The Search For Alcohol
As we were going to be leaving relatively early the next day, it was a good time to evaluate our food and drink supplies and restock, which I did, with the help of several of my crew. However, the grocery store at the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor didn’t have much of a selection, and one of the crew of the other boat had already purchased the store’s entire supply of Pusser’s.
Lucky for me, that’s when Glenn showed up again.
Glenn said I looked like I needed to find something, so I told him. He looked at his watch, at my friend and I, and said, “ok, hop in, it should still be open!”
So we did. Five minutes of twisting streets later, we arrived at a grocery store! Good to his word, Glenn had helped us find what we needed. We bought what we needed for the boat, waited for Glenn to get what he was buying, and he took us right back to the marina.
I of course, tried to pay him for his time–it is his taxi business, after all! But he refused. “No, no, it’s what we do here.” I insisted and even tried palming $10 off on him, and then he said, “Ok, how about you two come hang out with me at the bar and I will buy you a drink.”
Once again, we did exactly as he suggested and followed him over to the bar. He and the bartender are old friends, and Glenn asked the bartender to pour us “big boy” shots of Chairman’s Reserve rum. What followed was an hour of wonderful conversation with a kind, content man, and some more beer.
Sure enough, he paid and wouldn’t let us have the bill.
Both crews had been wondering where we’d disappeared to–I had to admit that I was a bit drunk already, which of course meant another drink was shoved into my hand.
We had a good night.
Another hummingbird & sailing to the Bitter End
The next morning I was a bit hungover, but still woke up early and got out of bed around 6:30am. I’d already planned to do some birding that morning. I didn’t feel very good, so it was a relief to head outside and walk around in the morning air.
The previous day, I’d asked Glenn if there was a good spot to find hummingbirds near the marina in the morning, and he’d pointed me to a stand of flowering trees on the south side of the docks, so I headed that way.
One of the first things I saw were two eared doves, one of which I caught yawning in the shade:
But it didn’t take long until I spotted this Antillean crested hummingbird:
As well as this bananaquit feeding on nectar from some of the same flowers, just with a much different technique:
Sailing to The Bitter End
After breakfast, we got both boats checked out of the marina (paying the docking fees, electricity bill, and water bill) and headed out. Out was easier than in–I easily (but slowly) took the boat out, following Holoholo, and we were on our way. We were actually going to head out before them, but the starboard engine on my boat had been giving us trouble starting, and it took us several minutes to get it going. It’d continue to give us trouble throughout the trip (particularly in the mornings) but we figured out how to deal with it, so weren’t delayed again.
The weather was, again, beautiful, and the wind was holding fairly steady at 15 knots as we left the marina, so I told my crew to check that we were un-reefed and we unfurled a full main and (at least at first), a full jib. It took us a while this morning, as something on the mainsail was jammed, so we actually sailed further east toward the west coast of Virgin Gorda than I’d intended.
The result was that, unlike Holoholo, we were able to stick with the originally-planned route of sailing north up the side of Virgin Gorda to the east of the Dog Islands. Due to our ability to sail closer to the wind, and the extra time we’d taken to get the main up, we were able to stick to the plan and didn’t have to deal with the wind shadows of the Dog Islands.
As we sailed north with the mountains of Virgin Gorda windward, some of the wind was funneled between valleys and picked up well over the steady 15 knots I’d seen earlier. For a time it was steady at around 19 knots, which on this boat with a full main is quite a bit of wind (they recommended putting in first reef by 18 knots of wind). We picked up speed and held it, seeing the fastest speeds of the entire trip, a steady 9.1 knots with one burst at 9.2 knots. Considering the maximum theoretical hull speed of the boat is 9.5 knots I think we did quite well with our sail trim.
After we passed the northwestern-most point of Virgin Gorda, we kept going almost directly north–the wind was a northeasterly that day, and we wanted to get in as much sailing as we could, so decided on a long tack toward the narrow passage between the coral formations into Gorda Sound.
The view once you get out away from the islands is amazing–a sharp line between sea and sky in the distance, with only the occasional sail in sight, an invitation to the wide world out there waiting to be explored.
One couple in a monohull sailboat we tacked past a few times heading toward Gorda Sound was really enjoying that freedom, with the dude at the helm naked as the day he was born. We had a good laugh at that.
Bitter End Yacht Club, day 1
“Bitter End Yacht Club, Bitter End Yacht Club, this is sailing vessel Freedom Seeker on one-six, over.”
We’ve entered Gorda Sound and are heading toward the east side, toward the Bitter End Yacht Club, where we’re planning to stay docked for the next two nights while we snorkel, sail Hobie Cats, hike, and relax, and I’m hailing them on the VHF. We switch channels and I tell them I’d like to dock and tell them the size of my boat. The man on the radio tells me which slip I’ll be in and how to find it, then asks, “are you a good boat driver?”
“…I’d like to think so, but you asking that question makes me nervous,” I reply. With the previous day’s docking having been more stressful than I’d hoped, this wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear.
“You’ll have to back-in, and you’ll have a tail-wind,” he says. “You’re also in a big boat and will take up most of the slip. Can you do that?”
“I think so, I’ll just take it slow,” I reply, and we head in.
The mooring field is crowded enough that it takes a few minutes to find the right slip, but once we do, I start maneuvering toward it so I can back in. I actually took the boat to the entrance to the docks and backed in the entire way, a move that initially confused my crew, but which made sense once they could see how the wind was blowing us around away from the dock.
This time, unlike the previous day, I nailed it, on the first try, no less, without so much as bouncing us off a bumper. “You’re a good driver,” the guy on the dock tells me.
I swell with pride.
Holoholo arrives just a half hour later, getting the slip two down from us, Charles and I check in with the marina, and we begin our relaxation by grabbing a drink at The Crawl Pub while linking our phones up to the WiFi. Several of us signed up for events the following day: a snorkeling tour to several good spots, as well as the “Out of Bounds” Hobie Cat sail adventure, which I’ll talk about later.
Dinner that night was a collaboration between the two boats. We’d both gotten enough t-bone steaks for everybody, but had a problem: the grills on our boats were awful in the wind and we couldn’t use them while in a marina anyway. Seeing as the beef was imported all the way from the US anyway (so wasn’t particularly fresh), I suggested that we slice them all up and make steak fajitas, a suggestion everyone was happy with.
So, that evening, with the help of two of my crew members, I sliced seventeen one-pound t-bone steaks into strips, marinated them in spices, dark rum, and a delicious ginger sauce one of our crew had purchased at Cooper Island, before cooking them all up on the stovetop. We also provided the tortillas and some of the cheese, while Holoholo‘s crew provided yellow rice and sauteed onions and peppers. The entire party coalesced on Freedom Seeker. There was so much food available per person we had leftovers (which we ate during lunches in the next few days), and there were plenty of mixed drinks–though mostly painkillers!–to go around.
The next day would prove to be one of the best yet, even without any (large boat) sailing.