Nobody Mentioned Rain (2002)

Welcome to Maya Cove/Hodges Creek — everything you could possibly need!

Friday, January 18, 2002

I’m working on excellent conch fritters, salad, and a Carib at the charter base restaurant when Anna turns up. Arriving a day early for the charter gives you a chance to get acclimated to de islands. I’ve already checked out the dive shop and the grocery store, and bought a towel at the gift shop. We adjourn to the pool next to the bar for a couple hours. Around 3 p.m. we inquire and learn that our boat, Gaiamente, is ready for us – three hours early. That’s a good sign!

Gaiament (no “e” on the transom, contrary to the office’s pronunciation) has sail covers the same color as Bright Star’s. That seems like a good sign too. She’s enormous, with dual helms and an immense sweep of glistening white deck. I tell Anna that yesterday during one of my interminable flights I imagined this moment – exploring the boat for the first time – to distract myself. Below, the two aft cabins have larger beds than the v-berth, but storage is at a premium everywhere.

Lisa called in sick!

Anna spends the rest of the afternoon unpacking and sorting her personal gear. I spend it receiving and stowing our provisions (with which Anna helps). How strange to do this myself, no hectic rush. Although there doesn’t seem like much storage space, the provisions disappear into it easily. Maybe we’ll go hungry!

During one visit to the office, I’m handed a message to call Lisa Smith in New York. She’s ill and won’t be able to join us until Monday. I call her and confirm that although she’s had a nasty virus, her doctor has given her the okay and she’s already re-booked her flights. Her main request is that we don’t go to the Baths without her. Since we were planning on going there on Sunday, this requires rearranging our planned itinerary.

Around 5:30 we’re thinking of going up for a shower and bite to eat when one of the workers turns up to tell us there will be a chart briefing at 6 p.m.

I take a gin and tonic and my journal and pen. I’m the only one, of at least three captains and a bunch of crew, who takes notes. But I’ve learned that the sun bakes the useful details out of my brain by the end of the week if I don’t.

It’s not hard to work out a revised itinerary that will put us at the Baths at the end of the trip. Lisa will miss Trellis Bay and Cane Garden Bay instead.

A mooring for the night instead of anchoring: Priceless.

Lisa T.

On our way back to the boat we hear Lisa T. call to us from the bar. She found the boat based on my fish flag flying on the stern, stowed, and came for a beer. We review our new itinerary with her and she’s got no complaints. “What matters here is that there are moorings everywhere. It’s like that commercial: a mooring for the night instead of anchoring: Priceless.”

Saturday, January 19, 2002

Poor sleeping here, with several squalls and lots of boat creaks and groans. Over morning coffee, Dave, who arrived around 10 p.m., observes, “Nobody mentioned rain when I signed on.”

Receipt for the use of a priceless mooring at Marina Cay

Mid morning an employee comes by and asks how the air conditioning was last night. Yes, the boat has central air, but I couldn’t figure out how to turn it on. And since the engine probably has to be on, I wouldn’t use it.

We spend the morning picking snorkels, getting ice, exchanging a few provisions, and waiting for the boat checkout so we can leave.

Lisa T. says it feels like we’re running behind, but we decide it’s just that there’s no frenzy. “On past trips everything was a production,” she says. “There are no productions on this trip.”

We dub it the “no production” trip.

Freestanding windscoops. Cool!

Lisa has volunteered to be the purser. She’s the image of organization with an envelope for the money and receipts and a calculator. She collects $75 from each of us. This will cover the cost of those priceless moorings, as well as ice and other incidentals along the way.

I ask more than once about our checkout. Finally Glasgow, who seems to be the dock boss, comes aboard grumbling that as he can’t find any of his guys to do it, so he’ll have to try. Clearly he doesn’t know this specific boat. But then, it’s only three months old, how many quirks can it have?

He addresses our specific questions, shows us how to use the generator to power the outlets into which you plug the toaster, hairdryer, and blender. The generator also powers the AC. We review stove usage, bilge pumps, water tanks, engine. Up on deck, we prevail upon him to show us how to set up the elaborate wind scoops. I suspect he thinks this is a poor use of his valuable time, but we know we can figure out what line does what, it’s this strange new gear that we need to understand. We do test the windlass and the dinghy motor, ask what RPMs to charge the fridge and for how long, etc. The wind scoops are strange because they’re self-supporting – you don’t have to tie them to anything and they stand upright and don’t blow away. Very cool.

Gaiament at rest.

Glasgow disappears and we’re alone on the dock, not an employee in sight. Lisa and I watch a boat coming through the zig-zag channel. I decide we’re taking the dock lines, having received no instructions. Dave takes the bow, Lisa the stern. We uncleat the spring line, and I put it in gear. We’re away.

I take it slowly through the shallow channel, which is marked with several buoys. Once outside Lisa tells me to look back so we know where we’re going at the end of the week. Good advice! The hill behind the base is cut with a zig-zag road that matches the channel. The base building roofs are bright red. Good landmarks.

We realize that we forgot to fix a confusion of lines related to the sail cover while still at the dock. Lisa climbs up the two steps on the mast and clings to it while working the knots out. Ten minutes from the dock and Lisa has her first bruises.

Raising the main turns out to be a huge production, as the lazy jacks keep catching the battens. The six jack lines, which keep the sail on the boom when you drop it, are tied to the fixed sail cover. Someone would have to untie and loosen each one, then tighten and retie them. And they’re located about six feet above the deck with nothing to stand on.

At last the main is up and we unroll the jib. The sails are so new they still have factory creases in them.

It’s a short sail around Buck and Beef Islands and into Trellis Bay. But our crew is tired from travel and getting used to the boat, so we figure it’s just as well.

In a pattern that will be typical all week, Trellis Bay is already crowded. But we find a mooring near Bellamy Cay, securing it on the first try.

The lure of the Last Resort isn’t strong enough. Rather than go ashore we bake snapper fillets with broccoli and rice.

The weather stays dry until 1 a.m., then again until around dawn.

Sunday, January 20, 2002

The morning sun dries our decks. Dave observes that “nobody mentioned rain” when he signed on for the trip.

Lisa, Dave, and I are all proficient at making coffee. I remember trips when only a few people were allowed to use the stove – one of Lisa’s “productions”). Dave has taken on the job of morning cooler refresher, moving drinks from storage to the fridge and from the fridge to the cockpit cooler. My post-breakfast chore is sloshing a few buckets of seawater around the cockpit. Lisa tends to tend to the dinghy.

Fishing Pelican through a wet lens
Big-eyed trunk fish

We hang around Trellis bay until Anouk turns up with her plastic bangles, followed by Aragorn with his T-shirts. Shopping completed by mid-morning, we slip the mooring and motor up through the Camanoe and Guana passages. We come about at the tip of Guana Island: Monkey Point.

There are two boats at anchor in this protected little bay. We pick up one of the two national park moorings. The snorkeling is as good as promised in the chart briefing. Lisa T. sees a small shark, while I spot an angel and an enormous trunk fish with big, round eyes. Dave is distracted by the fans below the boat until we make him come over to the shallower rocky reef. There are dozens of parrot fish and a huge school of minnow that the pelicans are fishing for.

Shy angel

While we swim then have lunch about a dozen more boats arrive anchoring all around. Popular spot!

Turning on the engine we hear a clicking sound, although it seems to be running fine. We trace the sound to what looks like a solenoid in the battery switch compartment under Lisa’s bunk. We kill the engine and sail.

The Callwood rum distillery. Really. They make rum here.

The wind and swells grow near the end of Tortola.We gybe and run down the coast past Brewer’s Bay to Cane Garden Bay. The engine starts, but clicks. We ignore it. We look for a mooring, but they’re all taken. It’s only 4 p.m.

Anchoring is easy and the noise stops when the engine is in neutral, so we can charge the fridge.

Cane Garden Bay is home to numerous tire swings.

A few raindrops fall as we set out to dinghy ashore. We hesitate, but decide to make a run for it. We’re drenched in a downpour just before we reach the dinghy dock. Laughing and dripping we abandon the trash in the dinghy and run into Quitos, the first bar. A round of painkillers dries us out, Dave observing: “Nobody mentioned rain.” Anna comes with e to the pay phone while Lisa and Dave continue the pub crawl.

The phone promptly eats 75 cents, so I give up and go back to the beach. We don’t see Lisa and Dave in the next couple bars. Maybe they went back for the trash. We decide to go to the distillery. On the way we find another phone that works and I arrange a rendezvous with a Sunsail mechanic for the morning.

When the tires are too much, we resort to hammocks.

The distillery is locked up, so we return to the beach and find a tire swing. The famous one outside of Stanley’s Welcome Bar blew down a few years ago, but as we walk up the beach it becomes evident that tire swings have become the symbol of Cane Garden – every establishment has at least one.

We give up looking for Lisa and Dave and stopped for a drink at Rhymers. We we’re about done when Dave and Lisa come walking along the beach.

“What part of ‘pub crawl’ do you not understand?” Dave asks, observing that we’d skipped a few bars. He and Lisa havebhit each one and it shows. When Anna and I didn’t turn up, Lisa assured Dave that “these things happen. You are prepared to swim back to the boat, aren’t you?”

Together we move on to Stanley’s for a final round that nearly does us in. Dave meets his first bushwhacker, a fancy concoction that he immediately adopts as his signature drink.

We’re an amusing and amused bunch grilling chicken for dinner.

Monday, January 21, 2002

We wake up to another pre-dawn shower. Since we have to wait for the mechanic, we make a bacon and egg breakfast.

Lisa S. is due to arrive today, and we plan to rendezvous in Little Harbour on Jost Van Dyke. We don’t have to go far, but we want to get there early enough to get a mooring.

Dave takes his turn at the helm.

The mechanic tries to convince us that the clicking is “normal” as the second alternator needs high RPMs to kick in. If you run at medium RPMs the solenoid keeps trying to fire, but can’t. Rev it up, or bring it down, and it stops. Lisa and I exchange a glance. I’m thinking, it isn’t good for the solenoid to keep firing – it’ll wear out. But it isn’t my boat.

Fish opts for a secure seat in the cockpit

Lisa is thinking much the same. Seeing our expression, or just realizing how bad he sounds, the mechanic goes below and tinkers some more. He returns a bit later and shows that the sound has stopped. For all I know he simply disabled the second alternator. (Indeed, in retrospect, the battery levels seemed to stay a little lower after that than they had at the start of the week).

Before leaving Cane Garden bay we all go ashore for a distillery visit and shopping expedition. We return laden with ice, rum, and a few knick knacks.

We run under jib to Jost, bypassing Sandy Cay. We’re chased by an ugly squall, so we stop at the sunny little island just to weather it out. It’s early afternoon when we run into Little Harbour. We get our choice of moorings.

Lisa settles in quick!
A morning rainbow — you know what makes those!

I’ve just rigged the hammock when a ferry chugs in. It goes first to Abes on the east side of the bay. Dave and Anna watch it through binoculars, but don’t see a blondes get off. Then the ferry heads across the bay and, as I say, “I’ll bet Lisa has paid them to bring her to us,” one of the remaining passengers on the ferry starts to wave.

Lisa T. and Dave dinghy over to Sydney’s dock to pick Lisa S. up. She says she’d spotted us because of the good old fish flag on the backstay.

A united crew at last!

Dinner is lobster at Harris’s place followed by a little shopping at Sidney’s. After an afternoon of rum drinks and the rich dinner, it’s a rough night. Wind gusts swung us all around, and a few showers keep the hatches closed.

Lisa T. and I compare notes – we have not yet switched from the first 200 liter water tank. Lisa S. observes: “Mia wants to require everyone to get crew cuts before the next trip, to save water.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

We cast off into a grey, wet morning and reach under jib toward Tortola.

There’s a grey wall marching westward toward us. We tighten the sheets and race for the channel between Tortola and Great Thatch. It catches us a quarter mile off and soaks us (with a chorus of “nobody mentioned rain”), but doesn’t bring too much more wind. We are considering tacking away to wait it out when visibility improves ahead of us and we can see our way into the cut.

Once through, with the sky clearing, we roll up the jib to motor to windward against a strong current.

Dave is at home in the water
Colorful coral in the caves at Treasure Point.

Clear of West End and Little Thatch, we re-deploy the jib and set off for the coast of St. John. Lisa T. and I are satisfied with our speed, between 7 and 8 knots, without raising the troublesome main. In three long tacks we get on a rhumb line for The Bight. As we approach a bright red mooring materializes right in front of one of the caves.

We pick it up and Dave is in the water almost before we’ve stopped. The caves are especially populated with fish. Schools of sergeant majors and yellowtail swarm the boat looking for handouts. Parrots, wrasses, squirrels, trunks . . . and lots of lovely coral and plants.

Back on board it’s decided that the roast beef is good for one last lunch, so sandwiches and potato salad are served. After lunch we motor around the point and find dozens of free moorings in The Bight. I remember from the briefing that the orange ones cost $25 and the white ones are $20, because they’re owned by different restaurants. We take a white one.

Anna marinates beef kabobs and Lisa T. makes zucchini marinara for dinner. We pass a quiet evening hunting for the big dipper.

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

We watch several boats slip their moorings in the early morning and wonder what they knew that we don’t. When we finally set out we see it – a line of dense clouds on the eastern horizon.

The Indians in grim weather.

We find a mooring at the Indians, but the sky is so dark snorkeling is unappealing. We wait, trying to hear a weather report on the radio. The clouds fill the sky and drench us. We hide below (“Nobody mentioned rain.”). The radio talks of a North Atlantic high causing partly cloudy conditions and occasional drenching rain. Partly cloudy?

Windjammers dog our tacks all week.

Finally hints of sky show to the east. We’re starting to feel stir-crazy in the rolling boat, so we decide to forgo snorkeling at the Indians and move on to Peter Island.

We beat up to Tortola and back, racing a windjammer. We check out Great Harbour on Peter island, but there are no moorings and we don’t like the cruising guide’s description of fishing nets in the bay. We go over to Little Harbour, but it’s crowded with anchored boats.

We make at last for Sprat Bay, home of Peter Island Resort. The cruising guide mentions three moorings and slips. It’s tiny on the chart. Approaching it in real life it doesn’t look any bigger. Motoring in, worried that there will not be room to turn around and go back out, we see one free mooring. I can’t come at it from downwind, though. There simply isn’t enough water between it and the rocky shore. I motor up to it, watching the depth gauge constantly. This is a challenge, as the throttle is mounted beside the port wheel, while all the instruments are mounted on the far side of the starboard wheel. Dave and Lisa get the mooring line with the boathook, but before they can cleat it the bow swings away and they have to drop it.

De Mailboat Mon? No, but a pretty rough looking workboat at the Peter Island Resort

Momentum carries us past the mooring and I reverse hard to avoid colliding with the next boat in. I turn around and watch the floating mooring line start to disappear under our stern – wrapping around the prop. I ram the throttle into neutral, shouting to Lisa that it’s caught, gauging the distance to the rocky shore toward which our bow is starting to swing, and glance back down at the mooring ball snubbed against the stern. This is every sailor’s nightmare. Will there be time for someone to go into the water and free it before we founder on the shore? Do we have a line long enough to run upwind and secure to something?

Then a miracle, the line starts to slide back out from under the boat, unwinding from the prop. It’s kinked, having been untwisted a bit in the process, but the loop on the end looks sound.

If I was a cat, I just used up a life.

When we’re clear I drive us around and make a second run at the ball. They hook the line and the bow starts to swing away. The boathook, caught in one of the new kinks in the line, slips from Dave and Lisa’s grasp. The guys on the next boat get in their dinghy and retrieve the hook. Lisa gets in our dinghy to get the line and hand it up to Dave.

This approach seems to work, except that once again the bow swings to fast for Dave to secure the line. Lisa doesn’t realize this and heads back toward the stern in the dinghy. As if rescuing imbeciles, the guys from the other boat pick up the line. I horse the boat back around at a slightly more upwind angle, all the while trying not to run over Lisa in our dinghy. Our neighbors hand the mooring line to Dave, who finally secures it.

This experience does not inspire confidence. Lisa and I put on masks and swim around the area where we’ll be swinging. The depth gauge says the bottom is six inches below the keel. Fortunately, the transducer is mounted a couple feet below the waterline. Patrolling the area, looking under the keel, and checking out the underpinnings of the mooring, I grow more comfortable. But not completely. We put one of our own lines through the ring on the mooring, securing it on the other bow cleat.

After a drink and a rest, Lisa, Anna, and I decide to go ashore to pay the mooring fee and see what the resort looks like. The mooring is $35, $15 above average. Lisa S. and I leave Anna in the boutique and walk to the beach bar. We find a gang of rowdy folks sucking down rum drinks in a beautiful bar that’s on the verge of closing. In her inimitable way, Lisa S. befriends a man in the group who convinces the staff to make up a big jug of the local drink and leave it with them. This is quickly accomplished (as the staff wants to leave). Lisa and I are handed cups of the stuff – somewhere between a painkiller and a planter’s punch. What’s a girl to do?

An hour later the jug is still half full, but we’ve had more than enough.

The rest of the crowd – a group of sales people from Colorado – wander away to shower and prepare for happy hour (!). We talk for a short while with the boss, who turns out to be a lot more sober than he acted in front of his people. He founded the surgical supply company and sold it to Tycho three years ago for something like $350 million. He’s about to retire at 45. So that’s how you get to Peter Island Resort, if not by charter yacht.

We wander back to the dock with our refilled cups. I observe that I wouldn’t blame Anna at all for taking the dinghy back to the boat. But she’s on the dock waiting for us, having tried in vain to find the beach bar. I guess these things require a certain type of radar.

Back on Gaiament, Dave and Lisa have dinner ready. They’ve done their share of imbibing from ship’s stores, and are not particularly peeved at our truancy. But the nachos are very spicy – a sort of revenge that doesn’t bother me at all. Sheltering from the wind and showers below, we all eat hungrily, hoping the chips will absorb some of the rum in our bellies. Once I finish my bar drink I switch to water and swig a lot of it. After dinner we get into the small bottle of high-test white rum from Cane Garden Bay. I think it tastes like banana flavored gasoline, but Dave happily mixes it with Coke. This numbs him to the annoyance of rainwater dripping down the mast through the boot. Nobody mentioned rain.

Around 10:30 we hear a gentle thump on the hull. “Hummm.” I think. Before turning in for the night I pick up my flashlight and climb outside to look around. Lisa did the same before turning in about an hour earlier.

Up on the bow I see that our safety line is taught while the mooring line is hanging straight down the side of the boat. I pull on it – maybe I should tighten it to even them up. With another gentle thump on the hull the line keeps coming up until the big, heavy shackle that is supposed to be on the ring on the mooring ball is in my hand.

Not attached to the ball holding the boat.

In my hand.

Intact, wired closed, corroded enough that you couldn’t unscrew it if you wanted to. Which means . . . I aim my flashlight at the ring on the mooring, but can’t see anything wrong with it. I’m faced with one of those magician’s puzzles: seemingly solid rings are unlinked before my eyes. The last vestiges of rum in my system are replaced by adrenaline. I bundle up the mooring line and carry it back into the cabin.

“Guys?” I say, coming down the ladder. “We’ve got a problem.”

Dave and Anna, in the main salon, look puzzled at the shackle on the line in my hand. They recognize the line, of course, but don’t understand the meaning of the intact shackle. I lean into the port berth and wake Lisa T., who is sound asleep.

“Lisa, we’ve got a problem.”

“Okay, let me use the head,” she says, squirming out from beside Lisa S.

The rest of us go back to the bow and inspect the ring again. It seems whole, but maybe there’s a gap below our line. Or maybe that’s the shadow of the line. Hard to tell. I return to the cockpit and start the engine. I’ll have maybe 30 seconds to put it in gear and motor forward if the mooring fails, before we founder in the shallows just behind us.

Fully awake now, Lisa T. examines the shackle and, I’m sure, experiences that same shot of adrenaline that I’d had. Still in her pajamas, she gets in the dinghy to get a closer look at the mooring.

“The ring is broken here at the weld,” she says. With the light at her angle we can all see the wide gap in the ring.

“Can we pass a line through a fitting on the underside of the ball?” I ask. Hanging over the bow of the dinghy, Lisa plunged her hands and my dive light into the water. After a few seconds she says she can do that.

We get another line, and the job is done fairly quickly. We’re secure, but I still don’t feel good. Neither does Lisa. Maybe we damaged the ring on the mooring when the line wound around the prop. But maybe not, and maybe the rest of the ground tackle is equally unsound.

Back before sunset I’d seen empty slips over on the docks. Lisa observes that it didn’t occur to her during our first mooring fiasco that we could just go into one of them instead. I look from the suspect mooring to the solid docks and back.

“Let’s see if there’s a spot we can move to,” I say. Lisa tries to start the dinghy motor. She can’t pull the cord. My stomach wrenches. Can we just drop the mooring and motor over there with our fingers crossed? I can see that there’s some room on the end behind a cat, but we’d stick out. What’s wrong with the reliable dinghy engine? Suddenly it roars to life.

“It was in gear,” Lisa shouts, and my heart sinks. I left it in gear. A sure sign of drunken dinghy driving.

We watch Lisa putter across the small harbour, meeting up briefly with the guys from the next boat, also out in their dinghy at 11 p.m. (but that’s their story, I guess). Obviously thinking we were incompetent, they ask if they can help. She explains our situation and that we’re considering moving into a slip. Without hesitation, and loud enough for Dave on the bow of Gaiament to hear, the say “Do it!”

So we do.

First Lisa has to undo our second line from under the ball, which turns out to be much harder than putting it on. Meanwhile I locate those extra dock lines that we hadn’t looked for before starting out. We rig them at bow and stern and put out the fenders. We don’t know which side to rig, although I suspect it will be easiest to end up against a finger on the port side, based on the wind.

Once the second line is off, Lisa comes back aboard. Dave and Anna drop our first line from the ball and I drive us forward – at least there’s no line on the mooring to foul as I skim past it this time.

We take the first open slip and use far more dock lines than are necessary. Folks from another boat wander over to ask if we’re okay. “We are now,” we say. The mooring line is loosely coiled on our bow.

Thursday, January 24, 2002

I take it to the him on our way to breakfast. I quietly explain that we had a safety line on it, otherwise we’d be “on the rocks” – he finishes the sentence for me, looking grim. “I have guys inspect all the moorings . . .” he mutters. After breakfast in the lovely waterside restaurant we work our way through water refills, ice, garbage disposal, showers, and land head. We still haven’t switched water tanks, but Lisa and I have decided they must all be linked. Still, after putting in what seems like lots of water from the dock hose, the dockmaster says it’s only 30 gallons. Hummm.

The look on the dockmaster’s face when he sees the remains of our mooring line: Priceless.

We depart Sprat Bay around 11:45. Beating toward Tortola under jib another dense squall overtakes us – this one with some sizable gusts but nothing overpowering. We cover a lot of water fast, and I hand the helm over to Dave. Shortly after he takes it, it seems to jam. Neither wheel will turn more than a few degrees.

Oh hell, did we damaged something without realizing it in shallow Sprat Bay? We roll the jib back up I look into the lazarette at the steering quadrant. There’s no obvious jam.

Lisa T. climbs into the lazarette (not nearly as claustrophobic as Bright Star’s aft compartment). But as she does one of the instruments beeps. I glance at the autohelm, which says “off course.”

I turn it off and the wheel is freed up. Someone – probably me – had hit the “on” button, so the autohelm was trying to steer while Dave was also steering.

Back out with the jib, and we get back underway.

We come about and reach over to Salt Island, spotting several moorings at the Wreck of the Rhone. Still nervous about these things, I take a look at the mooring once I get in the water. It’s all rope. I don’t want to stay too long.

Fan at 15 feet.

Dave and I snorkel over the Rhone while the others make lunch. Visibility is good over the wreck and I enjoy freediving to the mast that sticks up near the surface. There are several dive boats with groups on the bottom, and the hazy clouds of bubbles they send up to us are cool.

Lisa is happy to pose in front of Pusser’s Marina Cay.

Back on board we eat tuna on English muffins. Most of the bread has gone moldy. We toss some to the school of sergeant majors and wahoos around the boat and attract something bigger. At first we think it’s a four foot shark, but it never pokes a dorsal fin above the surface, and its body is rather slender, so we decide it’s a barracuda. In any case we’re safely on the boat feeling sympathy for the smaller fish attracted to our bread. Somehow the time gets away from us and by the time we tack out and back to Cooper Island there are no moorings left in Manchioneel Bay. We don’t want to anchor. Last time I was here I tried three or four times and finally gave up. The bottom is covered with slippery grass, and even during the briefing Glasgow had gone into great detail about how to set an anchor here (a sure sign you just don’t want to do it). Plus, with all the occupied moorings there isn’t a lot of room to drop a hook.

We’re one of many boats that come in, circle the anchorage, and head back out. Fortunately, it’s only about 3 p.m. We pull the jib back out and reach for Marina Cay. We get the penultimate mooring there, followed by a powerboat with wind generators that hiss all night. At first this is annoying, but in the middle of the night when the squalls blow through I’m glad of them – if I can hear them hissing, then we haven’t moved.

During dinner ashore Dave works his way through two levels of painkillers and a bushwhacker for dessert. We all have excellent fish and a good shopping experience in the Pusser’s store, so nobody minds missing Manchioneel Bay. And it occurs to me that if we get an early enough start in the morning, we can do the Baths then get back to Cooper Island in the early afternoon, increasing our odds of getting a mooring there. That would put us in a good position for the run home Saturday morning. Everyone likes that plan.

Friday, January 25, 2002

We slip the mooring at 7 a.m., moments before sunrise, and motor for an hour to the Baths. Aside from a boat anchored there, we’re the first. Woohoo!

Dawn Departure for The Baths

We make a big breakfast of “Baths eggs” (big hunks of mushroom), Canadian bacon, and mango pineapple chutney. All the bread has turned so I steam the stale tortillas.

By then the sun has risen enough to light the fishies, so we get our snorkel gear together. Lisa S. is not up to it, so Lisa T, Dave, and I get in and swim slowly toward shore. Anna trails us by a few minutes.

First we try a beach approach through a rocky passage, but there is no channel so we go out and around to the clearer passage. These waters aren’t the Baths I remember – there’s a heavy surge that makes the rocks seem very unfriendly.

The reef is alive with fish: big, friendly critters that clearly expect to be fed. One big specimen comes up and stares at Dave and me. As we swim around to the other beach entrance he follows us, according to Lisa.

The Lisas on the bow, celebrating The Baths

I find a passage through the rocks and body surf onto the beach. Lying on the sand as the surf receds around me I look up at two pairs of legs. A couple stands above me watching me struggle. He asks “Is it rough out there?”

Anna, Mia, Lisa, and Dave, roughed up by the surf

No sooner do I get a fin off than another wave washes in and rolls me. This happens several times before I get up and secure my gear.

Meanwhile my audience asks about the current and the fish, seemingly oblivious to my struggle. Dave and Lisa have similar experiences.

We’re chuckling at ourselves, and how we’ve entertained a beach-full of cruise ship passengers, and puzzling about where Anna is when we see her walking up the small beach. She looks like she had as hard a landing as we did.

Elkhorn coral at the Baths

We wave her over and wait while she sorts out her snorkeling gear.

She says she came through the rocks to the beach and got banged up. We wander toward the start of the Devil Bay trail. I decide I’m not up to the hike, so I’ll swim to Devil Bay. Dave agrees, while Lisa wants to walk the other way to the north beach. Anna decides to go with her.

North end of Manchioneel Bay, Cooper Island

Once in the water Dave and I lose each other right away. But we both reach Devil Bay on our own. Dave even goes ashore and wanders a bit.

On my way back I spot Lisa and Anna. I join them swimming back to the boat and Dave turns up right behind us and we make for our boat.

Lisa T. had found the climb to the other beach too hard with snorkel gear. They’d watched the wave pattern on the beach until it calmed, then made their entry. I’d found them shortly after they got underway.

A bit disappointed that this little slice of paradise dealt us such a rough blow, we tidy up and drop the mooring to sail to Manchioneel Bay. We hope that by arriving by 1:30 or so we’ll find a mooring.

There are two or three, so I pick one in a sheltered spot and we go for it. But the line is tangled with the chain and on the second attempt we nearly lose the boathook (again!). We give up and go to our second choice.

We barely get it secure when the mooring service boat comes along and puts a new line on the first ball. Moments later a cat swoops in and takes it.

Squid in Manchioneel Bay (Baracuda above)

We lunch on caviar, champagne, smoked oysters, hummus, and cheese. Deliverance, the local supply boat, comes by and sells us baguettes for dinner and Dove bars.

After a snorkel (barracuda! Squid!) we dinghy to the bar to pay and have a few sunset drinks. My last visit to Machioneel was in 1991, and it sure seems more built up now. I don’t even see any manchioneel trees: they’ve probably been removed so as not to injure the tourists!

We return after sunset to cook scallops marinara over penne and garlic bread. The wind kicks up overnight, so sleeping isn’t great. As usual.

Saturday, January 26, 2002

We get in another snorkel before packing. Again, this turns out to be one of the best snorkel spots. Dave and Lisa both see a pair of rays in addition to the ‘cudas and squid.

Dave drives our final sail up to Maya Cove. We find the entrance based on the zigzag roads on the hills, then the buoys. Boats coming out show us the channel. Passing through the last bit I say, “If there were any swells we wouldn’t make it through here – the depth is barely deeper than our keel.” Lisa says she was thinking the same.

We report our arrival via channel 12 and head for B dock per instructions. As we approach we see a boat back out of a slip and move to C, so we know there’s a spot for us. I fear having to back in, but it’s the third slip, so I decide I’ve got enough room to swing the bow in.

The crew gets the fenders and lines on the starboard side and we’re met by a guy on the dock who supervises tie off while I drive. All-in-all it’s a successful docking of our monster boat.

And we’re home.

We spend the afternoon by the pool sipping beer, catching up on the log, and munching conch fritters.

We sailed here in 1991 and 2002 We’re the palindrome crew! Anything we do can be done backwards!

Lisa S.

We taxi to Road Town for a drink at Pusser’s. I spot a really nice sun hat in the shop and buy it. When we gather for our drink, Lisa S. produces the same hat. “I thought you might have bought the same one,” she says. Lisa T. looks envious. It doesn’t take much goading to send her back inside for one, too. Now the palindrome crew has matching sun hats.

We survey the local restaurants and settle on La Cabanon, an open air bar and restaurant that apparently only really gets going around 1 a.m. Dinner is excellent French food. The crowd is mostly groups of male euro-sailors. A pleasant change of pace fro the American and British crowds. It’s Dave’s birthday, so we treat him.

Mia, Dave, Lisa T., Lisa S., Anna: Sunset drinks at Manchioneel Bay.

Dave’s Bushwacker Ratings

Order of ConsumptionPreference
Stanleys, Cane Garden Bay4
Harris’s Place, Jost Van Dyke7
Pusser’s, Marina Cay2
Beach Bar, Cooper Island1
Pusser’s Pub, Road Town3
La Cabanon, Road Town5 (tie)
Calamaya, Hodges Creek5 (tie)

Cooper Island Beach Bar wins on a combo of drink and atmosphere. Marina Cay’s drink may be as good, but the setting is a notch down (solid floor, not sand). Harris’s drink has too much coconut, and all the Road Town and Hodges Creek drinks lacked nutmeg on top.

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