Good morning from Little Jost Van Dyk, British Virgin Islands. St. Somewhere is afloat once again and I awoke today in one of my favorite spots on the globe. We are anchored a short swim from the beach, the sounds of surf breaking on the wall of boulders just a few yards astern. The bow is pointed into the rising sun cresting the lush hills of Tortola. The anchorage comes to life as the early risers haul anchor and hoist sail. Just a mile to the north, at the end of a trail through the rocky hills lies a cliff rising a hundred feet or so above the Atlantic. Exposed to the north, the swell pounding and bubbling ashore, the wind unblocked for a couple thousand miles of sea, the sight always gives me pause. On this day, I have much to be thankful for.
One week ago, we stepped off the tiny plane in Virgin Gorda. The BN Islander seemed sturdy enough and the pilot just old enough to shave. Despite the fact that its landing gear did not retract and the engines ran on gasoline instead of jet fuel, I was soon catnapping inches from the spinning propeller outside my window. It was a flight filled with postcard views as we surveyed the western reaches of the Lesser Antilles from 3500 feet. In the one room hut claiming to be an airport terminal, we got a chuckle from our fellow travellers and the Customs Agent as we opened our bags to reveal a supply of bacon calculated to last several months. We waddled to the boat yard encumbered with 150 pounds of spare boat parts and protein.
Our mission was to knock out about three and a half days worth of boat chores during the 24 hours available before we could splash the boat. Failure was not an option. If we weren’t ready for the lift crew on schedule Friday afternoon, it would require us to postpone our launch until Monday. One night sleeping aboard in a filthy boatyard is a pain. Four nights would have been unthinkable. With about five minutes to spare, we were ready enough and we waved goodbye to the fine folks at Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor.
I say they are fine folks without a trace of sarcasm, but I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to comment on the nature of the relationship between sailor and boat yard. Sailors are cheap. We foolishly believe that we are entitled to top-notch and timely service for an economical sum. We hate the idea of paying someone to do a task we could have accomplished on our own in half the time and with better results. We plan our lives and purchase airline tickets with the silly notion that the bottom paint job will be done no later than one week later than you promised. I understand the concept of “island time” all too well and thought I had fooled the yard into finishing on time by telling them I was flying in one week earlier than I actually planned. Obviously, this was not enough cushion and we had to change our tickets and arrive ten days later than that.
Boat yards have you by the short hairs. There are only so many places on the planet equipped to lift a few thousand pounds of fiberglass or steel out of the water and park it gingerly on its stands. Furthermore, once the boat is hauled out, they won’t put your floating home back in the water until you’ve paid whatever bill they hand you. I bit my tongue and didn’t mention that they delayed us by a couple of weeks. I didn’t even complain when they didn’t paint the inside of the bow thruster tube; I simply asked for some paint and a brush and added the task to the day’s oversized to-do list. However, I did wait until the last possible moment when the boat was hanging a few feet above the water and the credit card was in my hand to inquire how much of a discount I might receive since they painted it the wrong color. Let’s just say that the negotiating class I took 20 years ago at the U of I finally paid for itself.
Safely afloat, we motored north to Gorda Sound and spent the next few days getting St. Somewhere shipshape. The Sound is surrounded by lush hills and expensive resorts. We used the frequent downpours to wash away five months of boatyard grime and amused ourselves trying to look inconspicuous amongst the well-heeled ashore. After a couple of days to get used to floating again, we finally unfurled the genoa sail for yesterday’s 20 mile downwind romp which has us feeling like sailors again.
I’m not going to jinx us by talking too much about how well everything on the boat is working right now. Suffice it to say, I’ve managed to fix all the leaky hatches, the new prop works like a dream, and we didn’t have to bomb for cockroaches. All is well in the universe.
Today we plan to take a hike to the aforementioned cliff, take a swim, and probably stop by the B-Line Beach Bar. No blenders here; it’s open air and sand floors. A local entrepreneur named Bunky built the place just a few steps from the water. On this otherwise uninhabited island, the bar runs on a generator and he doesn’t even lock up the booze bottles at closing time. My kind of place.