|BVI Vacation, January 2007|
Prolog, and Wednesday, Jan 10, Road Town, Tortola
We decided that we wanted to go back to the British Virgin Islands, and in the summer of 2006, we drafted Butch and Lynn Florey to join us on a vacation. Butch owns the Tradewinds Sailing School and he often takes members of his school on exotic vacations. We joined him and 60 of his members to Greece (see our trip to Greece) in September 2004. Butch had been talking about going on a "real vacation" and the idea of the four of us just taking it easy in the easiest charter sailing area in the world sounded good to him.
So, on January 9, 2007, Mike and Kelli packed up, kissed the kitties goodbye, and headed to the Caribbean. We stayed overnight at the airport Red Roof Inn in Miami between the San Francisco-Miami leg and the Miami-San Juan, Puerto Rico leg. We've discovered that if we keep the connection time between legs less than 24 hours, the airline treats it as a "regular" connection and there are no airline fees associated with the stopover. Doing it this way, we break up long travel trips with an easy overnight - an opportunity for a nice rest stop, dinner and shower. We do it this way enroute to the Caribbean so that we can arrive at our destination at a reasonable time during daylight hours. Otherwise the flights always seem to get us to our destination island at night. Especially when we are taking out a boat on charter, it's best to arrive with plenty of time during the day to get to the boat, figure out the marina, deal with the charter outfit, and so on, during business hours.
A funny aside story: We had dinner at the Bennigan's Restaurant next to the Red Roof Inn. When we walked in we noticed that the employees were just standing around. We were told that the restaurant's computer system was down and they couldn't take meal orders. So much for having an old-fashioned paper dinner ticket backup system. Well the bar was open and they could take orders. Shortly after we sat down, a manager walked over and said that he could take our order. :-)
Wednesday morning we arose at 3:15 a.m. to get to our flight gate at 5:25 a.m.
Butch and Lynn chose to take a red-eye that night and just make a connection through Miami to San Juan. We met them at the Miami airport Wednesday morning at 5:50 a.m. Their flight arrived a bit late, so they had to hustle to the connecting gate. Miami airport is not the most user-friendly for making connections - it can be a loooooonnnnnnnngggggggggg walk! But make it they did, and though a bit bleary eyed, they were gung-ho for 12 days, 11 nights on a sailboat on a real vacation.
After a two-hour layover in San Juan, the gateway to the Caribbean for American Airlines, the four of us enjoyed the short 50-minute flight on a Super ATR turboprop (60 seats) to Tortola. In all, a painless trip with scattered clouds, but smooth air. All luggage arrived, we had all the right paperwork with us, and Moorings was waiting for us at the aiport. Well, mostly -- they had the correct date for our charter but the wrong date for our taxi transfer to the marina. Odd, since they had us arrivng at the airport a day after our charter started. Sort of the way things work in "island think." But there was plenty of room on the jitney for us, and they took us to the marina--a twenty-minute ride.
We arrived at the Moorings base about 2:30 p.m. and checked in at the desk. Our charter began at 6:00 p.m. so we had a few hours to kill. Naturally, we went to the bar to relax.
At 4:00 p.m. we all attended the captains' briefing. It was rather cursory, but it is necessary to get the local "rules". After the 45-minute briefing, we went to checkin on our boat since it was ready early. Butch did all the paperwork, and then we walked the fifty paces to our boat, S/V Perseverance, a Moorings 403. The boat has 3 berths - a forward pullman berth and two quarter berths. Butch and Lynn chose the forward pullman, and we took the port quarter. Having the extra berth for stowage was a great luxury that we enjoyed the whole trip!
We got our boat checkout from a dockhand. He found out that we own a 40' Beneteau and Butch owns a sailing school, so the checkout was brief. After settling in, shortly after dark we struck out in search of dinner. The recommendation from the dock crew was to dinghy across the bay to the Village Cay Marina and walk to one of several restaurants on the west side of the bay.
So we struck out in the dark. Not very difficult with all the lights from the shore and other boats. We walked a few blocks to Pusser's Pub (as in Pusser's Rum) and had drinks and dinner. A very low-key spot, with ok food. Over dinner we discussed where to go on Thursday, and decided on heading across the Sir Francis Drake Channel to Norman Island.
After dinner, it was a hike back to the dinghy dock, and the brief trip back to our boat. We relaxed and chatted awhile (tasks we did a lot on the trip.) Butch and Lynn broke out their card game called Phase 10, a game not unlike gin rummy. Mike joined them for a game while Kelli hit the showers at the marina. Lynn won the first game of Phase 10 of the trip. Then it was lights out after a long day.
Day 2 - Thursday, Jan 11, The Bight, Norman Island
The crew all got up between 7:30 and 8:00. Butch and Lynn went up to the Moorings hotel restaurant for breakfast. Mike and Kelli stayed aboard and made coffee. Then came provisioning. Moorings provided free transportation to and from a market. Our driver was Alberto.
We filled two shopping carts of critical items such as wine, beer, bagels, paper towels, and a few healthy items--net about $400. Lynn went for a haircut while the rest of us went back to the boat. Kelli and Mike stowed the provisions while Butch tracked down an ocean kayak, extra ice and towels, and other last minute items.
Butch also got a technician to come and repair a tear in the ship's jib sail.
When we all converged on the boat about noon, we fired up and Butch prepared to motor us out. We had to untie the loops on forward pilings. Our boat lay stern-to with no side piers. Concrete pilings separated the slips, and our bow lines were under the lines of the boats on either side, so we decided to untie the bowlines at the pilings as we prepared to go. That meant pulling the boat over to each one. It was awkward. We decided it would have been better to just motor forward until the pilings were on the beam to make it easier. Oh well, our seamanship improved after the undocking!
We headed out of Road Harbor and hoisted the sails.
We found 15 kt winds in Sir Francis Drake Channel, and sailed all the way to The Indians (all of 5 nm, 40 minutes) off Norman Island.
^^^^^ The Indians
For our first, albeit short, sail, conditions were perfect. The sails on Perseverance were tired, but with the strong breeze, the boat moved along at 7-8 kts. At least that's what the speed log read. It is most likely that charter boats' speed logs are incorrigible liars. But the boat did move right along. With just small chop, the ride was refreshing.
We tied up on a day mooring ball at The Indians. This is a terrific snorkel spot, and Butch, Lynn and Kelli snorkeled. Kelli tried out her new camera with its fancy underwater case. It actually takes decent pix underwater. The case doesn't leak, so the exercise was successful.
After an hour and a half, we motored around the point into The Bight and picked up a mooring ball on the north side. Time: 3 p.m.
We shut down and had a late lunch in the cockpit. A local vendor came by in a dinghy selling T-shirts, baseball caps, and so on. Butch needed a cap, so he bought one for $10.
After relaxing and chatting until twilight, we jumped in the dinghy and headed over to the Willie T for cocktails. The flashlight helped us avoid mooring buoys. The anchorage filled about 1/2 full. The Willie T was relatively quiet but it got more raucous later. After a round, back in the dinghy and motor over to the Pirate's Bight restaurant on the beach for dinner. That place was "just ok" - a bit pricey for the quality of food. But the conversation was great and we enjoyed our first night out from Tortola.
Back to the boat by 9:30 for another round of cards. Kelli joined the game this evening, and thus the Boys vs. Girls tournament was on. Mike won this time, so the score evened up at Boys 1, Girls 1. Lights out by midnight. A terrific first day of the cruise!
Butch declared, "It can't get any better than this!"
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