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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Day 7: December 30th, 2007

I woke up to a gloriously beautiful morning, despite the heaving the night before and the rain in the early morning, a pattern that would recur throughout the trip. I made pancakes for breakfast by 7:30am, and by 8:00, everyone had eaten. The mooring buoys in the national park said that you had to pay $15 a night, but since no one would come to pick it up we would have to get ashore to pay. After some amount of effort, Hector and I got the kayaks down and Heather and I on the tandem kayak with Hector on a single kayak and then paddled to shore.

At shore, Hector and Heather walked over to the campground HQ to try to pay for the buoy, but found that they could not pay there. They did find a store and bought some coffee with the $15 we had brought to pay for our mooring. Upon returning to the Rya Jen to report our findings, we decided that the place was too pretty not to stick around, and spent most of the rest of the morning snorkeling and kayaking in the area.

Hence, it was 11:00am by the time we were done playing, and dropped our mooring buoy to head over to Soper's hole. Just before we left, however, I got a demonstration of why it was so nice to vacation in the Virgin Islands. As Lisa got off the Kayak onto Rya Jen, she dropped her mask and snorkel. In San Francisco or the Pacific Northwest, that would have been it. Here, I jumped into the water, hyper-ventilated, and skin dove down 25' below Rya Jen to pick up the snorkel. My ears hurt like hell due to inadequate equalization, but recovery of mask and snorkel was never in question. Chris had mentioned that it was a mere 15 minutes from Cinnamon Bay, but the reality was that it took the better part of an hour to get there. Once there, we could not find any available mooring (the customs dock being restricted only to ferries and commercial vessels) to clear customs. In desperation, I taught Heather VHF protocol, had her hail the marina and got a slip assignment. Once docked at the slip, however, we were told that we had to clear customs before even doing anything as silly as getting a slip, so Lea, Heather, and I hopped onto the dinghy with all our passports and headed over there to check in.

Outside the customs and immigration office I looked for Przemek and didn't see him. Going into the office I tried to figure out how the clearing customs process worked. I then got the idea --- I had to clear the vessel, go next door to pay for it, and then come back to do immigration for the people on board. Upon exiting the office I found Przemek already talking to Heather and Lea.

I met Pzemek Pardyak 15 years ago in graduate school at the University of Washington, where we shared a few projects together and spent quite a bit of leisure time together. While everyone else was studying Computer Science I learned to backpack, sail, mountain bike, and repair bicycles. I guess I was cut out for doing things other than studying for a PhD, hence I dropped out after just one year of graduate school. Pzemek also dropped out, but much much later, to start a successful company (Performant). In any case, I remember this Polish gentleman of my height as being exceedingly smart, funny, and a good practical person to have around, so I was glad that he made the trip.

The customs paper work took a huge amount of time, and when all was said and done the cruising permit cost $165 (includig overtime pay for coming into customs on a Sunday), and the customs processing cost $17. We headed back to the Rya Jen, which had now a crew of 6, and had a late lunch while we made plans. With Przemek in our party, it became pretty easy to make the decisions --- Przemek prioritized doing more dives ahead of everything else, including the New Year's party at Joost Van Dyke. Upon checking with the local Dive shop (Bluewater Dive Adventures), we discovered to our dismay that the dive shop was booked up for the entire week with no possibility of adding divers or picking up a rendezvous with us.

Thus, Przemek got out his phone and we started going down the list in Diving British Virgin Islands and started calling shops to check availability of dives. We managed to get Sunchaser to agree to a Rendezvous charter (though at an outrageous price), and Dive BVI had a dive to the Rhone on Thursday the 3rd. With our dive schedules filled, we then planned the schedule around the dives --- Norman Island for the night of New Year's Eves and New Years Day itself, followed by Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor for the next two days after that for the Rhone.

Our schedule settled, I then worked on getting the boat provisioned. Unfortunately, all the stores were closed at 3:30pm on a Sunday. I then tried to get the boat refilled with water. Soper's Hole Marina prided itself on being a full service marina, which ironically meant that I had to wait for the dock-master to come by with a pipe so I could fill Rya Jen's 240 liter tanks. But everyone else wanted to eat before it got too dark to go out with the Dinghy, so all of us took the dinghy over to the Jolly Roger for dinner. The dinner there was nondescript but Przemek saw a huge lobster and decided he had to have lobster for dinner while in the Virgin Islands.

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