Captain Woody Cruising Adventure

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cat'n in the BVI II - #108

When I left you last I was skippering a charter in the British Virgin Islands for a loosely related group from Ari-laska.

We sailed across from Jost Van Dyke to Soper's Ho, I mean Hole. We took a mooring in front of Customs. Those upscale stops give me the creeps. T$ let fly one of his signatory "Welcome to Lake Powell, Baby!"s and we settled in. It is simple courtesy to let the neighbors know up front that they won't be having a quiet evening aboard this night.

We had dinner at Jolly Roger. I presented a Harbor Hangout plaque to Lou. Apparently there was some confusion during our correspondence prior to my visit. He thought that I was a different Captain Woody. If any of you get out that direction, let me know if you see the plaque up would you?

Don't try this at home: We had been sailing on and off moorings all week which is not as cut and dry with a cat. When leaving you have to be prudent in having the main eased out or she’ll round you up. This morning there was a good wind blowing through the anchorage - maybe too much for the maneuver. We pulled the main up while on the mooring as usual. The difference here was there was not much room to turn. We cast off and the boat drifted back and started her turn. I heard a winch turning. One of my crew decided the main would be happier trimmed in. The main loaded up, the boat stopped turning and 47’ of catamaran shot off toward the cement customs dock. The right thing to do would have been to point back into the wind, ease the main back out and take another shot at it. But I thought I could still make the turn. For our morning sail outs I start a motor to charge batteries and chill the refer. In tight spots I start both motors … just in case. This was the latter. I went full throttle aft on the port motor and full forward on the starboard and popped the headsail out while sheeting it to the windward side. Though boat started turning again it was still accelerating. Complicating matters, there was a floating oil boom extending out from the dock. We missed the boom by a couple feet and shot out the end of the bay. Lesson learned.

The divers onboard wanted to have one last good dive before they had to leave the boat. There is a world class wreck dive in the BVI called the Rhone. We headed that direction. To get there we traveled outside Peter Island. I thought it would be good to show these guys what the ocean looked like. We found real live swells. To round the point, we had to punch through them. The hulls were dunking, water was rushing down the decks, it was fun. I looked around to see if mal de mer had found any victims. One of the girls nicely asked, "Can we go forward?" Who was I to say no. A few minutes later I had eight bodies laying on the trampolines gripping tightly to the bow crossbar (whatever it's called), screaming as large waves relentlessly crashed through, stripping them of cameras and glasses and various articles of clothing.

We all made it to the Rhone and, hey Woody, there's an extra dive setup here. I've done a lot of diving over the years. This was my best dive. The wreck is at 60' and in beautifully clear water. I looked on as three divers, including my dive buddy, disappeared into a small breach in the hull. Forget that, I thought. I saw bubbles on the other side and entered through a bigger spot and met up with them. It was like in the movies with the schools of brightly colored fish, coral oozing out from the antique ribs and bulkheads while blue rays of sunlight filtered through cracks and breaks in the hull. We explored the wreck completely. Coming out we spotted a big black ray. I followed it for bit. When I turned back toward the group I saw another ray crossing my new path. I wanted to get closer. Mostly things in the ocean swim away when they spot you, even sharks. I approached this second ray and it turned toward me. I'm no biologist but can't some rays whack you with their barbed tail? I was the one swimming away this time.

After a last night at Willy T's we limped back into port for tearful goodbyes, well, bloodshot anyway. I had a ferry to catch to meet up with Tania Aebi and her boys. They were on Virgin Gorda. Tania was doing a story on VISAR, BVI’s legendary volunteer search and rescue team group. I arrived at the bitchin little beach resort and found Tania … being interviewed as usual. It was good to see her in an island setting.

Shortly after our hellos Mike rolled up in his tourist wagon - one of those small trucks with covered bench seating in the back. Mike was Tania’s VISAR liaison . Tania’s Sam and Nicolas showed up and Mike drove us over to the Bath’s. Tania and Mike headed off to find a spot to take sun sights with the sextant while the boys and I headed over to do some bouldering on the windward side. These guys new how to explore. If there was treasure hidden in the vast caves, we would have found it.

We got cleaned up back at the house and got in our best duds. For me it was a Hawaiian shirt and khakis. We had been invited to one of the the VISAR benefactors homes on the hill. It’s one thing to have a nice house and another to have a nice house overlooking the color rich BVI. The whole western side of the house opened up to a giant covered veranda with real furniture in it. Past that was the pool. Past that was the sun setting.

There was an amazing grub spread and we met some good people. After desert we watched a slide show on the building of VISAR’s new boatshed. It was good to see people committing their time and energy for no other reason than to help others … and to hang out with other quality people.

There is a five start resort on Virgin Gorda called Little Dix. We tried to anchor in front of their beach resort on the charter but were shooed away. Turn’s out I would have another shot at slipping into the joint. Enter Collin. Classic British guy with the high end accent and snappy clothes, for his time. Always smiling and engaging, Collin had offered to take me to the resort for an afternoon of tennis when we were talking at the party. We had some great games playing with and against other British locals and a few of the exclusive resort’s visiting clientele.

That evening we had a wonderful dinner with Tania, the boys and Mike and Marge. In the morning we were shot across the bay on some crazy fast motor boat, courtesy of Murray our BBQ host. Once across we saw the boys off and Tania and I headed over to the new Harbor Hangout, Da Loose Mongoose. Next door, at the trellis café, Tania kicked my ass in Scruples.

Next stop for me was St. Petersburg FL for the Strictly Sail (and a bunch of powerboats) Boatshow. Always a great show, we had good times at the booth and the party was a blowout. Seemed like all 7 of my fans were there. Budweiser said f-it and turned the beer taps around to free flow to our piratical group. Cracker Stone and his rowdy band of cohorts kept us all movin’ to their island grooves. Time for me to go, it’s Monkey Hour.