Saturday, December 6, 2008

British Virgin Islands - first day of charter

(above): This is a map of our sailing grounds over the coming week, I'll be using this map to highlight our routes as the week progresses. I'll be using blue to indicate 'sailing' and red to indicate 'motoring' and purple to indicate 'motor sailing'.

We rose bright and early with the alarm clock at 7 am (along with every other poor fool at this marina), to be ready for our boat orientation, which we mistakenly thought would be at 8 (he got there at 9, Winston again). We went through all the systems, and I got to ask my questions about things I didn't quite understand.

We mentioned the anchor light, and deck light which we discovered weren't working the night before, but forgot to do anything about it when he left. So at around 10 am, we went into the office and asked about the faulty lights, and they sent a crew down to take a look.

It was very entertaining watching the young fellow in the bosun's chair being hauled up to the top of the mast to change a few lightbulbs, something I'm sure lies in our future, but not anything we are in a hurry to do (sort of like colonoscopies). We didn't want a repeat of our first charter in Traverse City, with trying to haul a emergency light to the top of the mast. We didn't expect it, but they also sent someone down to fix the nav station bench, which was missing a hinge. We went back to the trusty Rite Way supermarket and got a few more sandwiches for lunch, and sat and listened to the interesting barely understandable local dialog (something about the antichrist and implanted microchips).

(map right): Our route on our first day, Road Town Harbor on Tortola to Pelican Island, then on to Norman Island for the night.

Finally left the dock around noon, and managed to only slightly scrape across the piling on our way out. Motoring out of Roade Harbor in Tortola went without incident, and once we passed the designated bouys we raised both sails and headed south for Peter Island on a beam reach. Beautiful but cloudy weather and a steady breeze took us across Sir Francis Drake Channel in about an hour, hour and a half, and we found ourselves at an Island group called Pelican Island (and the Indians), which is a small rocky island, plus a quartet of large jagged rocks off the west. Supposedly good snorkeling here. Our first challenge: pick up a mooring ball. There were about 5 or 6 boats already tied up at this area (day mooring only, part of the National Park System), and we saw a few that we might give a try capturing.

(photo above): Approaching 'The Indians' to the west of Pelican Island for our ill fated 'first mooring ball'.

We picked the hardest one for our first mooring ball attempt. The float was no longer floating, and instead was a de facto anchor wrapped around the lower part of the mooring cable. We tried about 4 times with Tim at the wheel and Terri at the hook, and on our first pass, the hook broke in two and started floating away. Terri actually grabbed the ball the first time, but couldn't hold on to it for the weight, so we tried sending Terri out on a dinghy expedition, where she toured the rest of the anchorage, unable to either start the engine or put oars in their slots (they were broken and not workable). I eventually came around and picked her up before she floated off to Africa, and flagged down a helpful group of Brits to rescue our floating hook remnant. We tried a few more times with Terri trying to lasso the ball western style, but Tim couldn't seem to get close enough to the ball to make this work, so we switched positions and tried a number of other passes with Tim as the wrangler (where Tim admitted that yep, this isn't easy). You can imagine how tempers were doing at this point. We still hadn't gotten our hook back yet from the snorkeling dudes, when Tim finally managed to snag the ball with his makeshift sliding knot. At this point we got some mixed signals with the boat direction, and Terri ended up reversing us full thrust as Tim frantically tried to not lose the ball he so hard fought to win (which ended up tightening the knot to a point where I couldn't untie it from beneath the ball). The British came to rescue, with a knot loosening tool, and returned our hook, and we took another mooring line and secured the ball in the correct manner. We had no intention of snorkeling now. I think we used up our alloted 90 minutes of time at the ball just in tying up to the ball. Tim eventually got the engine on the dinghy going (very much like trying to start the chainsaw), and we took a short impromptu jaunt to Pelican Island to beachcomb, forgetting the camera in our haste. We found lots of cool shells, including a fair to middling Queen Conch shell (not storeroom quality, but damnit, it was hard fought for). Getting dark and rainy at this point, around 4, so we decided to head over to Norman Island to find an anchorage.

Our original plan was to try and anchor, but with the gusting winds, I'm glad we chickened out and picked up another mooring ball. First try this time with Terri at the hook. Beautiful spot, but kind of crowded and a little noisy. We may try snorkeling for real tomorrow (supposed to be some caves around the point).

Snug as a bug in the rug here in the harbor, and actually have internet (we aren't even all that close to shore).

(photo above) The anchorage at Norman Island, taken the next morning on our 'wilderness hike'.

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