It took more than ten years to make this trip happen, but finally Mark and I are here in the British Virgin Islands sailing around for a week, along with three of our New Zealand friends. Today is the last day on the catamaran and it’s time to sum up a few life lessons.
First of all, grabbing the mooring ball is not the easy task it appears to be. Every one of us tried it and every one of us screwed up at least once. If we did it right the Kiwis would give us an “Achieved,” but if not it was a “Not Achieved,” and we got a lot of grief.
Second, apparently when you are on a boat, things fall overboard if you don’t tie them down. We are getting better at remembering that.
Third, even though we are all seasoned drinkers, we still are able to get properly pissed and hung over just like the younger whippersnappers! Willy T’s is a floating bar in the middle of the cove off Norman Island, and on Day 2 we headed over there after a delicious dinner on board. Willy T’s isn’t the classy joint the name connotes, and in fact encouraged women to take off their tops by displaying TVs with photos of others who had. (Don’t worry, we didn’t). I wish I could tell you what happened over there, but for some reason I can’t remember a thing. The next day no one even made it up on deck until mid-morning and we were all moving very slowly. After coffee and breakfast Captain Shane wanted to know if we were finally ready to let out the sails and turn off the motor. Rob had been itching to get the sails up, and here was his chance. Unfortunately, none of us were at our best. Mark, Rob and Matt assisted with the sails and Erica did some steering (all I could do was nap on the deck). Rob was green for most of the ride and Mark ended up chumming for fish once we finally arrived. It was a bit ugly, but we made it.
Fourth lesson, this is the life! We felt like the rich and famous as we cruised up to each mooring, hopped over for drinks or shopping on an island, and then lounged luxuriously on the spacious, comfy trampoline over the hulls. We kept saying things like “Who do we think we are?” and “Is this for real?”
Here are some of the highlights:
First night’s dinner under the stars at Waterlemon Cay in St. John
Swimming and snorkeling at the Indians and the Caves at Norman Island
Indiana Jones-ing around the Baths and Devil’s Bay at Salt Island
Matty’s action-filled birthday! It started at 7am when we set sail for the 25 mile crossing from Anegada (most of which I slept through). Then we jumped off the boat for a healthy 600m swim to Sandy Cay and a short hike around the island.
Then we made a quick sail to White’s Bay where he proceeded to swim straight to the bar and order two Soggy Dollars, which would have been quite clever if that was actually a name of a drink rather than the name of the bar, although he did pay with the notorious soggy dollars from his pocket. This bar happened to be the home of the Painkiller, one of our favorite drinks of the islands. In fact, Erica had three in that one sitting alone!
Matty then kayaked around Great Bay before we went ashore for dinner. We had a fantastic meal of conch fritters, pizza, tuna, and scallops at Corsair’s.
Finally we ended the night at Foxy’s in the early morning hours dancing to reggae music (along with one of our new local friends and his 30-year-old dreads), drinking copious amounts of alcohol, and crashing one of our neighboring boat’s party.
Actually, there’s a bit more to that night than we actually shared with our Captain. Around 1am Erica and I were ready to head back to the boat, and I thought I could cleverly “borrow” the dinghy and get us back there on our own. So I jumped in and miraculously figured out how to get it started. I yelled to Erica to jump in, but the practical woman she is, she said first show her I knew how to drive in a circle, then she would get in. It was a wise test, and I failed. I must have flooded the engine because all of a sudden it wouldn’t go. Luckily I was still in shallow water so I jumped out and dragged the dinghy back to the dock with my hands. We headed back to the bar (I was sopping wet) hoping none was the wiser. An hour later when we all stumbled back to the dinghy, we were giggling and praying that the captain wouldn’t notice. He did comment that someone must have been “messing” with the line, and we braced for it, but then the dinghy started right up and we all kept quiet!
Another highlight was the 15 mile sail to Anegada in 25-30 knot winds cruising at an average speed of 9 knots on a beam reach (I actually slept through the sail, but Erica tells me she steered for the whole trip) and then a 3 mile run on the white sandy road to the windward side of the island and lunch at Cow Wreck, which was completely empty due to the difficulty of sail that only our crew could manage.
Swimming at Turtle Cove with our new best friends, the turtles (Rob and Matty got a bit intimate with them, as a matter of fact)
Fantastic snorkel at the Cow and the Calf rocks where we saw an eagle ray, an eel, a turtle, an intimidating barracuda and then a bull shark!
Endless inside jokes, including “eat an onion Mate”, me setting world sleeping records while at sea, deciphering between which of our tour mates was the “bloke” of the relationship, that the sheep-shaggers refer to us Yanks as Seppos (Is there any surprise that Kiwis refer to Americans as “Septic Tank Yanks” or “Seppos”?). However, we know that Kiwis come from a land where men are men and sheep are nervous.
As for the six of us, I thought we made a great crew with very compatible interests and personalities. Captain Shane was always calm even when our sailing skills didn’t impress him, and he was a patient teacher and excellent guide. Erica’s sweet smiling face was a pleasure to wake up to every morning, and she looked after all of us like the mother she is.
We also were impressed to see her get more comfortable in the water, and I’ll always remember watching her dive down to the wreck below. Mark as usual was the all-around sportsman and I think everyone enjoyed watching his many exertions, and then later seeing him match them with the number of beers each night.
Matt’s even, mellow attitude kept us all calm and collected (and was a great balance to my Type-A personality), and we all relied on him for important information like the name of a song from 1962 or what year a certain country got its independence.
And then there’s Rob. He could have his own reality show I think. His subtle humor had us all in stitches most of the time, and as I sit here I can still picture him shaking his head as he watches another sailor going by muttering something like, “That fella tacked a bit early, didn’t he, Cap?”
As for me, I have to say that in all my travels, this might be one of the best trips yet. Michaela is a happy, happy girl!