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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Day 12: January 4th, 2008

Breakfast started with eggs and bread and then a rapid inventory of what was missing from our refrigerator. It turned out that we were overstocked on nearly everything except eggs and coffee, so Hector was dispatched to buy groceries while Lea went to find the water guy. Przemek wanted to work on the traveler. I had thought that the traveler would have been the easiest problem, but it turned out that the traveler wound around a capstan that was secured with allen keys. The Rya Jen's toolbox did not include a full set of allen keys, so we were stuck. Or at least, I thought we were stuck. Przemek refused to give up, and started asking for some interesting items, including a twist tie, and a small string.

While Przemek was fighting that battle, I got out the winch handle and undid the hull fittings for the water tanks. Lea came back and announced that the water guy wasn't here yet, but we were first in line. In the mean time, she'd found who the water pipe we'd used two nights ago had belonged to --- it belonged to a boat owner with a permanent slip at the harbor. Unfortunately, that pipe was currently in use, and the hired help cleaning the boat was terrified that his boss would come by and find him lending out his pipe to some strangers. Lea offered to pay him $20, but to no avail.

Przemek shouted out "Who's your daddy?" He had gotten the line around the capstan and now it was a matter of tying off a bowline, getting the remaining line around the other pulleys, and we were in business! Hector came back with groceries and announced that the office would only release his credit card after we'd paid for our water. Fortunately, the water guy showed up immediately afterwards and we started connecting the hose to the tanks. Unlike the other hose, this was a high speed hose and we dumped in close to 100 gallons in less than 20 minutes, after which I used some water to clean off the deck and cockpit areas as well.

There's the inevitable rush to get the cabin ship shape before we leave, but once the water was done, we undid our shore power cable and all that was left was waiting for Hector to pay the bills. Once Hector was back, we cast off with no problems at all and headed across the water towards the islands known as The Dogs. A wind rose up out of the east and it wasn't long before our sails were up and we were well on our way.

Sailing downwind is extremely easy, and the crew had fun exchanging places at the helm. At the start of the trip, Lisa had bought a breadfruit, but unfortunately none of us knew how to cook it, and our overzealous refrigeration unit had frozen it. Hector wanted to find out if the fruit would float or sink, and so tossed it into the water. It sank like a stone.

With an 18 knot wind behind us we made rapid progress and soon saw the North side of Tortola. There was a debate on board as to whether we should stay in Joost Van Dyke or back at St. John's again. On the one hand, staying at St. John's would let us clear customs today, but we had already stayed at St. John and Joost Van Dyke had Foxy's Bar, which was a big draw for the party animals in our group. Joost Van Dyke had no mooring buoys, so we'd have to drop anchor, but I didn't know how crowded the anchorage would be, so I figured we could visit Joost Van Dyke first, and then if there was no room there we could then visit St. John's Caneel Bay.

As we sailed around Little Joost Van Dyke and Sandy Cay, we saw boats anchored at Sandy Cay, a very pretty little island that looked great. It was only a day anchorage, however, so we couldn't spend the night there. As we came into Great Harbor, we discovered that we didn't get there too early. Looking around, there didn't seem to be much swinging room for another boat left. But as I wove my way into the bay I saw what seemed like an empty spot and prepared my crew to drop anchor. Rya Jen had an electric windlass, but we hadn't used it the entire trip, so a quick look at the operations manual was in order for us to remember how to turn it on. Once on, we dropped the anchor and when the crew had paid out about 100 feet of chain I backed the Rya Jen until I felt the tug of the chain. And that was it! Much less work than a mooring buoy (well, I also have about 5 times more experience anchoring).

One of the big benefits of being in the BVI was that you could just put on your snorkel and then dive the anchor to check to make sure it was buried. So that's what Przemek and I did. The water was so clear we could even see the anchor from the surface, about 25' away. We dived to see that it was truly buried, and then counted out how much chain we had. I would later let out a bit more chain just to make sure, since I'm always paranoid, but for the next hour or so we set an anchor watch just to make really sure.

Lisa and I took the kayak to shore, as did Hector. Once on shore, we first walked around looking for the bakery (which was closed), and then finally gave in and ordered some snacks at a different restaurant. The beach wasn't very long, but there was a hammock that Lisa had fun with. Przemek joined us after being ferried by Lea. We ate, bought some ice cream, and then went back to Rya Jen via kayak. Images of Sandy Cay haunted me, so I suggested that we dinghy over there and try snorkeling. Lisa wanted to stay and study and make dinner later, but everyone else thought this was a fine idea.

It turned out that this was a stupid stupid idea. The sheltered nature of Great Harbor had led me to forget that there was 5-foot swells out there, and the wind was pretty strong once we got out of the harbor. I worried about a big wave that would swamp the boat, and asked for a turnaround, which Lea did after she got out of the harbor, just to say she did so. As we turned around, we saw a mega-yacht named Starship. It came complete with jet-skis and a helicopter and landing pad! We were astounded by both the size and opulence of the thing.

Back on Rya Jen, I elected to stay on the boat this time while everyone else went ashore. Hector helped me put away the kayaks, and then I snorkeled around checking out other people's anchoring jobs and ground tackle setups before taking a shower. I picked up one of Hector's books and started reading.

Around 6:00pm, I lit up the oven so Lisa could start baking roots. We waited for the others to come back, and I turned on the VHF to listen in onto Foxy's reservations channel. At 7:15pm, I looked up from my perch and heard splashes. The rest of the crew were rowing the dinghy back. One of the propeller blades had fallen off, no doubt due to the earlier incident at water point. Since the dinghy was no long operational, Przemek got onto the VHF and canceled their reservations at Foxy's.

We made and ate dinner, talked about the trip, and watched the stars, which were beautiful out, despite threatening storm clouds earlier. We set up a night watch schedule and I then turned in.

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