Monday, January 14, 2008

Stardate 62036.35 - Vacation, Day One

We just returned from a little over a week in the US and British Virgin Islands. The main goals of this vacation were for me to complete the American Sailing Association's Bareboat Chartering 104 course, and to see how we handled a full week living on a sailboat (especially Loren!). I passed my course (with a score of 92 on the written portion!) and Cheryl, Loren, and I did well enough during the week that we're already talking (at least a little!) about our next trip -- especially now that I've passed the Bareboat class and can charter a boat as the skipper.

We went with a friend of mine who is an ASA instructor, his wife, and one other member of the Manhattan Sailing Club whom we've sailed with in the past--5 adults and Loren. We were on a Bavaria 44, which we chartered from Fairwind Sailing School. It had 4 cabins (3 doubles and one with 2 bunk beds), a good sized cockpit, a nice saloon, and a 10' dingy for trips to shore.

While overall the boat was pretty nice (it was built in 2001), there were some annoyances which we're not sure we would have had to deal with if we had chartered a boat from a larger, chain chartering company (like The Moorings, Sunsail, or Footloose). Most annoyances were minor (some lights burned out in the cabins), some were moderate but quickly fixable (the VHF didn't work so Capt Dave gave us a hand held to use on the trip; the dingy had a leak in one of the inflatable chambers and we had to pump it up a couple of times per day), but at least one was pretty major (the second head had a wastewater leak that put smelly, foul water onto the head floor with every flush). Now that you have the background, we'll move on to the day-by-day accounting of our adventures!

On Friday, January 4 we flew direct from JFK to St. Thomas, USVI. We left around 6 AM and arrived on time at noon. After some interesting moments trying to negotiate the taxi process (along will all our fellow passengers), we were in an air-conditioned van on the way to the American Yacht Harbor in Red Hook. It looks a lot nicer on their web page than it is in reality, especially the bathrooms which I found to be very poorly maintained. They are doing some renovations, so perhaps they will be improved in the future. The boat wasn't due in until around 5 PM, so with our huge amount of luggage (4 bags, 2 backpacks, the car seat, and the stroller) we looked for a place to eat and to get Loren down for her nap (because she didn't sleep at all on the plane).

We dropped off our luggage at the harbor office (they didn't seem too happy about it, but Captain Dave of Fairwind told us we could do that) and walked over to Molly Malone's for lunch, and Loren fell asleep in the stroller and slept through lunch and our trip to the coffee bar afterwards. The restaurant was exactly what we were looking for - good, strong drinks and some comfort food before the sail. They still had their Christmas decorations up, which just felt wrong in 85 degree heat.

Loren woke up during our coffee stop, and I noticed that a boat seemed to be in the slip where we were supposed to go, so I strolled over and met Captain Gary, who had just returned from teaching a class on the boat and was cleaning it up for us.

Around that time our other crew member, Betty, arrived and after giving Capt Gary an hour to finish up we collected our gear and settled into the boat. We also visited a local store for some provisions for the evening. Our skipper, Thomas, and his wife were due in at noon on Saturday, so we spent the first night on the boat at the dock. We spent a relatively uneventful night (other than waking up in the middle of the night in the rain to close all the hatches), with a cool, strong breeze and the gentle rocking of the boat putting us to sleep.

Vacation Day Two


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