Thursday, January 10, 2008

Day 8: New Year's Eve, December 31st 2007

We woke up to find that there was no water pressure, at all in the marina. Given that we had just ran out of water the night before, this made getting water a high priority before departing. The crew separated to take showers and get further provisions, while I hunted the marina for the dock-master to get water.

At 8:30, the dockmaster appeared at my slip and said: "You're a lucky man. I hunted for you all night last night, and couldn't find you before I had to leave. Now this morning you're first in line, and just as I find you, the water gets turned on." It turned out that it was the policy of the entire island to turn off the water, and Sopher's Hole, being at the extreme end of the Island felt the water pressure last water last. It took me a while to fill the nearly empty aft tank and top off the nearly full forward tank. While I was at it, I looked more carefully at the ship's operations manual and discovered where the tank switching valve was --- it turned out we were supposed to drain the forward tank first, so I flipped the switches.

After that, it was a matter of chasing down the crew, getting our water and docking bills paid and casting off. Leaving Sopher's hole, we raised the sails and immediately starting reaching for Norman Island. Norman Island is well known for being the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island," as well as appearing in the Pirates of the Carriean movies. We sailed along the Sir Francis Drake channel, tacking back and forth between Tortola and St. John Islands. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing hard enough to force us to reef the jib. Soon after Norman Island came in sight, a woman in a small dinghy motored out beside us, dug out a huge SLR that had been carefully waterproofed, and starting shooting away. A look at the insignia on her dinghy showed that she was part of Yacht Shots BVI. The results were amazing looking, though the prices seemed pretty high.



Przemek was eager to take the helm, and we slowly made our way around until at about 2pm we sailed into Pirate's Bight, dropped the sails, and proceeded to attempt to pick up a mooring buoy. All I can say is that I'm glad that we arrived early, because the pick up attempts were hilarious, and not very effective. I think we tried at least 3 times to pick up the buoy pennant, dropping the boat hook into the water once. Eventually one of our neighbors got frustrated with watching us, and three of them got into a dinghy and picked up the pennant. They then held it up high, hoping that our puny boat hook would finally be able to grab it. Unfortunately, as I was manuevering, one of them leaned the wrong way and fell out of the dinghy right in front of the boat! Fortunately, nobody got hurt and after one more pass we finally managed to get moored. I was quite embarrassed --- while docking and anchoring are maneuvers I have ample practice with, picking up a mooring buoy is not, and it isn't something I have occasion to practice either, in the Bay Area. Having finally tied up to the mooring, we then pondered what to do. I proposed a trip to the caves, a place known for the quality of the snorkeling. My proposal was quickly accepted, but before we left, Przemek and I took 3 beers out of the cooler, and dinghy'd over to our friends to thank them for helping us with our mooring difficulties. They were delighted to greet us, and asked us to stay, but we had things to see and do, so we stopped only for a perfunctory visit, and told them we'd be at the floating restuarant (the Willie T) later in the evening.



The dinghy over to the caves was uneventful, and we tied up a red mooring buoy because all the blue ones were taken. The snorkeling, however, was nothing short of amazing. If you don't want to dive, the caves at Norman Island has everything you might want to see without having to strap on a SCUBA unit. We swam, snorkeled, skin-dived, and generally enjoyed the scenery. Unfortunately, at this point, the camera battery died, so I have no pictures of the next day's dive.



Upon return, Lisa had prepared a pre-dinner snack of steamed roots, which everyone devoured with great relish. At 6:00pm, the supply boat Deliverance showed up. We hailed them and paid an outrageous amount for fresh brownies, fruit, and so forth. Then a quick visit to Willie T, which was pretty much a floating restaurant, where we discovered that we were early enough to not need reservations. Dining on the floating boat felt much more stable than dining on the Rya Jen, but as expected, the meals were expensive and so were the drinks.



We then returned to the boat around 7:30pm. Pirate's Bight had an obvious party going on --- the music was loud, and there was apparently quite a crowd there, which we could see from Rya Jen. Around us, we finally noticed that the Bay was filled with boats --- nearly every mooring buoy was taken. Just outside the Bay, a couple of mega-yachts were parked, and one of them was lit up like a Christmas Tree. This was definitely not a wilderness experience, unlike my prior sailing cruise.



Przemek and Lea wanted to go to the party, but the rest of the crew vetoed all of us going there, so we decided to have a party on the boat. We unpacked all our junk food, took the champagne and apple cider out of the coolers, and proceeded to have a great time. At 10:00pm, everyone was sufficiently worn out, and most of us retired while Przemek and Lea went to the Bight to see the party up close and personal.

Having checked that the mooring line was secure and the boat was in good shape, I put on ear plugs so as to block out the noise from the Bight and slept a good night's sleep.
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