The next morning we headed over to Cane Garden Bay to check out the Callwood Distillery. Although no one knows exactly how old the distillery is, the stone and brick architecture suggests that the distillery, which uses sugarcane instead of the traditional molasses, dates back to the mid 1700s.
We've tasted homemade hooch like this before on other islands, and if you have ever taken a sip of turpentine, then you have, too. And so we took the tour for the sole purpose of seeing the place and snapping some photos, and then we got the hell out of there before they could make us drink the stuff.
Still, you have to respect a place that has its priorities straight.
We had reservations around noon for the Pimm's Poolside Brunch at Bananakeet, which we expected to have Pimm's Cups and live music, but instead featured a rousing chorus of whooping children.
We tuned them out with a couple of Bananakeet Bombers, then moved onto an Irie Omelet for Angel and the pesto flatbread for me, which unexpectedly came with pepperoni on top and was therefore almost as nice a surprise as a miniature pink squirt gun.
After lunch we headed back down to Cane Garden Bay again, this time to visit the Green VI Glass Studio.
The glass studio is Green VI's first project in the BVIs, which is intended to promote recycling, sustainability, and other environmental issues. The glass studio therefore makes all of its gorgeous, handmade items from recycled beer bottles collected from a local restaurant, and soon it will begin using their leftover cooking oil for power.
The beer bottles are lovingly transformed by Greg, one of the resident glassblowers at Green VI, into dozens of works of art featuring sea turtles, palm trees, dolphins, and other motifs, all in a kaleidoscope of gorgeous colors that catch the light and sparkle in the sunshine.
You might think you'd have to be crazy to get anywhere near a glass furnace in the Caribbean heat, but blowing glass in Siberia isn't all that different from blowing glass in the tropics, since the area around the furnace will typically reach 110 °F or so no matter where it's located. (The temperature inside the oven hovers around 2,400 °F.)
Once the glass is sufficiently heated as to be pliable, the glassblower uses a variety of tools -- paddles, tweezers, shears, molds, and even, terrifyingly, balled-up newspapers -- to achieve the desired size and shape, and then sand can be added to provide depth of color.
The glassblowing process is truly fascinating, and it would have been even more fun to watch if I could have stopped thinking for even one second about what would happen if that blob of molten glass accidentally plopped onto Greg's bare leg.
The end result might just be worth it, though.
The director at Green VI, Charlotte, was a wealth of information, and after I purchased one of Greg's stunning suncatchers for myself -- a dreamy tropical swirl of vibrant green and turquoise -- she kindly gifted me a second one (which I reluctantly gave to my sister, but only after carefully stamping the back with my new stamper in case I changed my mind later).
Charlotte also explained that the gift bags are made from recycled clothing and fashioned into drawstring bags by a local woman who is 87 years old. Which makes sense, since anyone who gets to be 87 surely has decades' worth of old clothes lying around.
After the glass, it was time for some gas, grass, or ass.
At the Bomba Shack, that is.
Although it looks to be held together with nothing more than spit and glue, the Bomba Shack is actually reported to have sustained only minimal damage during Hurricane Earl in 2010.
Then again, who could tell?
Last time we were on Tortola we attended Bomba's infamous and crowded Full Moon Party, where someone offered to sell us some "magic mushrooms" out of their car trunk.
You know you have had too many Bomba Punches when your problem with that offer is not that those mushrooms could have been poisonous, but that they might not have been all that fresh, seeing as how they'd been sitting around in an airless trunk.
That evening we had reservations at The Clubhouse on Frenchman's Cay, which we remembered and liked from its days as Oscar's.
The setting here is lovely and, more importantly, the wine list is so large that it arrives in its own treasure chest.
I started with the local pork shu mai with a spicy tamarind dipping sauce, while Angel went with the grilled shrimp and black bean gateau layered with cilantro cream cheese and plantains. Nothing says fancy like using a French word in place of the English one, unless that something is real silverware.
As if all this luxury were not enough, Angel's fresh catch of the day -- local wahoo -- came with actual granola on top. I don't remember what it was made of or why it was there, but you can bet that the only place we saw any granola, savory or otherwise, on our last vacation was at home before we left for the airport.
I went with the Veal Poelle, which was pan-roasted, topped with a caramelized shallot jus, and accompanied by mashed potatoes that, like my meatloaf earlier this week, were served in a puff pastry crust. You know what doesn't taste better when wrapped in a puff pastry crust? Absolutely nothing.
I am not much of a dessert person, but one of the Clubhouse's offerings caught my eye: frozen key lime custard, which is really just gussied-up frozen key lime pie guts on a plate, and therefore one of my new favorite desserts of all time. Crust just takes up valuable stomach space, you know.
The next day we'd arranged to take a day sail on Aristocat, one of the catamarans based in Soper's Hole.
We'd done a similar trip on the Kuralu on our last visit and enjoyed it immensely, and the Aristocat was shaping up to be even better because their lunch menu includes hot dogs.
Yes, I know what hot dogs are made of. But when I was a kid, my mom bought me my very own at-home hot dog steamer, an ingenious little contraption that allowed you to gently boil the hot dog and steam the bun into pillowy softness at the same time. Since operation of that machine eventually came to represent the Lifetime Achievement Award in terms of my cooking skills, I have a soft spot for hot dogs, and when the occasion calls for one -- at a ball game, at an amusement park, on a day sail around the BVIs -- I will happily partake in a hot dog or three.
We had a nice, small group on this sail, consisting mostly of a few older couples, one woman who had clearly never set (a be-wedged) foot on a boat before, and a delightful family of six from Philadelphia. I am embarrassed to admit that I can remember the names of only three members of this family -- well, two, really, since one of them was a junior -- and will refer to them here as the Jeff Family. (The fact that we cannot remember their names has nothing to do with how much we enjoyed their company, and everything to do with how much we enjoy free rum punch.) Then again, they probably remember me as "that girl who wouldn't shut up about the hot dogs," so I guess we're even.
Soon we got under way, soaking up the sun and the invigorating salt spray.
Our first stop was at Sandy Spit, a classic desert island paradise about half an acre in size that looks like something out of a movie (and is in fact rumored to be the location of many of the Corona beer commercials).
As we got closer, the water changed from cobalt to turquoise to green, then back again as clouds swept past the sun.
We continued to lounge about in the sun and sip our rum punches for a bit, then eventually decided it was time to cool off.
On our last visit here, Angel and I snorkeled the reef, then swam ashore to take a look around. We'd taken about three steps on dry land before Angel cut his toe open on a sharp piece of coral.
This time around, we were hoping for better luck. And so Angel scuttled down the swim ladder and pulled on his brand-new, never-been-worn "travel" fins . . . at which point the ankle strap promptly snapped off and sank to the bottom of the ocean.
I think that was right around the time that Angel's mood fish burst into flames.
I should add here that the crew on the Aristocat, Gilbo and Emily, are young, good-humored, good-looking, have fabulous British accents and even more fabulous tans, and were willing to go above and beyond the call of duty, which included diving for Angel's missing ankle strap and reattaching it while we were taking a swim. If you are considering a day sail in the BVIs, you couldn't be in better hands.
Next up, we pulled into a protected area near Diamond Cay to wait out a brief rain shower and do a little more snorkeling.
Here we spotted a few sea turtles and stingrays, indulged in a few rum punches, and had such an engrossing chat with the Jeff Family that for a minute there, we thought we'd missed lunch. Like I was going to let that happen . . . again.
Why don't I have any photos of the hot dogs, you ask? Because I don't have three hands, that's why.
Our final stop of the day was at White Bay. Angel was skeptical when I told him I planned to jump off the boat instead of using the swim ladder (I'm known for freak accidents, not feats of daring), but liquid courage is a marvelous thing, so Angel grabbed the camera in order to capture the proof. Knowing I was being photographed, I leapt into the air with what I hoped was uncharacteristic grace . . . but was instead a spot-on imitation of that frog NASA accidentally blew up during a rocket launch a few months back.
The hour at White Bay passed quickly -- we had just enough time to enjoy a round of Painkillers, walk down to One Love Bar & Grill and catch Reuben Chinnery's last song of the day, and pick up a few CDs, before it was time to swim for the boat . . . with the CDs in hand. Suffice it to say that while Angel is good at many things, swimming against the current with one arm held above his head while everyone on the boat "waves" back at him is not one of them.
Is there anything better than the end of the day on a boat? Everyone is suntanned, wind-whipped, slightly buzzed, and wrapped up in their fluffy towels, and the gentle rocking motion of the boat lulls everyone into a sleepy haze, smiles lingering on their salty lips as the sun begins to slowly melt into the horizon.
Or it could have just been all those hot dogs.
Next up, we're taking an "A to Z" tour of the Hamptons, and then it's ten days of friends, food, wine, and hangovers in northern California. Click here to subscribe and you'll be the first to know when it all goes, um, sideways.