My 70th day in Cane Garden Bay

Sunday afternoon. Cane Garden Bay.

Sunday afternoon. Cane Garden Bay.

Some call Cane Garden Bay “paradise on earth”, I don’t disagree. It is however, a real place. It’s not just a postcard perfect beach. The bay is filled with an interesting and diverse group of families and individuals all trying to carve themselves a piece of the economy that exists on these islands. Boat sales, rental apartments, catering, bars, yacht charters, coconuts, fishing, insurance, investments and tourism. Take your pick?
One local islander, “Foxy” Callwood was recently honored by the British Empire and awarded the title of “Member of the order of the British Empire”. Celebrations took place on the neighboring island of Jost Van Dyke where Foxy has a famous island bar and restaurant. Lets just say, not everyone’s as cool as Foxy.
Jost Van Dyke, St. John and Virgin Gorda (The Fat Virgin), are just two of the larger islands in this chain. On the southern side of Tortola across the Sir Francis Drake Channel are a long list of islands that have all forced themselves up out of the Caribbean Sea. In time I hope to see them all.
Rogues Bay, aka Lava Flow. Tortola, BVI

Rogues Bay, aka Lava Flow. Tortola, BVI


Last week I rented a Suzuki Jimmy, and with some locals went to see one of the last stretches of Tortolan coastline to have access roads created. In the north east, Trunk Bay and Lava Flow have recently been opened up. Hiking only access has been replaced with graded 4×4 roads that lead almost all the way to the sand.
Deceptive. It may not look steep, but it's not possible to drive up this track in 2WD.

Deceptive. It may not look steep, but it's not possible to drive up this track in 2WD.

Being more exposed to the wind and tides of the Atlantic, Trunk, Rogue’s and Josiah’s bay’s are buffeted with swell that rolls in and crashes constantly on azure and white. Trunk bay is particularly blessed with a forest of white barked trees that greet it’s perfectly straight sands with not a rock in sight. After spending 10 minutes at Trunk bay it was so inviting that we had to take a dip. “Ace” the Rastafarian beach warden from Cane Garden Bay said it was the first time he had swum in 3 years! Sea birds streaked out of the sky and pierced the water next to us as they dove for fish. Truly an amazing beach.
Trunk Bay, the lava flow and Rogue's Point as seen from Myall Point. Tortola

Trunk Bay, the lava flow and Rogue Point as seen from Myall Point. Tortola


I’ve been trying my hand at fishing. So far I’ve only managed to catch small sand snapper which I released immediately. I’m hoping to catch bigger fish that I can eat. Yellow Tail, Mahi-Mahi, Bass and Barracuda are mentioned by locals. I’ve seen a school of large sleek silver fish pass through the bay. I am not sure what type they were but they looked tasty! On two occasions 3 foot long Barracuda have cruised past me whilst I was fishing off the dock. I cast a lure past one’s nose and the other I tried to tempt with some squid. I think live bait is what’s required to coax them to bite.
The Pelicans have much more luck than I do when it comes to fishing!

The Pelicans have much more luck than I do when it comes to fishing!


One of the unexpected benefits of living on an island and being away from large cities has been the wildlife. The different types of birds I’ve seen has been incredible. From land scavenging prehistoric looking things that come out at dusk, to weathered, wise brown and gray gulls that stare at you as they glide past. The birds here are amazing. The able ones dive from staggering heights straight down into schools of fish and shoot back up out of the water with their catch in their beaks. From Steele Point we saw a flock of birds follow and attack a school of bait fish for ten minutes. I’m waiting for my chance to throw a line in where the birds are fishing. Maybe I’ll have more luck.
Lizards mating on the screen of my kitchen window.

Lizards mating on the screen of my kitchen window.


Besides the birds and the fish, there are massive land crabs that come out at night and scavenge for coconuts and an amazing array of multicolored lizards. I’ve also seen turtles poke their heads up out of the water whilst fishing. There’s a dolphin park here where you can see around 8 captive dolphins (poor things) and of course there are numerous dogs and cats around the bay.
The view of the dingy dock from the balcony of my apartment.

The view of the dingy dock from the balcony of my apartment.


My apartment is perched up on a rocky rise looking down into the water of Cane Garden Bay. The view is partly obscured by trees however the water is visible through the foliage and you can see the long curving bay off to the west. The balcony is great for morning or evening relaxation and is best when there’s a breeze. I just wish someone would cut the trees back a little to reveal more of the view.
The view west from the balcony.

The view west from the balcony.

I am told that the apartment was previously a dive shop that’s been converted. It gets quite hot by mid afternoon but has good air conditioning so the heat hasn’t been much of an issue.
The view east from the balcony.

The view east from the balcony.


70 days into my experiment of living on a tropical island I have mainly positive things to say. In particular the environment and the wildlife is amazing. The only problem to mention has been with the locals. I’ve had a bit of a run in with a local guy who I thought I could trust. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and let him hang out at my place one night and have a few beers. I woke to find my iPhone missing. Subsequently, one night at a bar I confronted him about it. Another local woman stood up for him, and in their eyes, I was the problem. How a thief can consider his victim to be the problem is beyond me. I get the feeling that this small community is not used to having someone stick around for longer than a few weeks. It’s also such a small community that you can’t avoid running into people you may not get along with.
I’ve asked for some advice from a local business owner as to whether or not I should report the theft to the police. The advice I got was “definitely”. I respect the advice, but I am not so sure that I want to start creating enemies and involving the police. So at this point I have let it slide and I’m trying to put it behind me.
I am going to leave this topic at that. Many of the people in the bay have been great. Most are just looking out for their best interests and are genuine, friendly and helpful. A friendly English guy who has been living here for years gave me some good advice the other day. His advice was “Choose your friends wisely”. I think that advice holds true anywhere, especially in small communities like this. I’ve decided if I was to stay here for a long period of time, I would definitely get a place up a hill with a view and not situated right on such a popular beach with all the human traffic. Although at that point, I would definitely need to get a car.

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Living on Tortola, Cane Garden Bay

The view from Mount Sage 530 metres (1,700 ft) - NNW with Sandy Quay and Jost Van Dyke in the distance.

The view from Mount Sage, 530 meters (1,700 ft) high - NNW with Sandy Quay and Jost Van Dyke in the distance.


I recently decided to make a drastic change to my life and move to a tropical island. I figured It would be interesting to perform an experiment and see if the popular dream of living on a tropical island is really all that it’s cracked up to be. I was previously living with my wife in Sao Paulo, Brasil. I have occasionally wondered if I would prefer living in a more secluded, tranquil and tropical environment, rather than in large cities.
I considered a number of locations, however I have been looking at the British Virgin Islands (BVI) for some time now and it seemed a good choice for the experiment. English is the official language in the BVI which was also a deciding factor. I arrived in Cane Garden Bay, Tortola on 3rd May 2009. I have been living in the various accommodations available around the bay since then.
Another shot of Sandy Quay from Sage Mountain.

Another shot of Sandy Quay from Sage Mountain.


I’ve been working as a programmer and technologist for many years now. For the last 3 years I have been working remotely from various countries. The main challenges have been operating in different languages, time zones and cultures. This blog entry and the others to follow are a log of my experiences maintaining a job in London whilst living on Tortola in the BVI’s.
Cane Garden Bay as seen from Sage Mountain.

Cane Garden Bay as seen from Sage Mountain.


My stay in Cane Garden Bay has been very interesting so far. The experiment has been somewhat successful, however it has been challenging in many ways. Some of the biggest challenges have been the Islands population (23,908), isolated location and its terrain.
The islands’ location provides the first set of challenges. The cost of food and accommodation is high. This is most likely contributed to by the small population as there just isn’t the demand for goods and services to drive prices down. This and the predominant tourist trade conspire to keep prices high. The second issue that has arisen is mail. I have had two items sent to me from London. One arrived after 20 days (air mail) and the other has not arrived at all, and it’s been over a month now.
The terrain on Tortola is challenging. It has extremely steep mountains, hills and guts that run the length of the island. Although this makes moving about the island a challenge, it also gives the island its character. Providing stunning mountain views of pristine beaches and sheltered bays around every corner. The road that runs from Road Town, the largest city in the BVI’s to Cane Garden Bay is not feasible on foot, the steep inclines, switchbacks and descents make having a car, 4×4, hitchhiking or using a taxi mandatory.
One of the many switchback corners on Tortola

One of the many switchback corners on Tortola


The many guts that lead down the mountain sides to the ocean form small rivers and streams that often pool in depressions, leading to a healthy mosquito population. In fact, the mosquito population is so healthy that an almost constant coating of insect repellent is needed. For some, the mosquito’s don’t seem to be too much of an issue but they seem to be attracted to me. As a result I have had bites on my body constantly. In the hot climate I often sleep in shorts. It’s hard to keep repellent topped up when you’re asleep! I have been unable to buy a mosquito net on the island.
Getting supplies of food for cooking and general domestic needs has also been a challenge. There is a small supermarket called Bobby’s in Cane Garden Bay which has most things, however a trip into Road Town is often needed to buy things like olive oil, mushrooms, ginger, pasta, spices and the like. It is normal to walk to the supermarket only to find that a particular item you need is not in stock. A flexible menu or a trip over the mountain to another supermarket is often required.
The view of Little Thatch Island from Steele Point

The view of Little Thatch Island from Steele Point


As compensation, leisure time in Cane Garden bay has been very relaxing. I spend my afternoons on the beach swimming, kayaking or lounging on one of the many deck chairs or hammocks.
There is a friendly local crowd in Cane Garden Bay and a healthy live music scene. Most evenings you will find some great music to listen to in one of the bars along the beach.
Day trips by car on weekends have proven to be a real adventure with some 4×4 only spots on the island adding some driving challenges. Smuggler’s cove, Long Bay and Josiah’s bay are spectacular beaches that particularly need mentioning.
Smuggler's Cove

Smuggler's Cove


Long Bay - Tortola

Long Bay - Tortola


Josiah's Beach

Josiah's Beach

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Phantom Keystroker V2

Phantom Keystroker V2This annoying little gadget will generate phantom keystrokes on the unfortunate PC it’s connected to. It will send random keystrokes, turn on caps lock or randomly move the mouse. You can also adjust the frequency of the random annoyances. Hilarious joke to play on someone? Or absolutely juvenile fun? Why would someone waste their time producing a gadget like this. Profit? A fun little practical joker gadget regardless

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Annoy-a-tron 2.0!

“The Annoy-a-tron is a tiny device that plays annoying sounds at random intervals, perfect for hiding in your targets office. While the original would just play one annoying sound, the 2.0 version has five different sounds, allowing you to specifically choose your form of torment. The sounds are:

-15kHz (Mosquito tone) (full volume)
-Cricket chirping (medium/low volume)
-IM Doorbell (low volume)
-Grating Electronic noise (full volume)
-Typical Electronic Beep (medium volume)”

Original gizmodo article.

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Who really owns facebook?

I was recently asked why I stopped using facebook. The reason I closed my account is because I got sick of people poking me all the time and being attacked by zombies etc.. what a waste of time. The other reason is, I looked into who actually owns facebook besides it’s brain child Mark Zuckerberg. For example, who has supplied funding and who owns a piece of the company. This Article at tribes provides some good information on the people who have bought a piece of facebook.

There are also privacy concerns and identity theft issues with social networking sites that I find a little un-nearving. However, I have a profile on linkedin so I guess I am open to some of these concerns as well.

The facebook song:

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Stop asking me to build you a website!

Now you can build them yourself. Webnode is a new free website creation tool. It got a silver medal at the 2008 French Le-Web awards recently.

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Mental ‘Body-Swapping’

“This shows how easy it is to change the brain’s perception of the physical self. By manipulating sensory impressions, it’s possible to fool the self not only out of its body but into other bodies, too,”

This Washington Post article describes how Swedish scientists have created the illusion of body-swapping.

Here is the origional published article If I Were You: Perceptual Illusion of Body Swapping in PLoS One.

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