

Looking around the rest of Road Town we found no shortage of boutiques selling the tackiest rubbish imaginable. A quick stop in RiteWay revealed nothing of interest except that Pusser's rum was cheaper in the Pusser's store. We headed off to Barclays for money to pay Jeremy and buy stuff before going back to Pusser's to stock up on rum and jerk sauce.

Our shopping more or less complete, we looked around for places to have dinner, stopping for a drink and then went to sit down and chill out by the see side. Road Town is pretty much a functional town and does not cater much for tourists, as it has no main shopping area and a fairly undeveloped sea front, so we just picked a grassy lawn outside the government building and sat down. After watching the joggers go by and reminiscing (already) about our trip, we went to the Captain's Table again, where we had our final dinner. We all a very good three course meal, consisting variously of honey sting chicken, battered shrimp, cheesecake, a very rich chocolate cake and a key lime pie, all for a very reasonable $20 a head. We took a taxi back to Trellis Bay, where we found Jeremy watching a fairly dodgy rapping film. Fairly tired, as it was about 9pm and therefore well past our bedtime, we settled up our account with Jeremy and retired for our last night in the Caribbean.

Day 21 Tuesday 4th September ZM

Sam and I woke at dawn to see our last Caribbean sunrise. Adrian woke a little later. We did the last of the packing and tidying and went for a quick wallow in the sea. Having showered, we sat and waited for our taxi, which was due at 8:50am. The taxi arrived and we said "Goodbyes" to Jeremy. The taxi was fast and we sped up and down the hills of Tortola along the road to West End. After a short wait we boarded the ferry and sat for half an hour whilst it got ready to leave.

The ferry trip though the islands gave us a last glimpse of the islands we had paddled though and had been our home for three weeks. We pulled into Charlotte Amalie in St Thomas, passed through customs and caught a taxi to the airport. When we checked in the check in lady made us open the barrel to show her what was in it, which caused a short delay. We then had to recollect our checked bags and then take them through customs and check them in again, then pass through immigration and security. The flight from STT to JFK was dull and Adrian and I were separated from Sam.

We safely reached JFK and had only a little delay before we boarded our more luxurious flight home. The flight was as nice as the flight out but without the games. There were however complicated touch screens in the seats in the front that let you control your environment. The entertainment was good and we all caught up with some sleep on the way home.