It has been written that individuals are just a bunch of memories captured in a body. As we sailed through North Sound and Drake’s Anchorage past Virgin Gordo just before dawn this January, my mind was flooded with memories of our many trips to the British Virgin Islands in the 1970s and early 1980s. Like everywhere, there have been changes, but it is still a magical place.
A new cruise ship pier at Road Town, Tortola, the capital of the Islands, was dedicated in February 2016. But Road Town’s population is still only about 17,000, and the whole island has only about 24,000 people.
Dutch settlers called the island “Ter Tholen” after an island in the Netherlands and it was corrupted to Tortola, Spanish for turtle, after the British took control.
Tortola is the largest of 60 islands that make up the British Virgin Islands. All are volcanic except Anagada which is flat coral. Because it is low, it is hard to see, and the reef has many shipwrecks.
Tortola once had sugar plantations, but then fishing became the main source of income. Now tourism is the largest industry. There is very little farming, but one still sees the ubiquitous Caribbean chickens and goats.
There have been improvements over the last five decades. Where water on Tortola was once drawn from wells, and cisterns collected rainwater, now desalinization supplements the cisterns.
Air conditioning is often an after-thought. People catch the tropical breezes through open shutters and jalousie windows which also protect from showers. Many houses have balconies.
We drove towards the highest point on the island, Sage National Park at 1715 feet. On the way, we passed Cane Garden Bay mentioned in Jimmy Buffet’s song Mañana.
We had many good memories of the B.V.I., and now we have more.
Click on photos to enlarge.