Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Day 6: December 29th, 2008

I slept well on the boat, but Hector complained about the heat, which would turn out to be an incessant complaint for him the rest of the trip.

After I got myself organized and had breakfast, I found that it was already 8am and impossible to find Lea, who had gone off to get breakfast. While hanging around the CYOA office, a man came to me and introduced himself as Chris, the man who would perform our checkout for us. When Lea was ready, we got together with Chris and systematically went over the boat and where everything was.



The checkout was a thorough process, but CYOA was the first company I've worked with where the assumption is that you know what you're doing and not an idiot out to wreck their boat, which made the process a lot more relaxing than other companies I've worked with in the past. This meant that our questions were answered with respect, and our concerns were addressed. We covered local anchorages as well --- discussing what places were good, and Chris offered suggestions as to where we could meet with Przemek --- after considering all the possibilities, Soper's Hole was the obvious choice, with the first night in St. John.

We then took the boat out for a sail. CYOA's slips were unusual. The boats are parked stern to, and instead of the slip leading out along the beam of the boat, all there was along the side was a couple of pilings with the boats tied to them. This was a Mediterranean style mooring, implying that the tides in the area did not vary much. What impressed me was how narrow the space between pilings were --- there was no way I could get the boat out by myself, so I was very curious and expected to see a display of virtuoso seamanship. Imagine my disappointment, then, when Chris said that he would have a man in a dinghy push the bow out. I was even more disappointed to see the side of the boat scape along the piling almost all the way along the beam on the exit. And this was something that Chris called "as good as it gets."

Fortunately, CYOA knew enough to let customers attempt coming back to the slips this way, so I knew I would not have to try to reverse engineer this feat. My fears were further allayed when Chris asked me to take the boat's helm and raise the main. With Hector at the winch, the sail came out and even in the relative shelter of the harbor, Rya Jen practically leaped. Unfurling the jib proved similarly beautiful, though perhaps Chris expressed just a bit too much surprise that the sails were intact and unpatched. I was surprised that the checkout process was so easy --- other places I had chartered with usually wanted you to demonstrate the ability to leave and return to a narrow slip, but CYOA had no such facilities. Nevertheless, with the check out complete, a dinghy came out to pick up Chris, and we were handed our dinghy (number 24), and we were on our way!

Coming out of Charlotte Amelie harbor at 11:30am, we immediately found ourselves in a close reach against fairly heavy seas towards St. John, our first stop for the night. After an hour of sailing, I began to realize that I needed to take Chris' word with a grain of salt --- while a half hour sail to St. John might be feasible for a high powered motorboat, the Rya Jen was a beamy sailboat not designed for speed. The result was that it was 2pm by the time we rounded Dog Island and realized that we'd better do some motoring if we expected to get to a mooring buoy before it got dark, especially against the wind.

So I turned on the engine and we motored our way through the straits, avoiding Cruz Bay (prohibited by CYOA's charter rules), bypassing Caneel Bay, and finally making our way past the Johnson Reef to Cinnamon Bay. There, we found a mooring buoy and discovered that picking up a mooring buoy was not easy, and in fact Lea dropped the boat hook while reaching for it, necessitating a swim to pick it up. After another try we picked it up and tied it down, and discovered to our dismay that the line frequently reached under our anchor and was in danger of chafing it, despite the bluntness of our Bruce Anchor.



Nevertheless, the quiet and beauty of the surroundings was undeniable, and I had an immediate urge to go for a swim. Putting on my mask and snorkel, I swam for the reefs and found plenty to look at before sundown, whereupon Hector cooked some burgers while the stars rose up around us.

That night, I got up several times in the night to check to see if the line would chafe, but each time there was no sign of trouble at all, despite what seemed to be fairly heavy swells. At 4am, I woke again to spray on my face, and immediately ran around Rya Jen closing hatches. Others awoke as well and helped out the haggard skipper. This pattern would recur almost every night, but it really was too warm to sleep with the hatches closed. I eventually learned to leave the hatches opened just a hair, which would create a breeze to cool me, but not cause the bunk to get wet if a big storm come through. Of course, a fine mist on my face would still wake me, but as skipper of the Rya Jen, it was my responsibility to wake up and check on the boat's condition anyway.
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