Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tales from a small Island

Gibraltar Magazine wanted a short article comparing both Gibraltar and the BVI. It got published on 1st May. Below is the full version of the text.

Mention the Caribbean to almost anyone and immediately images of white beaches, coconut palms and cocktails at sunset come to mind. Who would not want to live there for six months of the year and on top of that get paid for it. That's what I got offered and experienced as a secondment to the BVI became a rare opportunity which needed to be taken advantage of.

Financial services regulation is a very small world in itself. Add to that the complexities and intricacies of small jurisdictions and the world becomes even smaller. When you experience such a narrow field of vision it is amazing how similar a jurisdiction like the BVI and Gibraltar actually are and how we both face the same challenges and issues.

For a start the financial services community in the BVI is a very important part of the social scene. Whereas we might spend Friday evenings at Corks in Irish Town the BVI spends it at the Dove on the Main Street (yes even that is shared between us). Same faces week in, week out. The occasional newbie makes an appearance and is soon overwhelmed by the amount of lawyers in this place (nothing different to Gib!). Perhaps the only marked difference is that it is February, you are standing in a outside terrace and perspiring in your shorts, flip flops and wrinkled t-shirt and these drinks are in US$. The business lunch scene is no different from Gibraltar, same faces, different clients rotating around a select number of restaurants.

We thought we had the highest number of lawyers per capita but somehow the BVI overshadows us. Every other person you meet is linked to a law firm. Most of the work here revolves around litigation or insolvency work dealing with one of the hundreds of thousands of BVI companies (BVI being the largest offshore centre for company incorporations having an estimated 40% of the world's market). Other lawyers do some form of financial services work or another.

Amongst the throngs of cruise ship passengers in their gawdy t-shirts (some barely dressed) souvenir hunting on the Main Street are trust companies, insurance managers and professional fund managers feeding an ever increasing demand for financial services. The hustle and bustle of the midday rush-hour in Road Town soon turns into a sleepy town once the sun goes down as the island is left to breathe and recover for another day's onslaught. An overnight shower washes away the heat of the day and prepares Nature's Little Secret for its next working day.

A day in which the jurisdiction faces the same challenges that we do. Financial Action Task Force evaluation just completed, an upcoming IMF review, concerns by the Financial Stability Forum as to offshore centres and the same issues I had just left behind in Gibraltar. A report gets published on Finance Centres and the BVI is listed just behind Gibraltar.

Meet new people and there will always be a Gibraltar connection somewhere along the line. People here are amazed how I can complete the surname when they have only given me their contact's first name and line of business. Regulators are all seeing, or Gibraltar is even smaller than the BVI.

For a place of such outstanding natural beauty looking after the environment does appear to feature high amongst the residents of the island. Large 4X4s (or SUVs are they are called in this part of the world), Hummers and 4.0 Litre Jags are the flavour of the day. When you consider the fuel consumption rates of these vehicles going up some very steep hills for most of the day it makes you wonder. I have still to see a solar energy panel.

It is not surprising that you need a car for almost anything here. Once the sun makes it over the horizon it gets too warm to even attempt the smallest of walks so the car is the defacto mode of transport, public transport being non-existent. And all this happens with air conditioners set at Arctic conditions, whilst still leaving doors and windows open.

As you drive into work there are frequent stops as people gesture to one another about arranging a for lunch, promise to give them a phone call etc. All the stuff one would do when walking down Main Street in Gib but here it is done by car. Unfortunately there is no equivalent to the Irish Town route when you don't want to meet that many people.

Weekends provide an opportunity to escape to one of the many gorgeous beaches which stand deserted. The water is a balmy 26C and the locals think it's still too cold.... it is not until it gets to 30C that people think it is nice enough to spend the day at the beach. They should try bathing at Camp Bay in our summer when 18C is a warm sea.

Weekends not spent on the beach are spent diving either at one of the wreck sites or the many reefs. Turtles, sharks and every colour imaginable that could appear on a fish is there waiting to be discovered amongst corrals and deep blue clear water. If there is something that the BVI is well known for it is sailing. Prevailing winds, coastal waterways and a fleet selection that makes any sailor's mouth water is just to tempting to resist.

The politics are very similar. Both jurisdictions facing similar issues (albeit the BVI does not have a sovereignty claim). The local newspapers cover similar stories and crime here reads much like it does back home. Schools get burgled, the occassional traffic accident (too few if you ask me), the stabbing here and there. One major difference being that gun crime is high for such a small place.

So it is the start of another working week. Time to don a long sleeve shirt and tie, polish off those shoes and make it back into the office for another day in paradise.

Monday, April 28, 2008

My friends the Geckos

In my fight against the insects around the house I have employed an army of geckos. Unfortunately these buggers are not very big so they are having a limited impact. These little geckos can be found everywhere around the apartment, I don't mind them as they are supposed to feed themselves on insects.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


One thing definitely not on the BVI Tourist brochure is the issue with bugs on the island. Things like grasshoppers and the like, even cockroaches you half expect. However last night was like a horror movie.

It has started to warm up quite a bit on the island and substantial rain has become a bit infrequent. Last night, after a balmy day it begun to pour down and by this I mean monsoon conditions non-stop. I was not going out last night so was quite happy looking over my dive photos, checking up on facebook and otherwise keeping myself entertained when I happen to glance at the window. The apartment has a lot of windows but they all have mesh to keep the mosquitoes out.

To my horror the entire windows were covered with flying insects, a swarm of them. Asking around today I was not the only one affected. It seems that the whole of the East End seemed to have been affected by what some people call flying ants and other termites. They don't look like any ants I've seen before so I am putting it down to termites.

This morning I had to get out and sweep the terrace as it was a carpet of wings that have fallen of these creatures. It was surreal! Don't know what happens to the body... there were only wings.

It's my birthday!

Hey just to let you know that today it's my birthday! Celebrating with two great dives and tonight going out to dinner with some friends. It's been some time since I celebrate my birthday away from home and never by myself so it is kind of strange!

Tonight I went out with friends to Peter Island Resort for what one of them called a "sophisticated dinner". It was quite posh! Food was great even though we were not sat down at our table until an hour after our booking! To get there you take a 30 min ferry across the channel and the resort is very nice. Dinner was excellent and the waitress managed to get us served by the time the 10:00pm ferry back to Road Town was to leave. Coming back was a bit spectacular as we sat up top and there was enough lightning to keep us entertained for the journey.

Anyway on the way to the ferry we came across a "Coquí" Frog who seemed to take a liking to my birthday card where it stayed until I put him down.

Nice end to a great day.

Green Turtle

I've waited long to get a couple of shots like these of my favorite sea creature, the turtle. I originally posted this one as a Hawksbill but after some debate locally we came to the conclusion that it is a Green Sea Turtle, I bow to a greater authority!


These prehistoric looking fish just sit there during the daytime but don't be fooled they are about 5ft long! 

Southern Stingray

Was lucky enough to see two of these today!  Don't get many chances to see these so was very happy when they turned up.  They must have known it was my birthday!

Sea Horse

This elusive creature was finally spotted.  Loads of dives on this reef and have been unable to see it until today.  Apparently there are another two on another part of the reef, still need to find those!


This poor Heron did to seem to be very fit. It decided to rest on our boat and did not seem to want to leave. Was looking rather tiered and weak.

More dive shots

Just some more photos from today's dive.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Spotted Eagle Ray

Eagle rays (the Myliobatidae family of fish) are a family of mostly large rays living in the open ocean rather than at the bottom of the sea. Eagle rays feed on snails, mussels and crustaceans, crushing their shells with their extremely hard teeth. They are excellent swimmers and are able to jump several metres above the surface.

The spotted eagle ray, Aetobatus narinari, also known as the bonnet ray or maylan, belongs to this genus. It is a very beautiful ray, bearing numerous white spots on its inky blue body. It has a span width of 2.5 m (8 ft) and a maximum reported weight of 230 kg. Including the tail, it can reach up to 5 m (16 ft) in length. The spotted eagle ray is distributed in the tropical areas of all oceans, including the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Source Wikipedia

This beautiful creature gets a post on the blog just to herself. She was graceful and appeared from no where. It just glides effortlessly in the water.

RMS Rhone

One of the best known dive sites on the BVI. The Rhone is a must see wreck. It is really exciting as you can swim through bits of the ship without it being confined etc.

You can tell how big the ship really is just be looking at the size of the propeller against one of the divers.

History of RMS Rhone.

Built in England by Millwall Iron Works in 1865, she was part of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company which provided services between England, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Iron-hulled, 310 feet long, powered by both sail and steam, she was a fine vessel–but her promising career was cut short. On October 19,1867 she was one of about 75 vessels damaged or lost in a hurricane so violent that people talked about it for decades afterward. The storm caught her at anchor while transferring cargo to another ship, Conway, near St. Thomas in the (then) Danish Virgin Islands. The two vessels survived the first onslaught of wind and sea, but during a lull–possibly created when the eye of the hurricane passed overhead–they raised anchor and made a mad dash for the open sea. Conway got underway immediately, escaping the brunt of the hurricane’s renewed force, yet she still suffered moderate damage, losing her funnel and some rigging. Rhone was not so fortunate. Struck by strong winds and heavy seas just before gaining the open sea, she was driven onto a reef near Salt Island, and holed. Seawater flooded the engine room, the boilers burst, and she went to the bottom in pieces. Only 23 of the original 147 passengers and crew survived.

Dive photos of fish

Barracuda under a ledge

A pair of Puffer fish

Grouper hiding amongst other fish

Peacock or flowery flounder

Agitated trunk fish.. see its flourescent colour given off when I began to chase it.

School of Horse Eye Jacks

Puffer fish

Horse Eye Jacks

Parrot fish

Yellow tail snapper

I am afraid that there are some more boring shots of fish!

Bit of everything here

Thursday, April 24, 2008

C&F Souvenir Shop

There is one souvenir shop in town that you must visit when in the BVI and this is found at the back of the C&F Restaurant.  Anyways, tonight the waitress kept looking at me when I got in.  Then she walks up to me and says "Did you live in Virgin Gorda?" I replied no I only got the BVI in January and have only visited VG for a weekend... she scrunches her face and then says to me.. "You are spitting image of man who gone missing in Gorda last year, presumed dead!" and then walks away.
Me dink me need new image!  So me get to grow de dreadlocks to look local man!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Advanced Open Water Certified

Hooray!  Got my Advanced Open Water Certification today!